Traveling With Dogs: How to Prepare and Find Safe Pet Transportation

My Pet Cab | May 26, 2020 2:02:00 PM | Dog Travel

Whether you’re just taking a much-needed vacation or are in the middle of making a life-changing move to a new home, making travel plans with your pooch can be a challenge. Finding the best ways to travel with a dog can be a time-consuming task. So, to help you out, here are some tips about the best ways to travel with a dog.

5 Reasons Why People Travel with a Dog

Traveling with a dog is often borne out of necessity—but not always! Here are some reasons why people find themselves hitting the road with their best friend.

  • Moving. Whether it’s for work, family, or just wanting to make a fresh start, people moving with a dog to a different home, state, or country need to pack up their pooch too.
  • Vacationing. Pets are part of the family, so when they can be included in a pet-friendly vacation destination, many pet parents bring them along. 
  • Dropping off or picking up a new pet. When buying a dog from a reputable breeder, either the buyer or the breeder may need to travel a long distance to drop off or pick up the pup.
  • Pet-related trips. Just like we go to the doctor or the salon, pets need to see their veterinarian and groomer, too. Other people will bring their dogs to pet-friendly stores or they may take a drive to get to the local dog park.
  • Just for fun. Dogs are our best friends, and if they like hitting the road as much as their owner, many simply bring them along for the ride!

How to Prepare for Transporting your Dog

Whether you’ll be traveling with your dog, putting them on a plane, or shipping them with a pet transportation service, there are some steps you can take to prepare (we’ll break this down even further by transportation mode in a moment). 

1. Visit Your Veterinarian

A checkup with a vet before any move is a good idea (and may be required if you’re flying or moving to a different state or country). Your vet can determine if your dog is health enough to make the move and provide:

  • A copy of their health records/health certificate
  • A vaccination update
  • Additional prescriptions if your dog’s medications are low
  • Sedatives if your dog is prone to motion sickness
  • Microchipping to ensure you’re reunited with your dog if they’re lost
  • Recommendations for new vet if the move is permanent

2. Check All Regulations

Different cities, states, and countries have different laws and ordinances regarding the entry of dogs. Your vet may be able to offer some insight, otherwise check with the USDA APHIS site for more information. The CDC is also a good resource. 

3. Create a Safe Place

If you’re moving from your home, seeing all your possessions being packed up or removed can be stressful on your dog. Try to keep them contained in one quiet room of the house with their belongings to provide peace and quiet for your pooch. This also ensures that you and/or your movers are not tripping over them and that they don't get loose when you’re going in and out of the house.

4. Pack Dog Items Last

You don’t want to stress your dog unnecessarily by packing up their belongings early. Wait until you're ready to hit the road to collect their belongings (but make a list in advance to be sure you don’t forget anything; we’ve created a checklist for you below).

5. Make a Dog Packing Checklist

Since you should pack for your pooch last, here’s a handy checklist of items you’ll want to pack so you don't forget any necessities at the last minute (some may not apply depending on how you or your dog is traveling).


Checklist for Traveling with a Dog

Dog Crate

Bed and Blanket


Food, Bottled Water, Treats

Food and Water Bowls

Toys and Chews

Bad Weather Gear

Grooming Supplies

Cleaning Supplies (for accidents)

Puppy Pads

Pet Paperwork (health certificate, etc)

Collar and Leash

Can Opener

Flea or Tick Repellant

Scooper and Plastic Bags

Ground Transportation vs. Air Transportation

So how should you get your dog from point A to point B? The two main options are driving or flying. Most people prefer to drive or fly with their pet, but this isn’t always an option. If you’re moving cross country, bringing your pet means a lot more stops plus the expense of finding pet-friendly hotels. On the other hand, some dogs can’t fly due to breed restrictions (for example, snub-nosed dogs) so driving is the best bet.

Thankfully, you don’t need to be with your dog to move them! You can hire a dog ground transportation service to safely transport your pet to your final destination; many can also arrange flights for your dog, dropping them off or picking them up and taking care of any paperwork. Many people also use pet transportation services when purchasing a new puppy from a breeder that’s far away.

Traveling with Your Dog in the Car

Traveling with a dog in a car is often the best way to get around with a dog. This is because you’re able to take frequent breaks to let your dog out of the car and get exercise and you don’t have to be separated from them (helping to alleviate separation anxiety).

However, to ensure the best pet travel experience for your canine companion, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Here are eight recommendations when bringing dogs on a road trip.

1. Protect Your Pooch with a Travel Crate/Kennel

While letting your dog freely roam your car might sound nice and can help keep them entertained, it is not safe for you or your dog. A dog who’s roaming the cab of your vehicle could end up getting thrown out of the vehicle or getting seriously hurt if you have to stop suddenly or get into an accident—or the roaming dog could cause an accident.

To protect your pooch, it’s vital to use a dog travel crate and secure it in place in the back seat—otherwise, a deploying airbag could cause injury. Soft-sided pet carriers may be preferable, though not all dogs can fit in such carriers (your dog should have enough room to stand and turn around). For hard kennels, try to place your pet’s favorite bed inside to increase their comfort on long journeys. 

2. Consider a Driving Harness

Traveling in a car with a dog on your lap is not safe, but there are many dog harnesses designed for driving with your dog. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) lists three crash test-certified harnesses, and by clicking on each you can view a successful crash demonstration using a “crash-test doggie.” They also provide a list of CPS certification requirements and the certification logo to look for on approved products.

3. Map Out Your Trip

Bringing along your buddy requires planning for multiple pit stops and knowing what hotels have pet-friendly accommodations. You may also want to pinpoint some emergency vets (just in case) and some pet stores (for restocking) along your route.

4. Keep Your Dog Entertained

Chews and toys are two good ways to keep dogs busy on road trips. If they’re not interested, you may be wondering how to make your dogs sleep on a road trip. There’s no surefire way outside of a vet-approved sedative, but generally, most dogs will fall asleep once the initial excitement or stress has subsided.

5. Take Frequent Breaks

When traveling with a dog in a car, how often should you stop? Many veterinarians agree that dogs need 15-30 minute breaks every 2-4 hours during long road trips. So, it’s important to take frequent breaks every few hours to avoid causing your beloved pet too much stress.

Additionally, your dogs may need to take regular stops to do their business so they don’t make a mess in their crate. The American Kennel Club also recommends not overfeeding your dog before a trip to reduce the risk of carsickness, though you should “make sure he has plenty of water at all times.” When leaving your car, your dog should have their collar, ID tag, and a leash to avoid potential problems.

6. Be Sure to Update Your Dog’s Vaccinations

Before leaving on a long-distance trip with your dog, it’s vital to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date—especially if you’re going to be crossing state boundaries. This is vital for protecting your dog’s health when your “pet travel” is complete.

7. NEVER Leave Your Dog Unattended in the Car

Even in “good” weather, you should never leave your pet alone in the car. As noted by the Humane Society: “Heat is a serious hazard: when it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.” This can cause hyperthermia and even death.

The Humane Society further recommends that if you find an abandoned pet in a vehicle, you should contact the authorities if you can’t find the vehicle’s owner nearby to have them let their pet out. The best way to avoid problems is to take your pet with you whenever you leave your car.

8. Bring a Friend

If you can, bring along a second person who can split driving and pet care duties when you’re driving with “pet cargo.” This second person can watch over your pet when you need to go to the bathroom or into a store where your dog might not be allowed—which helps avoid the unattended pet issue.

So, can you drive with a pet? Yes! But, you do need to be careful and well-prepared to ensure the best pet travel experience for your dog.

Flying with Your Dog

A popular alternative to driving with your dog is flying with your dog. However, just like with driving your dog, there are some preparations that you will need to make when flying with a dog so it’s best to get to know airplane and airport pet policy guidelines regarding traveling with pets.

For example, do they have specific requirements for dog travel crates? Is your dog one of the breeds on their restricted travel list? How big of a dog can you take with you as a carry-on? Do you have to ship your dog as "pet cargo?" Some airlines have different policies from others, so it’s important to investigate the specific rules of the company you plan to fly with.

Here are some considerations when flying with a dog as a carry-on or in cargo.

Carry-on: Your dog stays in the airplane cabin with you.

Whenever possible, try to take your dog as a carry-on if they’re of a breed that is small enough to qualify under your airline’s pet policy. The conditions in the cabin are generally much better and more stable than those inside the cargo hold, and your pet isn’t as likely to suffer from separation anxiety if you’re there with them. A few things to know:

  • The carry-on option is only available for small dogs, generally those less than 20 pounds that can fit under the seat in front of you. 
  • Most flights restrict the number of carry-on pets, so be sure to inform the airline that you will be bringing your dog in advance.
  • Fees for carrying on a dog are generally low, ranging from about $100-$125 one-way. An airline-compliant pet carrier is also a necessity, which is another cost to consider.

Cargo: Your dog (in their crate) is placed in the cargo hold.

The conditions in the cabin are better than cargo, but large dogs aren’t allowed in the cabin. However, millions of pets do safely fly in the cargo hold of planes every year. Here are somethings to remember:

  • If your dog has to fly in cargo, get a sturdy dog travel crate to be sure your pooch is protected during the flight. Begin familiarizing the dog with the crate prior to the flight so they feel more comfortable in it. Be sure to attach a label to the crate with your contact information.
  • Use direct flights when possible. Being stuck in the cargo hold can be incredibly stressful for a dog, as they may spend the whole flight unattended in their crate. 
  • Choose flights based on seasons and times when temperatures in the cargo hold are likely to be more comfortable.  For example, an early morning or late evening flight would be better in the summer, while an afternoon flight would be best in the winter.
  • Purchase a collar that can’t get snagged on anything and come loose (and be sure to microchip your pet), and get their nails trimmed short to prevent them from hooking on anything and causing injury.
  • Avoid feeding your pet for 4-6 hours before the flight (small amounts of water is fine).
  • Don’t use sedatives as dogs that have been given sedatives or tranquilizers are at a higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems at high altitudes. Some airlines such as American also won’t accept pets that have been sedated.
  • Consider alternative travel methods. Ask yourself: “How safe is flying for a dog?” The answer depends on the dog’s breed. Some dogs are at a higher risk of illness or injury when traveling by air. For example, many snub-nosed dog breeds can suffer respiratory failure in cargo hold conditions on a flight. Combined with the lack of constant observation, this creates a significant risk of death for pugs, bulldogs, and other brachycephalic breeds. Many airlines refuse to ship dogs that have shorter muzzles to avoid liability. So, if flying poses an undue risk to your dog’s health, you should consider using alternative pet cargo services to propel your pooch to your destination.

How to Find the Best Way to Ship Your Dog Cross Country

When you’re moving cross country, or even out of the country, there are a lot of considerations to make—even more so when you have a dog! Ultimately, when choosing your pet’s transportation option, you want to closely consider each of the following:

  • The health and safety of your dog
  • The expense of pet transportation
  • The distance you’re traveling
  • The convenience of each travel option
  • Recommendations from friends and family
  • Online pet transportation reviews

Right now, driving and flying with a dog are the easiest and best pet travel options available for most people. Other travel options, such as shipping your pet by train or by boat, are generally more restricted than travel by plane or car.

Need help safely moving your pet over a long distance? Call 1 (877) My-PetCab today and ask how we can help! Be sure to check out our website for customer testimonials and more. We guarantee your dog the safest, most comfortable transportation!My-Pet-Cab-Contact-Us

About the Author

My Pet Cab

The MyPetCab team consists of animal lovers who are dedicated to helping your pet travel safely. That’s why we work hard to create useful and informative content for our blog!