Six Tips For a Long Distance Move with Dogs

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

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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 complete a long distance move with dogs? 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.

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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 with dogs 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 move with dogs — 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!

Be prepared ahead of time when you have a long-distance move with dogs.

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.

Question and Answer Time!

Moving can cause stress. It can overwhelm you. But what about your lovable pup? Moving can also cause them stress. After reading this article, you may have some questions. We’ll do our best to answer them with details that will come in handy for you. 

1. What Steps Do You Need to Take to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move with Dogs?

There is a preparation checklist that you should check off to ensure smooth sailing in the moving process with your beloved doggie. Here are the essential steps.

Step 1: Vet Visit and Vaccines

The first step is the important one. Without this, your dog won’t be able to travel. Make an appointment to visit a USDA-registered veterinarian. Veterinarians will provide you with a CVI (Certificate of Veterinary Inspection). This certificate is one you should present to health officials at your destination.

The health certificates must be completed with the veterinarian 10 days before travel for them to be up-to-date. You should also ensure your doggo has the necessary vaccines no more than 21 days before traveling.

What are the required and recommended vaccines for dogs?

Required vaccinations for dogs:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Rabies

Recommended vaccinations for dogs:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Influenza
  • Leptospira bacteria

Step 2: Destination State Requirements

This step goes in conjunction with the first step. Upon vaccinating your pup and receiving the CVI, you should research the other requirements that your destination state (and county) requires.

You can find a list of states’ Department of Agriculture pages on the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture website. The list of requirements from each state are on the USDA’s page for interstate pet travel.

Step 3: Buy a Carrier and Other Essential Products

You should buy a sturdy, durable carrier for your dog while on the journey. Small carriers can cost about $100 and large ones can run up to about $200.

Besides the crate, you should also have some essential products to make your pet’s journey stress-free, like calming chews for dogs, a security blanket or toys they like, and a first-aid kit for emergencies.

Step 4: Reserve Pet Transport

After you’ve researched the modes of transport and decided on one, the last step is to book the pet transport. You can take many options: air travel, train travel, the do-it-yourself option where you drive yourself, hiring a ground transport pet company, or a two-way marketplace option like CitizenShipper.

2. Are there any Tips for the Long-Distance Move with Dogs?

When it comes to a long-distance move with dogs, things can get overwhelming. To ease your stress, we recommend you follow some simple tips to make everything easier for you and your cherished Fido.

  1. You should ensure your dog gets used to moving supplies and boxes.
  2. Don’t change the routine you have with your pet. Stick to the schedule!
  3. Pack their items last and unpack them first. This way, your dog won’t wonder what is happening and their stress levels will not increase.
  4. Arrange the pet transport prior to your move, so you don’t have to run around doing that instead of focusing on the move.
  5. Pet-proof your new home (when you arrive) and stick to your pet schedule once you are at your new destination.

3. How Long Does It Take a Dog to Adjust to a New Home After Moving?

Like humans, dogs also have to adjust to their new surroundings. Dog owners should do everything possible to make their pets have an easy transition. According to the RSPCA, it will take your doggo about three weeks to adjust to their home.

Here are a few tips to make sure they acclimate faster.

  1. Stick to your dog’s old routines. This will ensure they know what to expect.
  2. Don’t buy new dog gear just because you moved. Stick to your old dog gear until your dog is completely adjusted.
  3. Don’t leave your dog alone at your new home until the acclimation is complete.
  4. Give your dog lots and lots of love!

4. Why is Ground Transportation More Reliable?

After doing your due diligence in researching the various modes of transport, you may be inclined to go with air travel. If you have a large dog, you won’t be able to do so and go the ground transport route. If you’re on the fence between air travel or ground transport, let’s consider why ground transportation is more reliable than air travel.

  1. Most airlines (with the notable exception of Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines) prohibit pets in the cargo hold, which means if you have a large dog, you won’t be able to take them with you.
  2. Flying can stress your pet, especially if they are in the cargo hold.
  3. Certain breeds of dogs are prohibited in airlines. Snub-nosed dogs like bulldogs and boxers have health-related issues where flying on a plane can cause injury or something more serious.
  4. With the recent flight cancellations over the holidays, flying can be unreliable because of weather and other factors.
  5. Ground travel logistics are more accessible and can offer door-to-door delivery, which is impossible with air travel.

5. Why is CitizenShipper a Great Alternative?

Our platform offers many advantages over traditional pet transporters. Post a listing to our site, and a fleet of USDA-registered drivers will send you quotes within minutes. Once you choose the driver you like best, you’re ready to book your trip.

We pride ourselves in making pet shipping run as it should — safe, seamless and stress-free. We want your beloved dog to be in good hands with the drivers on CitizenShipper.

Because drivers compete for your business, we can save you up to 60-70% compared to traditional shipping companies! CitizenShipper also provides some added benefits, like a $1,000 pet protection guarantee, Booking Assurance Guarantee, direct communication with the driver who provides updates and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet.

As the #1 pet transportation marketplace in the nation, CitizenShipper ensures you will save money, time and hassle. So post your pet’s transport to get free quotes instantly!

3 thoughts on “Six Tips For a Long Distance Move with Dogs

  1. We shipped 2 dogs and 2 cats from California to Texas on an airline.
    We took them to the vet to get a wellness to fly check up and paperwork.
    The cost is the same as a person flying. So be prepared for that.
    Flying vs a pet transport was a no brainers. Although the pet transport was cheaper, 3 hrs on a plane was less stress on our fur babies than a 3 day car trip. So you have to think what’s better and causes less stress for them.

  2. I found your article just in time.
    My family and I are preparing to move next year, and in such situations you do not always understand what you need to tackle in the first place.
    Now you have helped me put everything in its place and decide what first of all needs to be dealt with. Since my family and I will be moving by car, I would like absolutely everyone to be as easy and comfortable as possible to overcome this distance.
    Our dog is very funny and loves movement, it will be as difficult for her as it is for us. After all, no matter how you prepare yourself, it is still impossible to do everything perfectly.

  3. Hello my name is Henry Villemaire you are shipping a puppy from Wisconsin to maine pickup tommorrow can you put me in touch with the driver? thank you no issues just wanted to track them. pick up 31 Dec 2020 watertown wi to Fryeburg Maine

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