Traveling with your German Shepherd is very enjoyable if you are prepared!
It’s kind of like traveling with an infant, if you have diapers, wipes, formula etc things should go well. However, forget something essential and it can be less than a joyride.
This guide will help you learn all about what to expect and the type of things you need to travel with your German Shepherd by car and by plane.
German Shepherd Car Travel
Bringing your German Shepherd Puppy Home By Car
Today is the big day when you will be bringing your puppy home.
It is also going to be the first time your German Shepherd has been away from her mother and litter-mates; a day of excitement for you may be traumatic for your puppy so be prepared and make the first car trip a happy one for you both.
I picked up Allie by car, and we had a 7-hour drive home. Below are some things that helped make the trip easier.
1. Travel with a crate
Although your German Shepherd puppy is going to be a large dog one day, today you will need a travel crate that fits now so that the pup will feel safe.
You may be able to borrow one from a friend instead of purchasing a new one that will be quickly outgrown but clean it thoroughly as you don’t want to pass on germs to your vulnerable pup.
Prepare the crate with cardboard or newspaper on the bottom to absorb any accidents with an old towel on top for comfort. Place the crate on a flat, stable surface and stabilize it with a seat belt or other device.
2. Take a companion
You will want to keep an eye on your new German Shepherd puppy while you travel so have a family member or friend drive come along.
3. Bring Health Documents
If you are collecting your puppy across state lines you may need a health certificate or Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) as it is called in many states.
The requirements for each state are different and you can find the information you need at the Department of Agriculture website. Your puppy’s breeder should also be able to advise you.
Combating Travel Problems With Your New Puppy
If your German Shepherd puppy seems uncomfortable; cries continually don’t settle down, or drools and/or vomits, stop and offer water and a short walk.
Do not feel so sorry for your dog and take the pup out of the crate. Remember that although this is the first day with you, it is also the first training session, and safety is a priority.
When Your Dog Dislikes Traveling By Car
Everybody imagines that dogs automatically enjoy traveling by car but this is not always the case. Some dogs may never enjoy the car but most can be trained to ultimately enjoy the ride.
Unfortunately, many of your pup’s first car trips are to the veterinarian for vaccinations, getting an identity chip implanted, and having a wellness check, which usually includes taking your German Shepherd’s temperature. None of this is pleasant.
If your puppy does not travel well, you will have to acclimate them to the car. This takes time and patience but it will be well worth the effort once you have a happy traveling companion.
Here are some tips to get your dog used to the car:
- Start by letting your puppy sit in the crate in a stationary car for 10 minutes until they are calm and settled. Take your pup out, give lots of praise and perhaps a treat. Find out more about crate training too.
- Once the puppy starts to see the car as a friend go for very short drives – even down a driveway is enough to begin with. Do this for a few times then, if all is well, gradually increase the length of the journey. Don’t forget to praise and give a treat.
- Put safe toys in the crate to take your pup’s mind off the journey.
Continue to make each trip enjoyable and soon your German Shepherd puppy will be thrilled to accompany you.
If Your German Shepherd Gets Car Sick
Your puppy may get car sick, something common with human children too. Here are some ways to combat motion sickness:
- Feed your puppy at least four hours before going in the car. Do not feed immediately before driving.
- Travel with water and a bowl so that the puppy doesn’t get dehydrated if they get sick.
- Open the windows about two inches to let in the fresh air – the smells from outside may be a distraction.
- Make sure the crate faces forward and that your puppy can see where you are going.
If these suggestions don’t work, talk to your veterinarian about an over-the-counter medication that can reduce your dog’s nausea associated with travel.
1-800-PetMeds suggests Dramamine and Benadryl. Also, Acepromazine (Rx) is a longtime favorite of many veterinarians that not only helps calm anxious dogs, but also helps reduce nausea and vomiting.
Ways To Keep Your Dog Safe In The Car
As your puppy grows (which won’t take long) you should think about how you are going to restrain your dog in the vehicle long-term.
Option 1: Travel with a Crate
If you have a vehicle that will take a large crate you may prefer to keep crating your dog. Ensure that the crate is the right size so your dog is comfortable.
Check out this article to learn about the best crate options for German Shepherds.
The recommended size for a travel crate to meet international airline requirements is:
- 3-inches head clearance when the dog is either standing or sitting and includes the ears.
- The length is measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. As a German Shepherd has a very bushy tail, add on several inches, and make sure your dog can lie down comfortably.
- Your dog must be able to turn around.
The most popular dog crate brand for traveling large dogs is Petmate which is secure and adaptable for travel but there are many brands suitable for the car.
Option 2: Seat Belts For Dog Car Safety
For shorter trips, you may want to train your German Shepherd to use a seatbelt just like yours!
According to www.rover.com many of the harnesses on the market say they have been crash-tested when in fact they have failed the test.
Option 3: The Car Fence
The Car Fence is another option. The K9 CarFence TLC-3XL was invented by a devoted dog lover. It is easily installed and can be adjusted for the height of your dog.
It has been crash-tested to withstand a severe frontal crash and if that isn’t enough, it provides seat protection and lets your dog see through the strong mesh. A smaller version is available for puppies and small dogs.
Things To Pack When Planning Your Road Trip
Once your German Shepherd is crate trained and has basic training it may be time for your puppy’s road first trip. If you have children, you’ll already know how much baggage you have to take in the car with you! Your puppy is no different and you should take:
- Collar and leash
- Food and water bowls
- Bottled water
- Safe toys
- Paper towels for accidents
- Health certificates if you are traveling out-of-state.
Car Travel In Different Climates
All over America the climate and temperatures differ greatly. If you are planning a long trip make sure the car is not too hot or too cold.
As humans, you have the luxury of stripping down or bundling up – your dog doesn’t. If you have cracked your windows to let in the fresh air, make sure your German Shepherd is not in a draft.
If the outside temperatures are hot and the sun is beating in on your dog, cover the windows with towels by sliding them through the window and then closing it to hold the towel in place. Another option is to purchase car sunshades such as these shown here on sale from Amazon.
If you live in a state with hot summer temperatures have your car windows tinted which will reduce UV rays and heat. Many tints are reflective which also keep heat out. This is, in fact, good for you as well as your German Shepherd as it will reduce the chance of sunburn.
Travel With A Companion
If you’re planning a trip where you will have to stop for potty breaks, try to travel with a companion driver to share driving and allow you to care for your dog.
You can stop at interstate rest stops so that your dog can relieve itself and stretch its legs. If there are two drivers it is easier to use the restrooms yourself and have someone to look after your dog.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR GERMAN SHEPHERD ALONE IN THE CAR.
It is important that you never leave your dog, or any other pet, alone in the vehicle for two reasons:
Your car can heat up very quickly, even if you crack open the windows. In fact, with the windows cracked, your car can heat to a temperature of 102 degrees in 10 minutes if the outside temperature is 85 degrees. Your German Shepherd also has a thick double coat and will feel the heat sooner than a short-hair dog.
How to help other pets. According to the Michigan State University College of Law, 28 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.
Pet FBI, an organization that keeps track of lost or stolen dogs, estimates that nearly two million pets are stolen each year. The American Kennel Club says that they have seen an increase of over 31% in stolen registered dogs in the last few years.
Unfortunately, dogs are stolen for horrible reasons; to sell to puppy mills, for resale (just think what you paid for your puppy), and especially for dogs like the German Shepherd, to dogfighting rings.
There are many places that your German Shepherd can be vulnerable, especially when it is young. Pet FBI says:
- Never leave your dog alone in a car
- Remember that your dog is still vulnerable in its own yard
- Do not tie your dog up outside a store or restaurant
- Always walk your dog on a leash
- Have your dog neutered or spayed
- Microchip your dog
Moving Cross Country with your German Shepherd
A vacation trip is very different from moving permanently to another city and introduces many more stressors. Not only do you have to think of your dog but you may have to think about children too.
You will be concerned about your possessions traveling safely to your new home and will be worrying about moving to a new environment. Moving can be stressful with a new home, new job, and new circumstances.
Moving by Car
If your move is within an easy driving range then packing up your German Shepherd into the car will be the same as a daily trip or vacation. On the other hand, if you are moving much further away then you may have to think more carefully.
If your family (including your dog) will fit in your vehicle comfortably for the trip then traveling by car may be the least stressful way to permanently move your pet.
To be safe make sure your German Shepherd has a collar and leash with tags for identification. Your dog should have been micro-chipped as a puppy but if this is not the case then have it done by your veterinarian before you leave. Keep your dog leashed at all times when not in the vehicle.
Your driver may want to keep going as long as possible but Nationwide Insurance recommends stopping every two hours for at least fifteen minutes. Prepare in advance and stop where there are restrooms and food available, and possibly somewhere scenic.
If you don’t want to make the trip by car yourself then there are others who will drive your dog to its new destination. Companies such as Royal Paws Pet Transportation travel to the 49 contiguous states and Canada. This is a family-owned company that has been transporting pets for over fifteen years. There are always two drivers per vehicle and they will use their vehicle or yours.
The other way to transport your German Shepherd is by air.
Air Travel for German Shepherds
Airline travel with dogs is somewhat controversial. Unfortunately, unless you have a service dog who will be able to travel in the cabin with you, your dog will have to fly as cargo in the hold.
If you are transporting a puppy it may be able to travel in the cabin if it will stay in a container small enough to fit under a seat. That also means it must be contained at the airport too and many airports do not have dog facilities past security checks. The following airports offer pet relief areas once you’ve cleared security and are recommended by the American Kennel Club (AKC):
- Detroit Metro
- Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson
- San Diego
- Phoenix Sky Harbor
- Philadelphia International
- New York JFK
As of August 2016 federal regulations mandated that all airports that service more than 10,000 passengers a year had to establish at least one service animal relief area (SARA) inside each terminal. Please check this list from Pet-Friendly Travel for more information.
Travel for an adult German Shepherd on a plane will be in the cargo hold. Your dog will have to be crate trained and you will need to purchase an approved crate as specified by the airline.
If you use a plastic crate such as the Petmate Sky Kennel, you will have to substitute the plastic wing nuts holding it together for metal nuts and bolts. Approved crates have ventilation on all sides, must not be collapsible and should preferably have carry handles.
There are also complete airline kits that include:
- a spill-resistant food & water cup
- an absorbent kennel pad
- two Live Animals stickers
- a temporary Pet ID tag
- a shipping identification sticker
- 12 zip ties
- metal nuts/bolts to modify your kennel
Exercise your dog vigorously before crating and ensure they have an opportunity to relieve themselves.
Do Not Feed Your Dog Before a Flight
Never feed your dog directly before a flight or place toys and loose items in the crate.
You will have supplied two fixed bowls in your dog’s crate and it may be better to give your dog two bowls for water on a shorter flight. Your German shepherd will survive without food but not water.
To stop water from spilling before your dog is boarded, you can fill each bowl with water and freeze, or fill the bowls with ice-cubes at the airport.
Do Not Tranquilize your Dog Before a Flight
DO NOT tranquilize your dog prior to flying. One relocation service says, “Sedatives can interfere with regular breathing and other bodily responses, and pets may react differently and unexpectedly to medications when they are in the air.”
The major airlines ship dogs throughout the country and maintain that your dog will receive care and attention at all times but the Humane Society of the United States recommends that you only send your dog by air if it is unavoidable.
In addition, not all secondary airlines flying to smaller airports can carry live animals as their holds may not be fully pressurized or have a heating/cooling system.
Most airlines will not transport animals in extreme temperatures and have rules about summer travel. It is also better if you don’t fly your German Shepherd during holiday periods as the chance of them being mislaid or left on the tarmac is much greater.
Sending your German Shepherd through a third party, pet shipping company may be your best solution as they will have considerable knowledge of the rules and regulations, and will be able to answer all your questions.
Research thoroughly and ask friends for recommendations. If your company or job regularly transfers staff around the country or overseas, they may use a relocation expert who can help.
Dogs with Snub Noses
We are giving advice on sending your German Shepherd by air but you may have other breeds of dog that need to travel too.
The majority of brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs and pugs have now been banned from flying cargo as their snub noses cause breathing issues. Some cat breeds are banned for the same reason too.
Airlines that Transport Dogs Internationally
Pet travel on international flights is more heavily regulated than air travel in the United States. Service dogs are allowed to fly in the cabin but no other country accepts emotional support dogs and they will have to fly in the hold.
International flights will not accept your dog unless you book through specialized pet travel or relocation expert that follows IATA rules and regulations. IATA’s Live Animals Regulations (LAR) is the worldwide standard for transporting live animals by commercial airlines.
Find a reputable pet shipper through IPATA, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. They will help you with local regulations, connecting flights, permits, health certificates, vaccinations and everything your dog needs for an organized journey.
The three best airlines for your dog to fly, judged by IPATA members worldwide are:
- Lufthansa Cargo
- AIRFRANCE / KLM Cargo
- Emirates Sky Cargo
Consider a Custom Crate for Flying
For any airline, whether your dog is traveling internally or internationally, a custom-made crate may be the best option so you can be assured it is the best fit.
Pet shippers will arrange this for you or you can find someone locally, or even build it yourself as long as it is to the airline’s specifications.
While traveling with your German Shepherd, whether by car or plane, you may need to locate pet-friendly hotel options on your journey.
How to Find Dog-friendly Hotels
Good planning is vital when you are traveling with a dog. There are many hotel chains that allow pets. Websites such as www.gopetfriendly.com and www.petswelcome.com will let you browse for the right place to stay with your German Shepherd.
Some hotels say they accept pets but do not accept larger breeds, and those that they perceive are aggressive. This can be upsetting when your dog is well trained and well behaved.
The websites above also have trip planners that allow you to input your starting point and destination and will give you a list of the pet-friendly hotels in between. Information is available on:
- Size or weight of dog allowed
- Additional pet fees
- If cats are allowed
Using the image above, an example is the Best Western Plus in Bradenton, FL who indicates on the trip planner that they take dogs up to 40 pounds and cats and that the pet fee is $20. On the website, they state their pet policy as:
Pets allowed based on the availability of pet-friendly rooms. Up to 2 dogs per room with a 40-pound weight limit. Additional pet types (cats, birds, etc) may be accepted at the hotel’s discretion. Pet rate is $20 per day per pet with a $100 per week
This raises the question:
- How many pet-friendly rooms are there? Will a room be available?
- What type of dog are they restricting at 40 pounds?
- Can I take my cat too?
Don’t rely totally on the information given on these web sites. Use them as a guide to plan your trip but call the hotel ahead of time to make sure the rules still apply. You don’t want to be stranded at night with your dog.
Hotels within the same chain may have different policies. For instance, the Best Western in Florence, South Carolina accepts dogs up to 80 pounds.
Even if a hotel accepts dogs of 80 pounds, call and make sure they are hotels that allow German Shepherds.
www.gopetfriendly.com allows you to refine your search by clicking on ‘big dogs’ or ‘cats’, and the distance around your destination point.
Testing out New York, it seems a very friendly city and hotels taking big dogs (and every other kind of pet) included:
- The Renaissance New York Hotel 57
- The Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel
- The Hudson Hotel
- The Empire Hotel
- The Four Points Sheraton in Times Square
Some of these are upscale hotels in the center of Manhattan with no limitations.
Verify Your Findings
Downtown Atlanta is not dog-friendly. Downtown Atlanta hotels only opened the door to pets during Hurricane Irma when it was mandated by the Governor. All this shows that you may use a website to get good general information but you will have to check the information for yourself.
Some hotels do not allow you to leave your dog unattended and some allow you to leave the dog in the room if it is crated.
If your dog is left unattended and free it may feel anxious and rip the bedding or urinate – returning to puppy behavior. Always travel with your German Shepherd’s crate as you probably won’t be allowed to take your dog to a restaurant or bar within the hotel.
Before planning to stay in a hotel think about whether your dog is ready to stay in strange surroundings.
Will they whine or bark when left alone in the hotel room? If the answer is yes, your dog may need more training or a chance to mature.
If you are traveling to a location that is pet-friendly and the weather is comfortable you can eat at outdoor restaurants that allow dogs. Get recommendations at www.gopetfriendly.com.
Traveling with your German Shepherd should be a pleasant experience for you both.
Ongoing training from when your puppy comes home will help them adjust to different situations. Your dog’s confidence to adapt in all situations will make traveling a joy.
What other traveling resources do you use to plan your dog-friendly trip? Let me know in the comments!