How to Ship a Puppy Through a Breeder

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated February 23, 2024

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A white labrador puppy in a black and white photo.

After spending significant time researching dog breeds and breeders, you’re ready to make a big decision and buy a puppy. If you’re like many dog owners, you’ll purchase the puppy from a breeder in another state. There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the US, but only 3,000 of them are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, according to the Human Society of the United States. You’re excited to welcome your family’s newest member, but one big question remains: What’s the safest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to ship a puppy through a breeder?

Pet shipping is a major consideration for new pet owners when they’ve purchased a puppy from a long-distance breeder. There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing between air travel or a pet shipping company. Each option has pros and cons, with some options offering more benefits.

It’s also important to know how to identify a scammer if you’re working with a long-distance breeder you haven’t met in person.

Ship a Puppy Via Airplane

Air travel is a common way to ship pets bought through a breeder. You have two options for shipping a puppy via a commercial airline:

  1. You can fly out to the breeder, pick up the puppy and travel back home together
  2. Hire an “airplane nanny” to complete the journey for you.

Airlines currently don’t allow unescorted pet travel.

Steps To Take Before Shipping a Puppy by Plane

There are a few steps you’ll need to take if you choose to use air transit. It’s important to follow these steps closely in order to avoid any setbacks during your travels.

  • First, get the proper documentation in place including a certificate of veterinary inspection signed by an accredited vet. The breeder should handle this step. Book the vet appointment within 10 days of travel. The vet will vaccinate the puppy and ensure it’s fit for flight.
  • Have your puppy microchipped for the journey home and long-term needs. It’s not common for puppies flying in-cabin to get lost, but it’s a possibility. A lost dog with a microchip is much easier to locate.
  • Next, you should purchase the appropriate dog carrier for the flight. You should ensure the crate is well-ventilated and the right size for your puppy. The dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around in the carrier. Make sure the carrier is well-marked with identification and says “Live Animal” somewhere highly visible. This is most important if they’re flying in the cargo hold but should be done any time a puppy flies.

Pros of Airplane Transport

  • The benefit of air transportation is its speed and efficiency.
  • A cross-country drive can take days, while most flights in the United States are only a few hours long.
  • You’ll spend less time stressing about your new puppy’s voyage and she’ll be home sooner.
  • If the puppy is small enough, you’ll place it in a carrier under the seat.
  • The puppy must remain in the crate for the duration of the flight, but you can observe and reassure her.

Cons of Shipping Pets By Plane

  • While the flight takes less time than ground shipping, some of that benefit is negated by the planning and paperwork that’s required before your puppy can board the plane.
  • Experts recommend planning up to six months in advance for transporting your puppy via airplane.
  • Air travel may not be possible if you need to ship a puppy at the last minute. Call the airlines well in advance to be sure they can accommodate your puppy’s travel.
  • If your puppy is too large to fly in the cabin, it’ll have to be transported in the cargo area, which adds risks to the puppy’s mental, emotional and physical health.
  • Airlines don’t allow unescorted pet travel. This adds to the final cost if you need to buy a one-way pet ticket for around $125 and a round-trip ticket for yourself, or a ticket for the airplane nanny and the puppy.
  • Your puppy’s journey is subject to weather conditions at take-off and landing.
  • Pets will not be permitted to board the plane if the temperature at the departure location or destination is over 84 degrees F or less than 45 degrees F.

Size Restrictions

Airlines have strict size restrictions for shipping pets on a plane. Airlines will place dogs over 20 pounds in the pressurized, climate-controlled cargo hold. While most puppies won’t exceed the weight limit for in-cabin flight, some larger breeds might.

  • It’s usually safe to transport pets in the cargo hold, but it’s not recommended for puppies.
  • The cargo area is stressful when the puppy doesn’t know what’s happening and isn’t used to being crated.
  • For this reason, the ASPCA highly recommends you avoid transporting your dog in the cargo hold unless absolutely necessary.

If you have a puppy that’s too large to fly in the cargo area, consider ground-based dog transportation. There are many different options for ground-based puppy transportation.

Using Ground Transportation

The best alternative to shipping your puppy by plane is through ground transportation. It will take longer to get your fur baby home, but less paperwork and planning ahead is required. If possible, the best and least expensive ground transportation option is to drive to the breeder and pick up the puppy yourself.

If that’s not feasible, your breeder may recommend a ground transportation service. There are many shipping companies that offer pet transport services. They have varying degrees of quality, reliability, and cost so it’s important to do your research before booking a driver.

Qualities to Look for in a Transportation Service

  • They have a lot of experience shipping.
  • They are registered with USDA APHIS.
  • They’ve received high ratings from real customers.
  • Willing to work with the shipper on special requests for the puppy.

Using CitizenShipper to book your pet transport service removes much of the uncertainty for you and your clients. The platform requires drivers to pass a stringent background check to have an account. The site also indicates whether the driver is insured and if they’re registered with the USDA. They’re also the first and only pet transport platform that provides a free pet protection plan for all pet shipments.

Steps To Take Before You Ship a Puppy Via Ground

  • Ensure the puppy has the required vaccinations and has a microchip implanted.
  • If you’re transporting the puppy across state lines, you need a certificate of veterinary inspection that’s no more than 30 days old.
  • These steps should be facilitated by the breeder since you won’t be physically present with the puppy.

Most people can’t drive hundreds of miles to pick up their new puppy. If that’s the case, hire a transportation service for the trip. With so many companies that specialize in pet shipping, it’s important to weigh your options and choose carefully.

Ground Shipping a Puppy from a Breeder

Ground transport is a more comfortable experience for the puppy, cutting down on stress and uncertainty for you and your new puppy. The puppy won’t need to arrive early at the airport and sit in their crate through the boarding process and the flight. Instead, they’ll travel directly from the breeder to your front door – you don’t even need to drive to the airport when you use ground shipping!

  • You’ll save significant time using a transportation service versus driving out to the breeder yourself.
  • Most drivers are animal lovers that specialize in pet transportation, giving you the peace of mind that your newest family member will be well taken care of during transit.
  • When you’re looking for a transport service, CitizenShipper has reviews from real customers that make it easier to identify the best driver for your trip.

Ease of Communication

You can communicate directly with the drivers during the bidding process, adding confidence that the transport service will accommodate any special instructions or requests for the trip. You specify to the drivers how often the puppy will be taken out for bathroom breaks, the length of time the dog can stay in the crate between breaks, and how often it’s fed during the trip. Many drivers offer GPS tracking so you’ll know the location of your puppy at every point of the journey.

With many ground transport services for pets, you won’t know exactly who will be taking care of your puppy. Using a marketplace like CitizenShipper allows you to communicate directly with the driver before and during the trip. Most transportation companies don’t give you the option to pick the driver, but our marketplace allows you to choose who brings your newest family member home.

Booking through CitizenShipper is better than an airplane nanny because though the trip is longer, the puppy receives attention. It’s a kinder, gentler experience that can even make a difference in their future temperament and anxiety.

If you’re planning on buying a puppy through a breeder and are considering a transportation company, get a free quote from CitizenShipper.