Everything You Need to Know Before Moving Out of State with a Dog

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated: September 27, 2023 / Published: February 20, 2023

Moving out of state with a dog comes with its own set of unique challenges. While we see our pets as our fur babies, their needs differ from us humans. It’s easy to get sucked into the vastness of the internet when researching pet advice. Everyone’s pet has their unique quirks, that’s what makes them so special!

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a guide full of tips to ensure a smooth journey on your exciting new adventure.

Approaches to Take When Moving Out of State with a Dog

Air Shipping

Air shipping your pet is a speedy way to travel when moving out of state with a dog.

Most popular commercial airlines allow for small dogs (20 pounds or less) to ride in a carrier below your seat during your flight. You’ll need to pay a pet fee that typically ranges from $90 to $125.

If you have a larger dog, cargo shipping is your only option via plane. Very few commercial airlines allow for this shipping method. It can be rather expensive, and the price fluctuates depending on several factors.

Hiring an Air Nanny

If you can’t accompany your pet on the flight, another emerging option is now available. Air nannies offer a new service that is gaining popularity online. An air nanny is a professional pet chaperone that accompanies your dog from take-off to landing. This service is not yet widely available through most traditional pet shipping companies. The best way to find an air nanny is through an online marketplace like CitizenShipper, where unique transporters are waiting to provide unique pet services every day.

Drive With Your Dog

While driving your pet yourself is an option, it’s not for everybody. It takes a lot more effort than a trip to the dog park. Keep in mind the costs while on the road. You’ll need to budget for gas, food, lodging if the trip will be overnight, and unexpected maintenance to your vehicle (e.g. a flat tire).

Hire a Ground Pet Transport Service

Moving out of state with a dog can be a complex journey — sometimes it’s just simpler and more cost-effective to leave things to the professionals. There are many benefits to hiring a pet transportation expert — your pet’s journey will be safe, reliable and oftentimes very customizable.

For example, when you hire a pet transporter through CitizenShipper, the following options are available:

  • Door-to-door pickup: your pet’s transporter will come to the departure and arrival sites of your choosing
  • VIP rides: one-on-one pet transport with a driver for extra attention
  • “Stacked” routes: carpool travel with other pups for a cost-effective route without compromising safety
  • Communication: chatting with your dog’s transporter through instant messaging to frequently check in on your pup’s journey

Finding the cheapest way to transport takes a lot of stress out of your move.

How To Get Ready When Moving Out of State with a Dog via Airplane

Planning Ahead

Moving out of state with a dog is not an overnight venture — here are some tips to help you prepare for a smoother flight.

Get a Check-up

Most airlines will require a health certificate that proves your pet is in good health and fit to fly. Plan a visit with your vet in advance to get necessary screenings, update immunizations, and ask any questions you may have regarding your dog’s health.

Each state also has different laws regarding immunizations and paperwork required upon entry. You can find this information on a state-by-state basis through the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.

Choose the Right Carrier or Crate

Whichever method of dog transport you choose, your dog’s crate is a crucial piece of safe travel. View the IATA’s standards for pet carriers to better understand the dimensions you need for your pet’s comfortability. The IATA creates policies to ensure safe air travel for all, and this includes pets. This is why airlines also model their own dog crate policies after the IATA.

Acclimate Your Pet

Once you choose a proper crate, begin building a positive association with it for your pet. Line it with their favorite toys, blankets, or plushies to make them feel more at home. You may also try feeding them inside the crate.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Weather Conditions

It can be tricky to fly with pets during the winter and summer months due to extreme temperatures. The air temperature must be below 85 °F (29.5 °C) and above 45 °F (7.2 °C) for your pet to fly in cargo. Flights are susceptible to last-minute delays or cancellations.

Read the Fine Print

Each airline has specific policies and pet fees, sometimes hidden in the fine print. For example, some airlines charge an extra fee for every planned layover exceeding 4 hours. This can double your costs. To get a clearer understanding of your airline’s policies, don’t be afraid to contact a representative to help plan your trip and answer any questions ahead of time.

Know the Risks

While taking your pet on an airplane can be a speedy way to get to your new destination there are some risks.

Every airline has a breed restriction list for safety reasons. For the cargo area, this includes snub-nosed dogs such as English and French bulldogs, boxers, pugs due to the higher risk of oxygen deprivation or heat stroke.

Additionally, many vets and pet welfare activists recommend avoiding cargo shipping if possible. The environment can be unpredictable – your dog may experience unexpected turbulence, noise, or mishandling by airport staff.

Day of Departure

Final Run-through of Your Checklist

Make your final rounds before your dog sets out on their journey:

  • Is your dog wearing their collar and dog tags?
  • Do you have a copy on hand of their medical paperwork and certificates?
  • Does your pet’s carrier/crate have the correct labels?
  • Is everything on your packing list ready to go?

Food, Water, Potty Breaks

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, it’s best to skip breakfast on the day of travel — avoid feeding your dog for about 5 hours before take-off. Traveling on an empty stomach reduces the chance of your dog experiencing nausea. Giving your dog a little bit of water will keep them well hydrated.

Since dog relief areas in the airport may be inconvenient and overcrowded, it’s best to let your pup out for a potty break before you leave for the airport. Additionally, letting your pet have some fun outside might work in their favor. Exercising your pet may relieve anxiety and release energy. Most airlines prohibit the sedation of pets for safety reasons, unless recommended by your vet.

Arrive Early

You may want to arrive a bit earlier than airlines recommend, which is typically 2 to 4 hours before departure. This way, you are certain you have enough time to complete the check-in and TSA process without stressing about missing your flight.

Cargo shipping drop off areas are typically in different locations than passenger loading areas. Familiarize yourself with a map of the airport before you arrive, then leave enough time to ask for directions just in case!

How To Get Ready When Moving Out of State with a Dog via Ground Transport

Visit a Vet

As mentioned before, ensuring your pet is in good health should be the first step before moving out of state with a dog. This will make the trip safer and less stressful for everybody involved. It’s also the law in most states!

Plan a Route

Mapping out your route ahead of time will give you a better idea of how long the trip should take. Be sure to factor in frequent stops for leg stretches and bathroom breaks. Vets recommend stopping for at least 15 to 30 minutes every 2 to 4 hours. If you’re traveling alone, map out pit stop areas that allow dogs, since you can’t leave them alone in the car.

Also think about the varying climates you’ll be entering. You may be traveling through terrain and weather conditions unfamiliar to you, which may delay the trip or cause accidents.

If you choose to hire a professional pet transporter, they will know the best routes to take and make necessary arrangements for pit stops ahead of time.

Acclimate Your Dog to the Car and their Crate

Traveling such a long distance will likely be a new experience for your pet, so it’s best to familiarize as much of it as you can. This starts with your pet’s crate as mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to take your dog on some longer car rides so that they are used to the movement and assess whether they experience motion sickness.

Secure Your Pet in the Vehicle

Letting a dog roam free inside the car isn’t safe for your pet or the driver. It can become a distraction to the driver or harm both of you if an accident occurs.

Much like riding on an airplane, your dog will need a well-ventilated crate to travel in a vehicle. As stated by the ASPCA, your dog’s crate should have enough room to sit, lie down, stand, and turn around in. It should be secured in the vehicle so that it will not slide around during abrupt stops or sharp turns.

In the event your pet cannot ride in a crate, pet seat belts are another option. Your dog’s harness will be attached to a seat belt buckle, seated in the back seat of the vehicle.

Equipment Recommendations for Moving Out of State with a Dog

Preparing a travel kit ensures your dog has the tools for a successful trip.

  • Travel-appropriate crate or carrier
  • Food and water
  • Collar With ID Tags (be sure to update if needed)
  • Leash or Harness
  • Prescribed medications
  • First-aid kit (gauze, antiseptic wipes, scissors, tweezers, wound wraps, etc.)
  • Collapsible Bowls
  • Vaccination records and health certificates
  • Puppy pads (to line the crate)
  • Poop bags
  • A clean up kit for accidents (towels, gloves, cleaning spray)
  • Long-lasting toys and plushies to stay busy (avoid ones that make noise, pick ones that will keep them entertained and stimulated)
  • Long-lasting treats or bones

How CitizenShipper Makes Moving Out of State with a Dog Easier

Less Time Researching

CitizenShipper does the research for you — instead of spending days looking for legitimate transporters, you can spend a few minutes choosing from the best.

Through CitizenShipper’s auction-style marketplace, you first create a free listing detailing your dog’s transport needs. Next, you’ll receive quotes from qualified transporters who are happy to help!

More Money Saved

CitizenShipper’s unique bidding system allows you to decide exactly who gets behind the wheel with your dog and what price point is right for you. Transporters are likely to offer competitive rates — about 60-70% less than traditional shipping companies!

Transporters You Can Trust

All drivers hired through CitizenShipper are USDA-registered, vetted, verified and background-checked.

You can also view the following on a driver’s profile before booking:

  • How many trips the transporter has completed and canceled
  • Their ranking on a 5-star scale
  • Past customer comments

Safety Guaranteed

All CitizenShipper transporters have access to FirstVet, a 24/7 Televet service. This guarantees access to a licensed veterinarian anytime during the trip. Should your pet need medical attention, a vet on FirstVet can provide treatment recommendations and referrals to clinics nearby.

CitizenShipper is also the only pet transport platform that provides a free pet protection plan. This short-term policy covers up to $1,000 in expenses related to unexpected pet illness or injury throughout their transport journey.

Homeward Bound!

Transporters hired through CitizenShipper have 100,000,000+ miles under their belts, and the trust of 100,000+ pet owners. Start your big move off right by hiring the best care for your pet — your transporter is waiting!