How Does Shipping a Dog Work? Complete Guide to Safely Transporting Your Dog

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

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Are you planning to move or relocate to a different state or anywhere across the country? If yes, then are you looking for advice on how to ship your dog by road or air transport? Then don’t worry! You can choose from a variety of suitable pet relocation services for dog shipping. And you’re not alone on this! According to Forbes, in 2019, a total of 404,556 animals were transported by airlines. But is air transport the way to go? In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to keep your dog safe.

Two women providing pet relocation services in front of a house with their adorable dog.

Shipping Your Dog by Air

Air travel is a safe pet shipping option but requires proper planning. Many airlines offer pet transportation services, whether in the cabin or in a climate-controlled, depressurized cargo area. If you’re planning international air travel, research the country’s import permits. This ensures your puppy has completed all vaccine requirements.

  • You can’t ship your dog by air without the requisite documentation.
  • Pet shipping services request a valid health certificate from a licensed veterinarian within 10 days of the flight.
  • Include a signed certificate of vaccination against rabies.
  • The process of getting the aforementioned documents together may take up to six weeks.
  • USDA requires you to feed your pet at least four hours before the flight, in order to avoid upsetting their stomach.
  • Provide food and water in the carrier, make sure it’s well-secured but also accessible for to the dog.
  • In the case of puppies, no puppy under six weeks old can be shipped.

If you hire a flight nanny (also sometimes called an air nanny), you’ll meet them at the airport on the day of the transport. Some flight nannies offer door-to-door services and will meet you at your home before the flight, but this isn’t common.

Recommended: Shipping Dogs Via Ground Transportation Services

Air transportation may not be the right choice for many dog owners. In fact, airlines have strict policies on breeds that cannot fly in cargo, size restrictions and weather limitations. It may not be possible to transport your dog by air if he’s a large brachycephalic breed or the weather is too warm or cold at the departure and destination airport.

How Does Ground-Based Pet Transportation Work?

It’s a much easier process than booking a flight for your dog. You don’t have to plan weeks in advance of the trip to make sure there’s room on a plane for your dog. Plus, most ground-based pet transporters offer door-to-door service. That means they’ll pick your dog up from your home and drop them off exactly where you specify!

  • You do need to obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI)
  • A CVI proves your dog is healthy enough for transport.
  • You may want to provide your own travel carrier, or hire a transporter that provides their own.
  • Prepare food, water, toys and comfort items for your dog before the transport.
  • We always recommend microchipping your pets to help identify your animal in case of a mistake.

Note: Pet shipping services like CitizenShipper facilitate door-to-door pet transportation services in the US.

Travel Crates

For ground transportation, make sure that high-quality kennels are chosen for your dog. Other than this, you should always check if you are opting to go with the travel crate of your pet transporter. You can also ask your pet shipping services if they have high-quality crates available. 

Before we get to the process of boarding, we have to talk about the carriage kennel. These kennels are made to a certain standard.

  • The dog has to be able to comfortably stand, turn and lay down in the kennel.
  • This means that the height should be greater than that of the animal.
  • Moving to the kennel’s door, it should be sturdy and not easily opened during transit.

A woman walking her dog on a city street.

Important Documentation Needed to Ship a Dog

First and foremost, obtaining the proper documentation for pet transportation is very important. If you want to ship your dog, you need an original medical certificate provided by a licensed and certified veterinarian. The certificate must be no more than 10 days old at the time of the transport. 

  • Other than this, the service providers also need to have a signed certificate of vaccination for rabies.
  • The rabies vaccine has to be at least 30 days old or under one year old for foreign travel.
  • Based on your destination country, the dog or puppy may also need proof of annual vaccinations, import permits or quarantine kennel reservations
  • It can take over 6 weeks to get some of these documents into your hands. 

Boarding Your Dog for Transportation

For nationwide animal shipping, services like CitizenShipper offer a door-to-door option where the driver will come to your place, board the pet and move on. Naturally, puppies are treated with extra care. Most companies will not ship a puppy that is under six weeks old.

  • Many times when there is a breeder then there are multiple dogs that can be transported in a group or in an individual vehicle.
  • This, of course, is also subject to individual budgets and preferences.
  • During travel, an individual can opt to send a personal toy or other possession of your dog to further facilitate comfort.
  • Speaking of comfort, you can schedule your dog to have walks and exercise at specified intervals.
  • These walks and the number of them are usually based on the duration of the trip.
  • On average, a dog is given a walk every four hours.
  • For your peace of mind, pictures can be taken and sent to you at intervals during the trip.
  • Handlers are usually trained to deal with special cases such as blindness, mobility issues and anxiety.


1. How long does it take to ship a dog?

The time taken to ship a dog varies between dog shipping services companies. However, on a basic note, it doesn’t take more than six weeks or could be even less (based on the destination to the place inside or outside of a country you travel). If it’s in the USA, it can take as little as two to four days.

2. How much does it cost to ship a pet? 

The shipping cost of a pet depends upon the place or destination where the pet has to be transported. Also, it depends upon the requirements of the pet (in particular) during the time of the trip. 

On average, it may cost $120 to $250 to ship a pet within a distance of 300 miles. Accordingly, the cost will increase for longer journeys as the food and other requirements of the pet will also increase with it. So, before shipping your pet, make sure to check the cost-to-ship index of the pet transportation service you hire.

3. What happens when you ship a dog? 

Pets are generally received from their guardian by the pet shipping companies on the day before the trip. Then they are taken straightway to the vet to do necessary health checkups and paperwork. 

Every pet dog transportation agency ascertains the guardians of their pets’ safety during the trip. The dog shippers take special care of the pets and make them feel comfortable by taking the pets for a walk within every four to five hours interval.

4. What authority and licenses are required for transporting dogs? 

When you travel internationally, a federal endorsement of Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) of your dog is needed. The Veterinary Service office of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) can help you in the inspection of your pet before travel. It’s always advised to plan ahead as these services are not available on time and always need an appointment. 

  • To avoid facing any problem with the forms of the country you choose, be aware of the import requirements of that country.
  • You’ll need extra time to make sure that all the formalities are completed.
  • Don’t forget to keep a copy of the CVI and the documents needed with it.
  • The authorities can ask to see the documents, so it is necessary to be ready with them.
  • If you don’t have the documents, the authorities at the destination may take action against you.
  • For example, they could impose a penalty, extend the quarantine or simply refuse entry.

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