Transporting your Great Dane
across the country or Internationally
Transporting your Dane across country or internationally can present some challenges, especially if you are dealing with an adult. Your basic options are ground (transport by vehicle) or air (shipping by cargo or in the cabin). What option you choose may depend on the age and size of your dog, where you are located, where the dog is going and your time frame. If you are purchasing a puppy from out-of-area your breeder may also have specific requirements on which transport method is used.
Options for ground transport could include driving the dog yourself, finding a friend who can drive the dog, or hiring a pet transport professional. Considerations would include the safety and comfort of the dog, time frame involved, and cost.
Using a friend for transport, unless that friend is a trusted and experienced dog person, can be a poor choice. Rarely is a non-professional equipped for the care and responsibility of traveling with another person's beloved pet. Before sending your pet off with a person inexperienced with long distance pet transport, I'd make sure they are very, very, very clear on what that transport can involve.
If your time allows, making a trip yourself might be a great option. However, careful planning is required to make sure all parts of travel go smoothly. Long road trips with pets can throw unexpected challenges along the way that the owner needs to be prepared for. Besides the obvious requirement of a reliable car and overnight stays at pet friendly motels, one needs to choose safe routes and plan for unexpected car or dog issues. Care needs to be used when exercising the dog to make sure they are safe during their out time. Young puppies who are not fully vaccinated should never be allowed in areas frequented by lots of unknown dogs (such as rest areas) as they are vectors for diseases which can be very dangerous for youngsters. One also has to be observant and avoid stray or loose dogs and people acting inappropriately around dogs.
Points to ponder on whether a road trip is the best option are cost, time, and what works best for the dog and the human. When one adds up the cost of missed time from work, motels, vehicle operation costs, and meals, it frequently will be much more than a pet ground transporter will charge. Preparation is also a consideration, as a crate large enough for the dog must fit into the vehicle. An emergency medical kit for both humans and canines is very important--as is an emergency cleaning kit for accidents that may occur.
When ground transport is the desired method of transporting a dog, but the owner is unable to do it themselves, then a pet ground transport company might be considered. First, it goes without saying that before you enter any business agreement with a transport company, you do your due diligence and make sure the company is reliable, is recommended and that the care and safety of your pet is paramount. Check out what licenses and insurances they have in place. Ask for references. Check out how the dogs travel--are the crates large enough? Is there adequate air flow and air conditioning? What do they do to assure the safety of your pet? What do they do with the dogs at night? How many hours do they travel between exercise times? What do they do to keep the vehicle safe if they need to leave it unattended for any time (like a bathroom stop)? What are their requirements prior to accepting a dog? Transports that require a health certificate, proof of vaccinations, and a microchip are simply looking out for the safety of your pet--if a company is not requesting this, I would hesitate to use them. And of course, is the vehicle clean and well-maintained? Do your research--ask for references and check them out carefully. Good transporters will gladly answer your questions.
One may decide on air transport due to many factors such as time frame, difficulty of travel for ground transport, and where the dog is ultimately going to.
There are a few different possibilities for pets when using air transport. Which is most appropriate for your pet will depend on the age of the dog (and even breed as some airlines will not ship certain ones), size, airline requirements, when the dog is being shipped, policies of the carrier, and weather.
Inside-the-cabin travelling is of course the best option if at all possible. If young puppies (8 weeks is the youngest you can ship) are small enough, they can be transported in a soft carrier or Sherpa bag. The bag and puppy must be able to fit under the seat during travel. This rarely works for Great Dane puppies, as an average weight at 8 weeks is around the 20-24 pound range and they simply are too big.
Certified service dogs can of course travel in the cabin with the owner. It is expected these dogs travel quietly and are well-behaved. A dog never should be represented as a service dog unless it has valid certifications. Purchasing a fake certification is dishonest and can put travel of valid service dogs in jeopardy.
In some instances, a seat can actually be purchased for the dog. Again, this will depend on airline policies and the dog must be calm and well behaved.
Air cargo is the only option available if the dog is unable to travel in the cabin. Shipping puppies is generally fairly easy; shipping adults an adult Great Dane is very difficult. Airlines vary on their policies and requirements, so it is very important to carefully review them prior to shipping. If the puppy is travelling with a person, it may be able to go as excess baggage and be checked in at the airport the same time the human does. It also will be picked up at baggage claim. If the puppy is being shipped unaccompanied it will go cargo, and most likely be dropped off and picked up at the freight terminal. To avoid travel delays you should consult the carrier for their procedures for drop off and pick up as they do vary greatly from airline to airline and airport to airport.
Regulations require the dog be able to fully stand up without its head touching the top of the crate. If you have a cropped dog, that includes the ear tips. A crate size should be
chosen that follows these requirements but isn't any bigger than needed; extra space only allows the dog to be bounced around if they are on a rough flight. Check out crate requirements and recommendations.
A 500 size VariKennel is about the largest you can easily use for shipping by domestic air cargo; this size usually will accommodate a five month old Dane puppy. A 700 VariKennel can be used for older puppies but it is not large enough for adults. Additionally, one needs to verify a larger crate will fit through the cargo doors easily; one does not want baggage handlers to turn the crate sideway to load it. Extensions are available for 700 VariKennels to extend the height but many carriers will no longer accept them.
If your dog is an adult Dane, this can be very expensive. If your dog needs a larger crate, your choices will be having one made to specifications or special-ordering a commercially made crate. Two companies that make large commercial crates are Impact Crate and East Coast Crates.
Either option is pricey; occasionally a used crate can be found through an animal freight forwarder. These crates are so large most people can't put them in their vehicle once they get their dog and they are often left behind.
The cost for shipping by cargo is determined by a combination of combined weight of the crate and the dog along with dimensional weight
Any arrangements for shipping via airlines should be made well in advance. Shipping during times of excessive heat or cold should be avoided; for the safety of your pet. Airlines DO have temperature restrictions in place so be sure you know what they are. Be very clear what documentation may be needed; for domestic flights. It may be as easy as simply getting a health certificate and vaccine verification from your vet. Paperwork for international flights can be quite complicated and challenging and may require a USDA health certificate, titers and other requirements. International paperwork can be quite daunting and if you are making international shipping arrangements yourself you might avail a veterinarian clinic experienced with same to complete the paperwork for you. It's worth the fee!
If shipping arrangements become too complicated or it's simply something you don't want to deal with, you might consider hiring an animal transporter. They are well versed in shipping international and domestic shipping, will have ready access to a proper-sized crate, and will complete the paperwork. In many instances they will pick the dog up from your location and drop it off directly to their destination.
There are people who also offer a pet nanny service where they will fly with the pet. This can work out very well for pets flying domestically whether they are going as air cargo or in the cabin.
Another option some people consider is a plane chartered for the express purpose of flying pets.
If you choose to fly your pet, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- Make your shipping plans well in advance. Many airlines restrict the number of pets they will accept on a flight.
- Know well in advance what documentation (and in the case of international shipping, tests) will be required. Much of the international documentation requires a very specific timeline.
- Make sure your crate falls within specifications.
- Confirm, reconfirm and do it again! I frequently have been given incorrect information; verifying anything you are told would be a good idea. Review the airlines site on pet transport and discuss all requirements fully.
- If shipping using a larger crate, verify that it will indeed fit through the cargo door.
- When shipping domestically only use direct flights. If the party on the other end has to drive a few hours to pick up the dog, so be it.
- Acclimate the dog as best as possible to being in a crate, having it moved and loud, unexpected noises.
- When picking up a dog at its destination, bring along a "cleaning kit" because accidents DO happen during shipping. Items might include a couple of garbage bags, wet wipes, paper towels, exam gloves and poop bags. A spray cleaner and some rags are helpful in cleaning up soiled crates.
Did You Find This Page Helpful?
I do not receive any financial compensation for listing this information from either the companies listed above or those who use them. I do this as a public resource for people looking to transport their pets. To offer this information takes me a fair amount of time, and of course, the cost to maintain the website. If you would like to give a small financial thank you in the form of a donation either to Northwest Great Dane Rescue or the Great Dane Club of America Trust for consideration of my time it would be appreciated. (Starbucks cards also accepted!)
No matter what method you use to transport your pet, try to do as much advanced preparation as you can to make the trip as safe and comfortable as possible. If your dog isn't used to travelling, you should immediately get him used to a crate and being in a car. You also want to make sure your dog is healthy; shipping is a huge stress and stressed dogs can get ill easily.
Always do your due diligence in checking out your transporter and review their references and qualifications.