Over 2 million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. With that many pets and other animals taking to the air, airlines have developed their own rules and guidelines about what animals they will allow on board, as well as the conditions of that transport.

Under these rules, however, not all pets can travel as easily as others. And this is a reality that large dog owners often run into.

In this article, Pet Van Lines will talk about the different dog transportation services and options that are suited for larger breeds. We’ll also talk about the average costs and help you decide which option is the best way to transport a large dog.

The three ways to transport your big dog across the states are:

By Car: Take a Road Trip with You dog


Road trips can be an exciting and safe way to travel with your dog, and you should take the time to really enjoy the experience. Making regular stops for running around and doing fun activities with your pup will give you great memories and bonding time!

Depending on how far you are traveling, the cost of your trip will vary. Most costs will depend on your gas, accommodations, and entertainment budgets. However, having the freedom to plan your road trip will give you many opportunities to cut costs. For example, you could stay at a campsite instead of a motel or hotel, making it easier to find dog-friendly accommodations. 

When driving with your dog, keeping them in their carrier or kennel is recommended. Their carrier should already be their safe space, so it will help keep them calm and prevent them from distracting the driver.

Before taking a road trip with your dog, make sure to give them plenty of time to adjust to being in the car and watch for signs of motion sickness or other anxieties. Once they feel secure enough in the car while in motion, bring their favorite beds, blankets, and toys with you to help keep them happy and entertained.

Pros of traveling by car with your dog


Transporting your dog by car comes with a lot of advantages over other methods, especially with large dogs. The main distinction is that having your dog in the car with you will help alleviate stress since you won’t need to separate during your journey. Dogs with separation anxiety would definitely benefit from having their human close by. 

You will also have lots of opportunities to enjoy quality time together. Your road trip becomes an adventure rather than just traveling to your next destination. Enjoy stops at scenic outdoor sites like national parks to make the most out of your journey. 

Most importantly, driving with your dog gives you the most flexibility in terms of itinerary, what you can bring with you, and where you stop for activities and breaks. Just remember to bring enough toys and treats to keep your canine pal in a good mood. 


transporting big dog by car

Cons of traveling by car with your dog

While you are offered a lot of freedom by driving with your dog, that freedom requires a lot of planning and preparation, and you will have to organize it yourself. You may even encounter roadblocks, physically and metaphorically, that disrupt your plans. Not everyone wants that level of uncertainty when planning a trip or move. 

Finding dog-friendly activities, events, and accommodations along your planned route can be time-consuming. Luckily, the dog’s size usually does not matter, so it may still be a more convenient option for a large dog.

No matter how far you’re driving, taking your dog on a road trip will take longer than with human companions. You should avoid being in a rush to get to your destination, which can make planning for your arrival difficult. Taking unplanned stops and allowing your pup to do their business or burn off some energy whenever they need is essential for a successful car ride with your dog.

By Plane: Fly with your dog


Several airlines do accept large dogs by storing them in the plane’s cargo. The hold is temperature-controlled and pressurized, so it is a humane way to transport them. For most airlines, pets weighing 17 pounds or more qualify as large and must travel in the hold. After the flight, owners must also pick up their pet from the airline’s cargo facility, which is located in the airport but not in the terminals.

Some of the larger domestic airlines that allow large dogs on flights include:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

A domestic flight in the US for a medium-sized dog in the cargo costs between $500 to $1,000 depending on the chosen airline’s assessment. Larger dogs like Great Danes can run their owners at an average cost of $1000.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, some airlines have also become more restrictive in the pets they allow on their flights.

When flying with large dogs, it’s a good idea to contact your airline’s customer service to know more about any restrictions they may have, as well as how they classify and measure your dog’s weight. For instance, some airlines like American Airlines and Hawaiian Air measure the combined weight of the dog and the kennel (with weight limits of 100 and 70 pounds, respectively).


Pros of transporting your dog by plane

Especially for long-distance transport, flying with your dog can be the fastest way to travel. Compared to other methods, travel will not be interrupted by as many breaks since the plane will fly straight to its destination. 

Once your dog is house-trained and accustomed to their crate, they should have no issues being locked up for reasonable periods of time. Be sure to leave them some water and items of comfort (blankets, plushies, etc.) to help them feel safe. You can even add ice cubes to their water so they will have something to drink throughout the flight. 

While flying can be stressful for your dog depending on the physical conditions and their temperament, most pets traveling by plane have no issues and arrive safely at their destination. Airlines that allow pets in the cargo hold will typically have temperature controls similar to the cabin for the pets’ safety and comfort.

transporting big dog by plane

Cons of transporting your dog by plane

Flying can be problematic with large dogs. Not all airlines accept pets, and even fewer allow large dogs that need to be transported in the cargo hold. The airlines that accept large dogs also usually have weight limits, so you must read each airline’s rules carefully before booking a flight.

If your dog is flying for the first time, it’s hard to predict how they will react to the changes in air pressure, the noise, and being handled by multiple strangers. You won’t be able to check on them mid-flight if they are in the cargo hold, which could add a bit of stress to your journey. 

Older dogs can often have heart risks or heightened stress levels when exposed to any dramatic change in their environment. To make sure your dog is safe to travel by plane, check with their vet before taking off. Avoid giving them any medication or tranquilizers without a vet’s prescription or sign-off. 

Connecting flights are more likely to have issues with baggage in general, so you should aim for direct flights when traveling with your large dog. Make sure they are wearing their collar with all identifying information attached to ensure you can find them easily after the flight.

How Safe is it to Fly my Dog?


Overall, flying is safe, especially for smaller dogs that can fit in a carrier that can be stowed in the cabin, so the owner can check on them frequently.

However, a Department of Transportation report from 2018 showed 40 animal incidents with 24 of them resulting in pet death. The incidents on record happened in airplane cargo—airlines are not required to report incidents that happen in the cabin, so the real figure of how many pets get injured or die is most likely much higher.

So, while these incidents are rare, there are risks involved when flying with your pet.


Hire a Professional Pet Transportation company


A good alternative to air travel is by shipping large pets overland with the help of professional pet movers. This option may be the best way to transport a large dog.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) discourages air travel with large dog breeds and snub-nosed breeds like bulldogs and pugs, as they are prone to breathing problems that might be complicated by the pressurized air in the plane.

There are also barriers of entry to certain dog breeds. For example, American Airlines and other carriers don’t allow pit bulls, boxers, and boston terriers.

Road shipping your large dog with specialized transport companies is a great way to ensure their comfort and safety during the journey. 

However, proper preparation before a trip is still important like visiting a vet before your pet travels.


How Will The Company Transport my Big Dog to Another State?

When choosing a pet transportation company, it’s crucial to understand how they will care for your pet and keep you updated. Conscientious companies like Pet Van Lines take extra steps to give your pet a pleasant and stress-free experience while in transit. 

Pet Van Lines walks their customers’ dogs every 4 hours of the journey to release any pent-up energy and give them potty breaks. Some shipping companies have climate-controlled shipping compartments. You can ask the shipping provider to check the vehicle yourself and see if it has climate control and enough room to keep your dog comfortable. 

Some trips can take a long time, especially when crossing state lines. Make sure to find out how and when you will receive updates from the shipping company before your dog’s journey.

How Much Will It Cost To Transport A Large Dog?


The costs of transporting your pet overland can go between $400 for a short trip over state lines with basic inclusions, to $6000 for cross-country trips in a climate-controlled transport and regular walks. 

While the costs are higher than air travel, during land transport the dogs are in the hands of trained professionals, who can periodically check on them to make sure they are comfortable and are handling the journey well—a far cry from spending the trip in a cargo hold.



At Pet Van Lines, we specialize in providing pet moving services nationwide. We will give your pet an stress-free ride and give you some peace of mind along the way. Get in touch with us today!

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