The technicalities of moving or traveling cross-country can seem overwhelming between packing and scheduling, but your dog's comfort and traveling accommodations shouldn't be a last-minute thought. Unless you're planning to drive with your dog, you'll need to find safe, responsible transport for your family pet. Many companies specialize in pet transportation, with varying degrees of care and services included in the price. Depending on the distance you'll ship the dog, you'll need to keep certain considerations in mind, such as potty stops, sleeping arrangements and proper feeding.
Prepare Your Dog
Visit your veterinarian: Make sure your dog is well enough to travel and is up-to-date on all vaccinations. Have your veterinarian give your dog a full checkup to ensure that no illnesses are lurking behind that happy dog smile and that the dog is in good health. You don't want him to be sick while traveling or to infect other animals he may be traveling with.
Gather your supplies: Purchase a kennel only large enough that your dog will be comfortable in it while traveling. The dog should be able to stand, turn around and lay down inside it easily. Try out the latch to ensure it's intuitive and secure. Make sure the latch that opens the door is secure and easy to operate to prevent accidental escapes during stops. Find a few toys and treats your dog likes, to help encourage calm and keep him occupied during the trip.
Make the kennel comfortable: Introduce your dog to the kennel at least two weeks before the anticipated trip. Feed the dog inside, and let him sleep and play in there so he associates positive things with the enclosure. Place a familiar blanket or dog bed on the floor inside to make your dog comfortable.
Choose a Pet Transport Company
Do your research: Find the pet transport companies in your area and conduct research into what each offers for the price. Services and fees vary, and you may not need or want all the bells and whistles offered if the trip is a relatively short one or if your dog travels well. Check the company's reputation with the Better Business Bureau and other local business websites, and ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Call and ask questions: All transport companies have different operating procedures, so you'll want to find the one that best meshes with the needs of your dog and situation. Ask about the type of vehicle they use — most use a cargo van — and the typical schedule during the drive. Some companies make frequent stops to let dogs stretch their legs and relieve themselves, while others may drive straight through. Ask about how your dog will be cared for and if the driver will take extra time if your dog needs calming or just some attention. Inquire about the number of animals typically transported at a time, as some companies perform private transport, while others haul numerous animals at once. You should be able to get a feel for how the company cares for the overall well-being of your dog as opposed to simply getting the dog from point A to point B.
Schedule the trip: Once you've found the right company, call to schedule your dog's trip. Ask about any advice your carrier may have for preparing your dog in the final days or hours before pickup. Collect any paperwork, dog items or necessary medications well before departure to avoid last minute schedule interruptions. Some companies may schedule an appointment between you and the courier so the dog can become familiar with him before departure, to help minimize any stress or anxiety caused by the sudden change in the dog's surroundings and handler.
At the Destination
Greet your pet: Make sure you or someone your dog is familiar with can meet the transport company at the destination. A familiar face will help your dog stay calm in the new surroundings and get his bearings after being on the road for so long. Give him plenty of love and encouraging words to keep him calm and relaxed.
Watch for signs of illness: Take note of any strange behavior or physical symptoms from your dog. Temporary gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea may occur from the constant motion of the vehicle but should pass within a few days as your dog settles into a routine. Visit a veterinarian if your dog seems unusually listless, vomits excessively or displays other symptoms that may indicate a more serious health concern.
Help the dog adjust to his new surroundings: Leave his kennel intact so he has a safe place to retreat to as he becomes accustomed to his new home. Let the dog safely explore the area and familiarize himself with the smell and layout of the new location. Offer kind words and lots of hands-on attention to help him feel loved, safe and secure.
Use a muzzle on your dog if he has a tendency to bite if frightened or nervous. Even the most docile dog can nip if he is in strange surroundings with people he doesn't know.
Do not change your dog's routine or food, or start any new medications right before sending him with a pet transport company. Traveling long distances with unfamiliar people, scents and sounds can unsettle even the most laid back dog, and adding an upset stomach or medication reaction can only make things worse.
If your dog is wary around strangers or doesn't generally travel well, you may want to consult your veterinarian for sedatives or consider driving him yourself.
Always keep your cell phone handy in case the transport company needs to reach you in regards to your dog.
Give the transport company or driver tips and advice on helping your dog stay calm, such as offering a favorite toy or treat.
The kennel will be his home away from home as he travels, so find one that will offer plenty of space yet small enough to allow him to be safe and cozy.
Items You Will Need
- Food and water containers
- Veterinarian health certificates (optional)
- Muzzle (optional)
- dog sleeping in metal kennel image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com