How to Move Across Country with Pets

Dogs need to walk every two to three hours during a long drive.
dog image by Piotr Markowski from

Moving a household across the country requires planning and patience; moving with your dog requires even more. Perhaps your dog is already accustomed to going places in a suitable vehicle with you and your family, and loves riding along and seeing new places. Even with those advantages in place, your dog knows this is different and that changes are coming. He will wonder what's going on, and he will wonder what his part is in it. You can take steps to make the cross-country trip and the transition to a new home as smooth as possible for your family dog and for you.

Step 1

Contact the state veterinarian's office in the state to which you are moving, and ask what medical requirements and licensing laws will apply to your dog, so that you can be in compliance when you arrive. You may be able to find much of the information you need online.

Step 2

Plan the trip thoroughly with your dog in mind. Consider the season, and the kinds of weather and temperatures you will encounter. Consider how you will keep your dog sufficiently cool in hot weather, or warm in very cold weather, during overnight stops, stops at restaurants, long traffic backups or a breakdown of your car.

Consider where you will stop for the night, where your dog will be, and how he will be accommodated during those stops. Call ahead for reservations as needed, and discuss your dog's needs when you make the reservations. Be certain the places where you plan to stop will accept dogs, and that there are convenient places where you can walk your dog and take care of his needs.

Step 3

Schedule a checkup of your dog with your current veterinarian before the move. Make sure the dog is in good health and not already under stress before you make any major changes. Obtain any shots needed to be in compliance with the new state's laws, and obtain a copy of your dogs vet records; you can give these to a new veterinarian once you choose one. Get your vet to give you a health certificate just in case it's needed for any reason anywhere along the way.

Consider having your dog microchipped while he's at the vet, if it has not already been done. If he gets lost at any time during the move or after you reach your new home, he will have a greater chance of being identified and returned to you.

Inquire with your vet about a sedative during the move if your dog is a nervous traveler and you think he may need one to make him more comfortable during the long trip.

Step 4

Choose the proper size and type of carrier (dog crate) for your dog if he does not already have one; it should have a waterproof bottom and plenty of ventilation. It should be sturdy enough to hold the dog in various circumstances, and to stand up to shifting or having something fall on it. It may be a sturdy wire or plastic crate of the proper size for your dog to travel in comfortably. You should be able to secure it in the vehicle with sufficiently strong straps or seat belts to keep it from tilting or sliding around, and to hold it in place in case of an emergency stop or a wreck.

Step 5

Place a crate liner and clean, comfortable bedding in the crate for the trip. The crate liner, which can be made of a variety of materials ranging from wood to plastic, raises the dog slightly off the floor of the carrier, providing a comfortable surface for him to lie on. It allows drainage of spilled water or fluids from mishaps down to the underlying removable crate pan or the floor of the crate, so the dog does not have to lie in it until you can clean it up.

Step 6

Leave the dog crate in a place in your current home where your dog can check it out. Introduce the crate a least a few days before the trip begins, and ideally for as much longer as possible. Allow your dog to go in and out of it on his own; this fosters a feeling of place, security and comfort about the carrier, rather than containment, as in a cage. If a crate is already your dog's comfortable home away from home and a joyful sign that he's going with you somewhere, he's of course good to go.

Step 7

Attach updated identification tags on both the carrier and your dog's collar, in the event the dog gets loose during the trip or the carrier is lost or damaged.

Step 8

Spend time with your dog prior to the move. Dogs are sensitive to stress and changes in the family routine, so keep his routine unchanged. He will already know something is different; you can't possibly hide that fact and your own stresses from him. Spending time in play and giving affection will help to ease any stress the dog is feeling as moving day approaches, and probably will help ease your own stresses, too.

Step 9

Keep your dog contained in a familiar area while your household is being packed up on the day of the move. This protects the dog from escaping while doors are left open, or from being in the way and potentially injured.

Step 10

Put items needed to make the trip more comfortable for your dog into the dog crate before you put your dog in the crate. Dogs can enjoy indestructible toys during the travel. Put a large carton of bottled water and the dog's water bowl in the car within easy reach of the crate. Try to avoid using local water supplies along the way, and rely on bottled water instead. Differences in water supplies can upset your dog's digestive system.

Step 11

Bring along a sufficient supply of your dog's customary dog food to feed him during the entire trip and for some days beyond. Pack extra collars and leashes in case of loss or breakage. Pack a long leash for use during travel breaks along the way, when you can play games or do some training with your dog to break the monotony of the road. You may plan some travel breaks each day at places your family and your dog can enjoy. Be equipped to keep your dog safe and on-leash at all times in all circumstances.

Step 12

Stop every two to three hours to allow your dog time to stretch and relieve himself. Keep your dog on leash during rest stops. Give water and appropriate food or snacks during this time, but avoid overfeeding.

Step 13

Allow your dog to smell and explore your new residence before you move boxes in. During the unpacking, contain your dog in a limited area, such as a bathroom or bedroom, along with food and water, a favorite toy and clean bedding. Place his carrier in the room to provide a sense of shelter until the unpacking is completed.


  • For recommendations on how to fly your dog across the country, visit the Department of Transportation's website at

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Items You Will Need

  • Dog carriers
  • Soft towels or blankets
  • Identification tags
  • Microchip
  • Up-to-date health records
  • Health certificate
  • Treats and/or toys
  • Leashes and long leash
  • Dog food
  • Bottled water
  • Food and water dishes



About the Author

Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."

Photo Credits