How to Ship a Dog
Shipping can be a stressful experience for both you and your dog, but sometimes it is necessary. If you need to ship your dog, there are a number of important steps you must take before and during the trip to keep your dog as safe and comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to ship a dog, but if you begin planning for your dog's trip well in advance—at least a month is ideal—you can ensure a successful journey.
Preparing to Ship Your Dog
1. Research your transport options carefully. The two most common ways to ship a dog are by air and by automobile. The method you choose will depend on the length and timing of the journey, the size and variety of the dog, and the funds you have available to ship your dog.
- Note that both the U.S. Humane Society and the ASPCA caution pet owners to avoid shipping animals as cargo on commercial airlines whenever possible.
2. Check the laws before planning to ship your dog. Some countries and states strictly regulate the importation of dogs. Check the laws for your destination early to ensure you can get any health documentation and permits you may need in time for your trip, and that you understand any quarantine rules that may apply upon your pet's arrival.
3. Consider hiring a professional animal transport agency. There are many agencies worldwide that can facilitate and/or provide transportation for your pet, by land, or by air. Given the complexities of shipping a dog, it might be worth it to work with one of these companies. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association maintains listings for both air and ground pet transportation services.
4. Consider the dog's size when thinking about air travel. On most commercial airlines, dogs can only ride in the cabin with you if they are small enough to travel in a carrier that fits under the seat. The exact specifications vary by airline, but the space allowed is generally 8-9 inches tall by 12-13 inches wide, by 15-23 inches wide. If the dog's carrier doesn't fit under the seat, it will have to travel in the cargo hold of the plane.
- Chartered private flights generally allow larger animals in the cabin, but this is a very expensive option.
5. Think about the animal's health and breed. Talk with your vet before your trip to find out if your dog's health or breed will require any special shipping considerations. Note that brachycephalic or "snub-nosed" breeds of dogs, including pugs, bulldogs, chows, etc. are at greater risk from the dangers of air travel. It is strongly recommended that these animals never be shipped in the cargo holds of planes, and many airlines refuse to transport them.
6. Think about the timing of your trip. While airplane cargo holds are pressurized and have some climate-control, animals in the hold will be subject to outdoor temperatures whenever the plane is being loaded and unloaded. For this reason, airlines restrict the transport of animals when extreme temperatures are expected at any of the plane's stopping points. Some airlines won't transport animals during the winter at all, and all companies take into account daily temperatures when deciding whether or not to permit animals in the cargo hold.
- If you must ship your dog during periods of extreme heat or cold, automobile transport may be your safest and most reliable option.
- Research various airline policies before making your reservations. Some airlines offer specific advice (e.g. only ship animals on daytime flights in winter, etc.) that can help alleviate temperature concerns.
- Some airlines will also allow you to present an acclimation certificate from a certified veterinarian stating that your animal can handle extreme temperatures (usually cold) and should be allowed to fly even if the airline cannot guarantee recommended temperatures.
7. Buy a suitable shipping crate. Whether you ship your dog by air or automobile, you should secure a shipping crate for the dog that is well-ventilated and large enough for the dog to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down in.
- Be advised that some airlines have additional crate requirements.
- If you will be travelling by car, look for a crate that is crash-tested, and is designed to be secured with car restraints.
- It is best to acquire your crate in advance so that you can get your dog used to it before you travel.
8. Acclimate your dog to the crate. Begin getting the dog used to its crate several weeks in advance. Begin by simply placing the dog in the crate for some time every day. Then try driving the dog around town in the crate for increasingly longer periods of time to get it used to the sensation of travelling.
- If you find your dog is extremely anxious when travelling in the crate, speak to your veterinarian to determine if sedation would be helpful or necessary.
Shipping a Dog by Plane
1. Make your reservations well in advance. Try to book direct flights to minimize the amount of time your dog is left unattended in the cargo hold. It is best to make reservations for your dog by calling the airline directly to speak to a booking agent. Let the agent know that you are shipping a dog, and ask if there are specific guidelines and accommodations that the airline can provide.
- Travel with your animal, whenever possible.
2. Take the dog in for a pre-flight medical examination. Within 10 days of your flight, you will need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian confirming that your dog is healthy enough to fly, and that all of its vaccinations are up to date.
- Some destinations may require a separate certification that your dog is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Your vet can provide this at the time of the exam.
3. Label the dog's shipping container carefully. Make sure that your shipping container has the words "Live Animal" written in letters at least one-inch tall on the top and at least one side of the crate, along with arrows indicating which way is up. Also write the dog's name, along with the contact name, address, and telephone number of your pet's destination on the crate, and indicate whether or not you are accompanying the animal on the flight.
- It may also be helpful to affix a photo of your dog to the outside of the crate for identification purposes.
- If your dog is on any medication, also include this information when labeling of the crate.
4. Label the dog's collar. It is also helpful to carefully label your dog's collar with name, flight, contact, and health information, in the event that your dog escapes the crate.</ref>
5. Place appropriate bedding in the crate. If you know your dog won't eat paper, put a piece of clean cardboard at the bottom of the crate to help prevent sliding during transport. You can also add a low-sided dog bed, blanket or towel to the bottom of the crate for your dog to lay on.
6. Provide water for the dog during travel. Affix one or two water bowls inside the crate with zip ties. Freeze some water the night before travel, and at the airport, place the ice into each water dish so that it will thaw during the journey and give your dog something to drink.
- It is not advisable to give the dog food during the flight to prevent air sickness, but you may attach a packet of the dog's food outside the crate that airline personnel may be able to give the dog in case of delays or other emergencies.
7. Exercise your dog before the flight. Make sure that the dog has time to urinate and defecate before you place it in the crate. Once the dog is checked in at the airport, it will not be able to get out of the crate until you pick it up at baggage claim.
8. Feed your dog four hours before the flight. A dog with a full stomach is more likely to experience air sickness, so be sure your pet gets to eat well before the flight.
9. Avoid tranquilizing your dog. This can cause the dog to have breathing problems on the flight, and is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Check with your veterinarian for specific advice.
10. Arrive at the airport early. Most airlines restrict the number of pets that can be in the cabin on each flight, and spots are allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you plan to take your dog in the cabin with you, be sure to check in for your flight early to guarantee a place. Also, give yourself and your dog extra time to get through airport security.
11. Alert the cabin staff that your dog is travelling in the cargo hold. They will most likely have been appraised of this before boarding, but it can't hurt to make a human connection with the staff on your plane.
12. Relax, and know that tens of thousands of dogs successfully travel by air every year. Although accidents do occasionally happen, with proper preparation, your dog will almost certainly arrive at your destination happy and safe.
Shipping a Dog by Automobile
1. Choose a reliable transport company. If you choose to have your dog transported by someone else, be sure to do your research and look for a company with good reviews. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation, or for guidance in selecting the best carrier. Pet transportation can be expensive, but is considered to be the safest, most reliable way to ship your dog.
- Different transporters offer different levels of service, but most ensure that your dog will be closely monitored throughout the trip, and get out routinely for monitored exercise and rest.
- Be sure to alert the transporter of any medical conditions or special needs your dog may have before the trip.
2. Bring a buddy. If you plan to drive your dog across country yourself, bring an extra person along to help with the driving, and to keep an eye on your canine passenger when you need to use the restroom, go into stores, etc.
3. Plan your trip carefully. Be sure to factor in time for exercise and bathroom breaks for both you and your dog every day. And be sure to book rooms with pet-friendly hotels, which are available in most areas.
- Never let your dog out of the car without his collar, ID tag, and leash.
4. Secure the dog while you drive. It is not safe to allow your dog to ride in your lap or the front seat, and in some states, it is even illegal. The safest place for your dog in the car is in a crash-rated travel crate. It is also possible to buy car harnesses for dogs that snap into the car's seatbelt or LATCH system.
5. Get the dog used to the car before your trip. As with air travel, it is best to acclimate your dog to travelling before attempting a long trip. Begin with short trips around the neighborhood, then slowly increase the time the dog spends in the car.
6. Label your dog well. Make sure your dog wears a collar and ID tag throughout your trip. Include a label on the collar with emergency contact information for yourself, and for someone at your intended destination. Carry a current picture of your dog, as well, in case it escapes and you need assistance locating it.
- For added peace of mind, microchip your dog before your trip so that it can be quickly identified should it escape.
7. Bring adequate food, water, and medication for the trip. Be sure that you have everything your dog will need to stay comfortable in the car as you travel. Bring along enough food and medication for a few extra days, in case you are delayed.
8. Keep the car cool and well-ventilated. Keep the windows cracked if it is hot outside, and remember that you should never leave a dog alone in a hot car.
- Do not transport your dog in the back of a moving truck!
9. Secure the contents of your vehicle. If you are shipping your dog in a vehicle crowded with boxes, luggage, or other belongings, be sure that everything is well-secured so that a sudden stop or turn will not cause heavy objects to fall on your dog.
10. Keep your dog's medical records handy. In case your dog falls ill during the trip, it will be helpful if you have a copy of its medical records with you at all times.