Dog Shipping: Choosing Between Ground And Air Transportation

Dog transportation
John Walton
Written by John Walton

When it comes to shipping a dog, you must decide between 2 options, namely ground transportation or shipping by air. Both modalities have advantages and disadvantages. How to ship a dog is not a question with a simple answer, so it really depends on your preferences and your dog’s needs. For example, if your dog needs to be shipped from one state to the other and it must get there in a timely manner then air transportation is the solution.

However, in case there is no rush you could choose ground transportation since it is more comfortable for your dog even if it takes longer. Shipping a canine pet internationally requires multiple documents, such as a health certificate, a passport and so on. None of these options can end up being a breeze for your pooch, but when shipping is needed, these are the only ones available.

Booking a flight for your dog

Dog shipping can be a complicated operation and the airlines that offer this service don’t make things easier either. Before all, it would be best for your dog to go on a direct flight. Although there are dog hotels where dogs are checked in when there are no direct flights to the desired destination, you might want to avoid that service and only use it in case of international shipping.

A dog can’t travel for too long, especially among people it doesn’t know and under a lot of stress. In addition, every airline has different policies when it comes to accepting pets, so you should carefully read about each company’s requirements.

If you’d like to find out how you can make flying with your dog a lot less stressful for you and your pet, please read our article on how to prepare for flying with your dog.

Flying with Fido

Shipping dogs by air is done in a special cage that is taken to special containers in the aircraft’s cargo compartment. This cage has to be approved by IATA. Your dog needs to have enough space to stand, to lie down naturally and to turn around as well. IATA doesn’t actually sell cages, but it recommends cages that meet certain requirements. Therefore, if you find cages on different websites where it states that they are from IATA, you must know that is not true.

Usually, there are shop areas in any airport where you can find such a cage or several pet shops that sell them. Some airlines offer cages for rent. Such cage should have a sturdy closing system and it should be waterproof. Also, it must comply with the required dimensions of each airline. The sizes are usually listed on their websites, but it is preferable to ask an operator when you call to make a reservation for your dog. In addition, packing toys, blankets and other similar objects is not recommended. They only accept 16 ounces of dry dog food and some sort of absorbent material.

There are people who serve water to dogs during the flight.

Dogs in airplane

Depending on the aircraft’s type, you must know that the ATR 42 model can accommodate a maximum of 2 cages and both the B 737 and A 318 can accommodate a maximum of 3 cages. Therefore, don’t think too long before calling to book a place for your dog. In case you want to do so online, you should know that most airlines don’t have that option. What’s left to do is to call them and reserve a place, as well as ask for all the other information.

To minimize your stress and avoid a long list of phone numbers to call, take a look at a list of airlines and hotels that are already accommodating to owners who are traveling with their dogs.

There are people who travel with their pets, so they might have done reservations prior to the flight you’re counting on. In addition, regardless of how absurd this may sound, there are certain breeds that are discriminated by most airlines. They don’t accept dog breeds such as Mastiff, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Terrier and others. This is just another situation that can only be clarified by an employee of the flight company that you choose.

Preparing the needed documents

While shipping a canine specimen between states doesn’t require too many documents, this operation is complicated when it comes to shipping it internationally. In the USA every state has its own rules and different requirements, but the following three documents are usually enough: a Rabies Vaccination Certificate, a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and an Acclimation Certificate. Among other documents you might need are a Confirmation of Feeding, a Live Animal Checklist and a tranquilizer consent forms obtained from a specialist.

The Acclimation Certificate is not always needed. A veterinarian can release one for you, stating that it would be alright for your dog to be briefly exposed to cold on its way in the plane’s cargo compartment or during the flight. Moreover, the tranquilizer consent is just a formality.

In fact, it is not advisable to tranquilize a dog while it’s on a plane. This is because it is no longer able to control its body temperature. As said, there are times when temperatures drop or rise during a flight. Indeed there are exceptions when a dog suffers from a certain condition that makes sedation mandatory.

Dog air shipping

Starting with January 1st, 2012, the European Union requires the following documents in case of shipping canine specimens in and from its member states: a microchip or an identification tattoo, a Rabies Vaccination Certificate, a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, a passport and other documents requested by the country of destination or transit country.

In case of sending a pooch in the UK, Ireland, Finland or Malta, you must know that it is mandatory for it to be vaccinated against rabies no longer than 120 hours before the flight and no sooner than 24 hours before the flight. Deworming also needs to be done approximately 40 hours before the flight and it should be done by a veterinarian that declares in writing the completion of the operation.

Preparing your dog for shipping by air

After figuring out all the formalities, papers and scheduling the shipping date, you should also prepare your dog for its flight. As a first step, it is advisable to purchase the cage in which your dog will stay locked during the flight. You should let it enter the cage, put food and snacks inside and even let it sleep inside. A dog should at least be familiar with its cage considering that everything else will be new and stressful.

Also, try to lock it inside and leave it alone for a few minutes. Do this every day for as long as you possibly can. In this way, the impact of being locked in that cage for several hours and not having you around will be less harmful. Your dog can see this as an exercise or take it as a normal training session. Don’t be afraid to reward it like it actually is a training session.

Dog crate and kennel sizing chart

When the shipping day comes, you should be prepared to spend a few hours in the airport. Most airlines need you to check in your dog between 4 hours and 2 hours prior to the scheduled take-off hour. Moreover, you have to feed your pooch before the flight, make sure it empties its bowels and takes a walk. It would be a great idea to hand over your dog when it is already tired. In this way, it might get some sleep and not notice what happens to it.

However, you are not allowed to take your dog out of its cage inside the airport. Therefore, you should try to organize what needs to be done before you actually get there.

Remember that being alone, caged and in a loud environment determines your dog to become agitated and scared. In this regard, you should make sure that someone will be at destination to pick it up and calm it down. Whether that person is a stranger or not, it is not really important. It should be a caring person who understands the stress the dog is going through. Giving it water and treats is a good way to start a friendship and a good way to calm down the anxious pup. Any plane trip can go well if everything is prepared in advance.

You may think that traveling with your pet can be a financial burden, but you can actually save a lot of money by taking them with you on your vacation. If you want to know more about what costs are associated with traveling with your pet, take a look at our article about dogs on planes, for example.

Other information for air transportation

Some dog owners would like to know how to ship a puppy. In this case, the answer is that weaned puppies that are younger than 8 weeks should not be transported because they might get seriously dehydrated during the flight. Furthermore, pregnant female dogs are not allowed to fly at all, regardless of the pregnancy stage they are in. These two situations, as well as the exceptions made for certain dog breeds, are the only cases when dogs are strictly prohibited from air transportation. For them, ground transportation seems a much better idea that is safer at the same time.

Choosing a ground shipping company

Compared to air transportation, ground transportation for dogs is much more comfortable, but also more expensive. These are the 2 major differences between them. When it comes to international flights, it goes without saying that ground shipping is out of the question.

However, shipping a pooch between states using a ground shipping company could be quite entertaining for your dog if it doesn’t get carsick. In addition, if a dog is used with travelling by car, it would definitely not be an unpleasant experience to ship it with the help of a ground shipping service. Such service uses well equipped vans and is bound by strict federal, state, and local regulations as well.

While high or low temperatures are a problem when a dog is inside a plane’s cargo compartment, the vans used to transport dogs are climate controlled. Your dog will not be too hot or too cold during its travel time. This is definitely a plus to the detriment of travelling by plane. In addition, there is a person who stays with the transported dogs inside the van at all times. This means that all the dogs in there don’t lack human companionship, they don’t get bored and they can’t get scared or bark at each other.

Usually, a canine specimen is paired with other canine specimens or with cats. Other animals are normally transported separately. This aspect is also a plus, since a dog and a monkey in the same room might not make a good pair unless they spend enough time together to get to know each other and be friends.

Dog taxi transport

Besides having companionship and a controlled climate, dogs that are shipped in vans are taken out for walks every 4 hours. People who care for dogs and who provide these services understand their needs.

Therefore, stopping and taking them for a walk represents a priority. Getting to the destination in the shortest amount of time possible is not their main goal. Making canine pets feel comfortable definitely is. They also call in case something happens and they are running late because they don’t want dog owners to worry. Now, knowing all these positive aspects, it makes sense why such shipping is more expensive than by air. It is up to every owner to decide which option is best for the dog that needs to be shipped.

Preparing your dog for ground transportation

Some dogs suffer from anxiety when it comes to travelling by car. Because they are afraid, they don’t really understand what is happening, so they start to salivate excessively, tremble or even vomit. This reaction is called carsick and it is generated by inner ear disorders, which can be treated with certain medication prescribed by a veterinarian. However, being carsick might only be an overreaction of the dog to the sensation of movement and the noise produced by the car or the van. Many animals are afraid of travelling by car, but they can all be helped to enjoy it in time.

In case you want to contribute to making your dog feel comfortable in a car, you should know that a dog should first get used with the interior of a car. Hop in a car and bring your dog with you. Once you are both inside, give it a treat. Then, show your dog around and make it understand that there is nothing to be afraid of. Play with it, reward it and praise it for every minute it spends inside the car with you. Try to repeat this exercise for a few times before actually starting the engine.

In case your dog is afraid to get inside a car, place food next to it or even inside it to stimulate it and somehow trick it into hopping inside. When things get familiar, start the engine and reward it for not wanting to run away. After this step, you can drive slowly while talking to your dog and explaining what is happening. It might not understand what you’re saying, but the calm tone of your voice is beneficial. Your car can become the place where your dog gets the most snacks, so do not hesitate to give it plenty.

Drive around the neighborhood and repeat all these steps until your beloved pet no longer has a problem with ground transportation.

However, this may not be the case for all dogs. If you’re not sure how to tell if your dog is enjoying his or her ride, please read our article about dog car sickness, which includes the symptoms you should look for and the treatment options available to keep your dog comfortable.

Dog crate for transport

Preparing a dog for shipping by car is a lengthy process that you might not have time to go through. However, use the short amount of time you have to help your dog feel comfortable around a car and inside a moving car. New things are not something that dogs enjoy, but if they are necessary, they should be turned into something enjoyable. When time is not on your hands, do not skip all the above steps hoping that everything will be fine. Make time to at least be the one with whom your dog experiences car travel for the first time in its life.

Decision making conclusions for dog transportation

As shown, there are many pros and cons for both methods of transportation. Because every situation is different and each dog has special needs, only a dog owner can decide what is best. If moving your dog from one state to the other is necessary or if you really want to ship it internationally, then make sure to make it comfortable and chose the shortest route.

Since 1930 when dogs were first shipped by air, things have changed a lot and animal lovers everywhere take care of dogs when they are on board as good as they possibly can giving the conditions that are not exactly favorable for pooches. The same thing cannot be said about ground transportation. Some services are even better than the ones provided for people, so even if the costs are higher, you know that the price is right.

Numerous people have shipped their dogs via both these transportation ways, so you shouldn’t worry that something might go wrong for your canine pet. Keep in mind the pooch’s comfort and do your best to make all the necessary arrangements without agitating it. The person who picks up the doggy at the destination is also an important factor. That person should be informed and carry water, snacks plus other accessories that the dog might need immediately upon arrival.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.