How Safe is Transporting a Dog Long Distance?

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated April 15, 2024

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Traveling with a dog can be overwhelming. For many pet owners, the idea of spending hours — or even days — in the car with an animal is stressful. You may have questions about how to transport your dog safely and comfortably. Is your computer frozen because you have a million tabs open because you don’t know where to begin researching? Don’t worry — we’re here to help.

Below you’ll find a fact-filled article that should bring peace of mind about the dog transportation process. The good news is that yes, transporting a pet long distance is completely safe! Pet travel doesn’t have to be an ultra-stressful event. There are many ways to safely, comfortably and affordably transport a dog across the country.

Cross Country Dog Transport by Airplane

Traveling by plane is one way to travel hundreds or thousands of miles with a dog. Each airline specifies what you can or cannot do in terms of crates, the size of the dog, dog breeds and other requirements. You can visit each airline to see what requirements they have for both dogs going in the main cabin and dogs going in the cargo hold.

Hawaiian and Alaska are by far the most pet-friendly airlines in the United States, but several of their competitors allow dogs in the cabin and cargo hold.

Here are the specific pages of each airline and their pet requirements:

Air Carriers Impose Limitations on Dog Transport

There are some limitations when it comes to dog transport by air. Some limitations to look out for include:

  • Weather restrictions — if the temperature is too hot or cold at takeoff or landing, all pet tickets will be cancelled.
  • Size restrictions — only small breeds (usually under 20 pounds) can fly in the cabin.
  • Limitations on pets — there’s a limit on the number of pets on each flight. Be sure to book early.
  • Breed restrictions — brachycephalic breeds, also known as snub-nosed breeds, aren’t allowed to fly cargo. If your dog is a large snub-nosed breed, it can’t fly.

Using Ground Transport to Ship a Dog

Another great option for transporting a dog across the country is using ground transportation. There are three avenues you can choose from: the DIY option, the traditional pet transportation company option or choosing a pet marketplace. Let’s take a look at each of these options.

DIY Option

This option is the easiest because you would be driving yourself to your final destination with your dog in the car! Now, what does this mean? It means all you need is the documentation needed to register your pet in the state of arrival. Road tripping with a dog can be stressful since there are a lot of logistics that go into planning travel with your pet.

There are several variables you need to keep in mind before you hit the road:

  • Gas
  • Pet-friendly accommodations for overnight trips
  • Food and water
  • Plan for taking your dog out to use the bathroom and eat to make sure your pet is comfortable
  • A travel crate that is large enough for your dog or dog harness to keep your dog restrained
  • Extra blankets and towels in case your pet has an accident or vomits due to car sickness

Car rides can be stressful for your dog, so that means you need to do everything possible to make the car ride more comfortable for them. Providing them with a security toy or blanket is a smart idea.

Traditional Transporter

A traditional transport service is another option. This is the most popular choice if you plan to transport your dog by car. You can find hundreds of companies online that provide different types of dog transport services — from pet van lines to independent pet shipping professions. There are a variety of factors that determine the cost of hiring a pet transport service. Some factors include:

  • Distance traveled
  • Time of year
  • Whether your dog is riding solo or sharing the car with other canines

Also, look out for fake shipping companies. Some companies entice you with affordable prices. It’s smart to look at the warning signs when you research.

Using a Marketplace for Dog Transport

Another option is using a two-way marketplace like CitizenShipper. In many ways, the result is similar to that of a traditional dog transportation company: you’ll book a driver, they’ll pick your dog up and drive him across the country. However, the process of booking a driver is much easier and more affordable using a marketplace.

  • First, you post a listing that includes your dog’s transport information.
  • Within minutes, you’ll receive quotes from transporters.
  • Because the drivers are bidding against each other, you’ll be able to get a lower rate.
  • Plus, you won’t have to reach out to multiple transporters yourself — the quotes come right to you!
  • Every transport on CitizenShipper comes with a Pet Protection Plan worth up to $1000, plus 24/7 access to a televet.

Yes, Trains are a (Limited) Option for Long-Distance Dog Transport!

Trains are a good option that is easy and convenient. Amtrak allows dog transport, but they have certain requirements. Let’s take a look at each of them.

  • Only one pet per passenger.
  • The trip cannot last more than seven hours.
  • Your dog must be more than eight weeks old.
  • Your dog must be under your seat at all times inside a carrier.
  • Your dog must be 20 pounds or less.

The bottom line with train transportation is that only small dogs are allowed on board because they have to be inside a carrier in the seat in front of you. If you have a large dog, you will have to look elsewhere. The cost of having your dog on board totals $25, but the actual total costs for train travel will vary depending on where you are going. Depending on the train ticket you buy, your total costs associated with train travel can run from $100-$525.

Tips for Transporting Larger Dogs Long Distance

Traveling with a big dog can be stressful. It’s always right to have everything you need before the trip. Here are some tips to ensure your journey is stress-free and relaxing.

  • Make sure you pick the right carrier for your dog.
  • Pack essential supplies like food, water, bowls, medications, a first aid kit and a leash.
  • To calm your dog, bring their favorite blanket, calming scents or calming chews.
  • Stop every once in a while to stretch your legs, but also to give your dog a bathroom break and for your dog to stretch its legs, too. Exercise is important and your big dog will need it.
  • Prepare for emergencies. Keep a list of emergency contacts, such as your veterinarian or a local animal hospital. You can also bring a pet first aid book for reference. One benefit of hiring a driver through CitizenShipper is their 24/7 access to a televet.

Choosing the Right Dog Carrier

The right carrier is essential to making sure your dog’s transport — whether it’s by airplane or by ground — is as comfortable as possible. There are two types of carriers — soft-sided carriers and hard-sided carriers. Let’s go through the two options you have.

Soft-Sided Carriers

Soft-sided carriers are perfect for small dogs, especially if they go in the main cabin for an airplane. A soft-sided carrier is the right choice because they are compact and flexible.

Hard-Sided Carriers

If your dog needs to be in the cargo hold or your dog will be taking a long trip by car, the smartest carrier to buy is hard-sided. A hard-sided carrier is easier to transport, has better ventilation, and you can attach food and water to the side of the carrier. Just make sure you follow some simple rules when buying a hard-sided carrier.

  • Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around in the carrier and not touch the top.
  • The carrier should be able to lock securely with pins that extend past the extrusions above and below the door. The pins should be metal instead of plastic.
  • It must be ventilated on all sides.
  • Your dog’s name and your contact information must be easily visible.
  • Water and food bowls should be attached to the door and accessible from outside the carrier.

Understanding Local Pet Laws and Regulations When Traveling with Dogs

When traveling with your dog, it’s always important to familiarize yourself with the final destination’s regulations, requirements and any travel restrictions. Do they require leashes at all times? What vaccinations do you need? Are there breed restrictions? Make sure you get all the information before you travel so you don’t experience any hiccups.

If you are traveling internationally, learn about your country’s destination’s requirements for dogs, as well. They will require certain vaccinations your dog must have before going on the flight. Many of these vaccinations need to be done months in advance.

Preparing Your Dog for an Interstate Journey

When it comes to long car rides, things can get overwhelming. To ease your stress, we recommend you follow some simple tips to make everything easier for you and your cherished dog.

  1. Don’t change the routine you have with your dog. Stick to the schedule!
  2. Start dog crate training so they become acclimated to being inside the crate during travel.
  3. Gradually acclimate your dog to longer periods of travel by traveling with them on your errands, ensuring you increase the amount of time in the car each day.
  4. Visit the veterinarian so you can get the proper vaccinations and health certificates you need for your dog’s travel.

Why CitizenShipper is the Best Choice for Transporting a Dog

The best alternative to flying or a traditional pet company, is using a two-way pet marketplace like CitizenShipper. CitizenShipper offers the same level of service and safety as traditional transportation companies with ensuring you save money.

The best part about CitizenShipper is that drivers compete for your business. This allows you to save as much as 70% compared with traditional transporters. First, enter the details of your dog and its trip — you’ll receive quotes within a few minutes, be able to chat with drivers that bid on your trip, and read reviews from previous customers. Once you’re satisfied with the driver, book the trip, and presto! You’re all set!

We work hard so you have peace and tranquility throughout the entire process. CitizenShipper also provides added benefits for you so you’re even calmer — up to $1,000 Pet Protection, Booking Assurance Guarantee, a messaging system where you can communicate directly with the driver and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet.


Can I sedate my dog for long-distance travel?

No, you should not. It can be dangerous for your dog’s health. In fact, most airlines won’t allow your dog on the plane if they suspect he’s been sedated. The alternative is to get your dog a calming chew, chew toys, a security blanket, and food and water.

What should I do if my dog gets motion sickness during travel?

You should try to feed your pup several hours before the trip, so that they don’t experience any motion sickness during the journey. If your dog gets sick, stop and act like you would at home. Bring proper medications on your trip so you’re extra prepared.

How can I keep my dog entertained during a long journey?

For both airplane travel and ground travel, you should pack toys, treats, and chews. If doing the DIY option, during your stops and bathroom breaks, you can also play games such as fetch or tug-of-war to help keep them active and engaged.

Bottom Line

Shipping your dog to another destination should be a wonderful experience; not something that makes you want to scream into a pillow. By trusting drivers on CitizenShipper to transport your beloved Fido, you will be able to focus on other important matters.

As the #1 pet transportation marketplace in the nation, CitizenShipper wants to make sure you save money, time and hassle. The drivers on our network are dedicated to you and only you. Don’t hesitate, post your pet’s transport to get free quotes now! We don’t just have dog transporters on our marketplace either; there are thousands of experienced cat transporters too!