What is the Best Way to Transport a Large Dog?

Cagri Sarigoz Cagri Sarigoz · Updated May 29, 2024

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Large dogs make great pets but can certainly complicate travel logistics. Transporting a large dog takes a little extra work to find viable, safe, and reliable travel options since they can’t just fit under the seat like a small dog. But, with some research and understanding, you can find a safe travel solution for large dog transport.

Transportation Options for Large Dogs

Even though large dogs are certainly lovable, they present some logistical travel challenges. Transportation options are limited, especially if your dog is too large to fit under the seat on an airplane. Still, air and ground transport are viable options with proper planning.

Transporting Large Dogs by Air Transport

While your dog may not be allowed to ride in the main cabin with you, your large dog can still accompany you on your flight. Most major airlines will let large dogs fly in the cargo hold. Airlines routinely monitor the cargo hold, keeping the temperature and pressure stable. With a suitable carrier, your dog will be perfectly safe flying below.

Prices for pet transportation in the cargo hold vary depending on the size of your dog and the duration of your flight. Before reserving your boarding pass, contact the airline to inquire about availability and pricing for your pet’s accommodations.

Remember that dog breeds with a snub nose, like Boxers and some Pit Bulls, are prohibited from flying. The changing air pressure can create a dangerous health risk, causing their airway to restrict. For these dog breeds, ground transportation is the only safe option.

Transporting Large Dogs by Ground Transport

Ground transport is an efficient, cost-effective transport option for large dogs. Not only is ground transport incredibly safe, but it is also the only option for snub-nosed dogs. Driving with your dogs in tow allows you to move at your own pace. Stop for bathroom breaks and food breaks as necessary. Ground transport can be particularly beneficial for older dogs or dogs that require regular medication.

Driving with your pets in a vehicle is also ideal if you have multiple animals. Although ground transportation may take a little longer than flying, it is a more flexible, less stressful option for large dogs.

Transporting Large Dogs by Pet Transportation Services

If you aren’t able to accompany your dog on a flight or can’t drive with your dog, consider using a pet transportation service. Professional pet transporters work to ensure your pet stays safe for any length of travel. Whether a transporter flies with your pet in the cargo hold or personally drives your pup to your front door, pet transporters are worth their weight in gold.

Professional transporters like CitizenShipper work to keep transport costs affordable. CitizenShipper uses guarantees and protections, like TeleVet access and Pet Protection plans, designed to keep your pet safe through their journey. Signing up for our service is free, and you’ll have access to a network of professional, caring transporters dedicated to helping you and your pet.

Tackling Large Dog Transport Challenges

Large dogs can present different transport challenges compared to their tiny counterparts. Preparing for potential challenges early can help you better navigate the ins and outs of large dog transport.

Get a Dog Crate

Whether relying on air or ground transportation, a dog crate is essential to keep your pooch safe and sound. Be sure your dog crate matches the individual size restrictions for your particular airline. At a minimum, your dog crate should have the following:

  • Door – The travel crate should have a door on one entire side. Ensure the door is made of well-ventilated welded metal and the lock fastens tightly and securely.
  • Hardware – The hardware that locks the door should be metal. Plastic hardware is not durable enough for air transport. If your dog crate has a plastic locking mechanism, replace the dock with metal before flying.
  • Leaks – Use a hard-sided, plastic crate for transport. Ensure the bottom of the crate is solid, with a lip around the edge to make the crate leak-proof.
  • Label – Label your pet’s crate with bright red or green “Live Animals” stickers. Place the stickers on each side of the crate, with arrows indicating which direction is up.
  • Water – Available water bowls should have an open top and be affixed to the outside of the crate. A person should be able to fill the water bowl without opening the door.

IATA, the international association for flying standards, has further guidelines and requirements for an appropriate dog crate. Understanding these regulations before flying with your large dog can ensure a successful and safe journey.

Prepare in Advance

Early preparation is critical when traveling with a large dog. Try tiring your dog out with some play time or a long walk before loading up for your trip. When your dog is tired, it’s more likely to remain calm during the journey. Feed your dog about four hours before the trip, and give your pooch plenty of time to use the bathroom before boarding or getting into the vehicle.

Plan plenty of bathroom breaks and rests if you use ground transportation for your large dog. For longer trips that require an overnight stay, be sure to find a pet-friendly hotel. Some hotels have weight limits for pups, so inquire before making a hotel reservation.

Safe Air Transport

Since large dogs need to fly in the cargo hold of aircraft, careful planning is required to minimize the time spent in the hold. Some great tips for safe air transport when flying with pets include:

  • Fly Direct – To minimize time spent in the crate, try to fly direct when possible. Long layovers between airports can add unnecessary time for your dog in the crate.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures – Avoid flying during particularly hot or cold seasons. Although the cargo hold is temperature regulated, you want to avoid any chance your pet could become overheated while waiting between flights.
  • Off-Peak Times – Book your flights around off-peak times during the week. Should a mishap with your dog occur, you’re likely to receive more dedicated attention from customer service when they aren’t busy attending to other passengers. Flying during the week reduces the chance of your pet getting stuck over a long weekend. Plus, navigating the airport through security and check-in will be easier and less stressful with fewer people.
  • Notify – Be sure to notify the captain that your dog is in the cargo hold when you board the aircraft. Although the cargo area has stable temperatures and pressure, some aircraft require manual observation to ensure the cargo hold stays comfortable for your pet.

How Can I Transport a Pet Internationally?

There are many options for moving pets overseas, but one company stands out above the rest. Starwood Pet Travel is the best option for international pet transportation as they’re able to move dogs all over the world. Starwood also provides domestic flight services from the continental US to Hawaii. The company primarily transports pets internationally from the US to various countries but also offer US import and local delivery services.


Options for large dog transport are limited but certainly still existent. Traveling with a large dog takes careful planning to ensure they remain safe and comfortable. Pet transport services can help with complex air and ground transportation logistics, ensuring your big dog stays healthy and safe.