Moving house with pets or children in tow can be quite a challenge. Anyone who’s done it has learned things along the way — things they wish they’d known ahead of time. You might be coming into this unprepared and idly wondering, how do you transport a dog long-distance? Or you might be an old hand at this, looking for your fellow traveler’s insight. Either way, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a short selection of tips collected from professional dog transporters who move dogs coast-to-coast for a living. We hope you’ll find it useful, whether preparing to dive into the great outdoors or just choosing which airline to book.
1. Plan well in advance
Sounds kind of obvious, right? The longer the trip, the more thorough planning you need. But a surprising number of people make the mistake of leaving the preparation late. Then it turns out they can’t book the dog-friendly hotel they had in mind… Or it takes more time to get the pet health certificate issued… Or the roads are closed due to an unforeseen pandemic.
You might be good at thinking on your feet, but don’t let circumstances force you into that. Plan ahead of times, and plan thoroughly. Work out your mode of travel, your route, your expenses, your dog’s food requirements. Go into as much detail as you feel comfortable.
And sure, a snag will inevitably turn up to spoil your plans. But guess what? Since you started planning in time, now you can reevaluate things and make the necessary changes.
2. Let your dog adjust
You might think that your dog enjoys a car ride, and odds are you’re correct. But a long-distance move isn’t the same thing as a drive around the block. You need to give your furry friend a chance to adapt to the requirements of road travel.
Are they used to riding in the backseat? Using a belt harness? How confident are you that they won’t get antsy after a couple of hours? What’s the longest they’ve spent inside a crate? These questions and more you’ll be able to answer only after a practice ride or two.
If you’re driving a young pup around, this is a particularly important step. They’ll need to be car-trained slowly, every practice ride gradually extended until they learn. And it works both ways! A little experience under your belt, and you’ll tell the difference between a hungry whine and a potty whine.
3. Pack for every eventuality
Easier said than done, we know. So many little things can go wrong on a long-distance trip — how do you pack for literally anything? Well, the obvious answer would be, you need to know your dog’s needs. Do you know which snacks to bring, what their favorite water bowl is, which chew toys keep them calm? If so, you’ll do fine. Just don’t forget to bring plenty of wet wipes! You can never have too many of those.
But it’s a long trip, and you can’t be sure that whatever you bring will last. Fortunately, that’s where that planning stage pays off. If you’ve worked out your route already, you know which stores will let you resupply. If your fur baby needs a highly specific food brand, don’t let yourself be caught out in the boondocks without access to it!
4. Manage the meals
Speaking of food, your pup’s feeding schedule might require slight adjustments when traveling long-distance. Experts agree that the meal right before the trip should be a light one. Ideally, you’d schedule it 3-4 hours before hitting the road, but this varies depending on the length of the trip.
Sometimes it can’ be avoided, but it’s generally not recommended to feed the pet inside a moving vehicle. It would be best if you could stick to the dog’s feeding schedule on the road. When you stop so they can shake a leg or go potty, see if they’re in the mood for a snack.
Water, of course, is a different matter entirely. Your dog should have access to plenty of fresh drinking water at every stage of the journey. It not only quenches their thirst but also helps with temperature regulation, which can be a serious health hazard.
5. Visit the vet
And to make sure your dog is fit to travel, be sure to pay a visit to the vet. We can never stress enough how important this step is! Only a vet can inform you on what health issues your little buddy might be facing on the road. Older dogs, young pups, and a number of vulnerable breeds can find road trips difficult to bear. If they need special attention, it’s your responsibility to make sure they receive it.
While you’re at the vet, take the opportunity to get your paperwork in order. Ask about the health certificates they offer — some states may require one even if you’re just passing through. Even though you know your dog has had all its shots, it won’t hurt to have that in writing.
6. Stay safe, stay grounded
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to make animal safety a top priority. Unfamiliar environments and the inevitable stress of travel can make dogs act unpredictably. So watch them like a hawk! Never take them out for a walk without a leash, and pay special attention to the traffic. If your dog is on any medication, consult the vet to make sure supplies will last you to the destination.
Of course, physical health shouldn’t be your only concern. A long enough journey can frazzle the nerves, both the dog’s and your own. Mental fatigue is a serious concern for any driver, and doubly so for those with animals in their care. So pace yourself, and try to relax whenever you find the chance. Riding the roads with a dog at your side can be a beautiful, calming experience if you let it.
And that’s it! Our essential advice on how to transport a dog long-distance. But how does your own experience stack up against what we’ve outlined? Let us know in the comments below, or sound off on social media!