Moving Across Country (Part 1)

In approximately a month, our whole family will be moving across country. Having finally graduated from school, I will be starting my career in our nation's capital, Washington DC. Moving is one of the most stressful events in a person's life. What might it be like for a dog?

Thus begins a series of blog posts devoted to moving a dog. Part 1 looks at some travel options.

The fastest way to transport a dog is to fly him. In flying, there are 3 main methods:
  1. As carry-on luggage
  2. As checked luggage
  3. As cargo
Loki is too big for us to take him as carry-on in a plane. What a shame, because that's the easiest way to transport him. The next best way is to fly Loki as checked luggage on the same flight as ours. Lastly, many airlines also fly pets as cargo, meaning that the pet travels alone.

As a 1.5 year old shiba inu, Loki passes all of the the airline breed and age restrictions. Most restrict typically aggressive breeds (Pit Bills) as well as breeds with short noses. Also, senior dogs (over 7.5 years old) may require additional vet papers documenting good health. (Note: All dogs are required to have basic vet papers stating good health, it's just that you may need additional papers for an older dog.)

Most airlines have some sort of summer embargo, in which they will not transport a pet if any city on your itinerary is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, Northwest Airlines specifies that it won't transport a pet to Las Vegas, NV and all cities in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, between June 1st and September 15th. I hope that Washington DC will be acceptable. I'm not sure yet and will have to call each airline to double-check. However, it looks like if they won't ship as checked luggage during the summer, they will ship as cargo. My guess is that they already have temperature controlling equipment in their cargo planes.

How much will it cost? For in-cabin pets, the fee tends to be around $100-$150 for most airlines. For checked luggage, the cost varies depending on the airline. For instance, Alaskan Airlines charges $100 regardless of size or weight, while Northwest Airlines charges from $139 for a small dog (25 lbs) up to $359 for a giant dog (150 lbs). Lastly, for cargo, the cost again varies depending on the airline. For instance, Continental charges anywhere from $149 for a small dog (below 25 lbs) to $659 for a ridiculously gigantic dog (over 200 lbs.).

Here's my compilation of airlines that transport pets:

Another option is to drive Loki across country. Having driven across country once before, I know first-hand that it's not fun. It might look fun in the movies, and some crazy people might insist that it's fun. But, really, it's not. Who wants to spend a week in their car?

There exist some services that will drive your dog for you. I'm not convinced that this is better than flying. The advantage is that the dog will not be subject to the airplane environment with all of its strange smells and sounds. The disadvantage is obviously time. And in either case, you have to trust your dog with strangers, whether it be airline handlers or a driver. I didn't research this option much, but it seems that the cost varies between $600 - $1000+.


Mika said...

Virgin America will also fly pets. They also allow pets to be in cabin. If Loki makes the weight limit, he could be with you on the plane. Good luck!

The Shiba said...

My people have transported cats, dogs, and horses both continentally and across the Atlantic. Here is The Woman's synposis:

1. Cats travel better in cargo. They curl up, and pretend that there is nothing happening, and attempt to ignore all their surroundings until the trip is over. Do not tranq a cat; they have their own coping strategies.

2. I have done dogs on planes (tranqed) and driven dogs across country and would rather make a nice trip of driving across country than dealing with a dog tranqed in cargo again. Dogs get very stressed in cargo. If you have to fly with him, get him the smallest carrier you can fit him in, and buy him his own seat. It's expensive but he can see and smell you, and feels better about having his pack nearby. However, the best trips have been just driving across country (preferably in cooler months like fall or spring) and just taking it easy. Yes, alot of time in the car, but the dog is much less stressed out.

3. Trains. Trains take dogs. Look into that option and use a train rather than an airplane. We take Cortez on the train with us alot, and while it took him a few minutes to get used to the movement, he did fine in the end.

4. We shipped our horses through independent animal carriers and they did fine. However, if I was to use a canine, feline service, I would make sure of the quality of air conditioning and air flow. Again, though, you are separating him from the pack; Shibas don't like to be separate from the pack and he might/will become fearful and not respond well to the other handlers.

The question becomes how fast do you need to get where you are going? Either way, the Shiba will pull through but the more he is separated from you, the harder the trip will be on him.

serahs said...

This is Lisa who used to work in the cubicle across from Yin in H1. guys are leaving. Well congratulations! I hope you guys love the east coast as much as I did. It was my pleasure getting to know you both and I love little Loki.

Vi said...

To The Woman of the shiba -- Thanks for all of your helpful suggestions. You sure have a lot of experience with this. We'll definitely explore those options.

To Lisa -- It was a pleasure getting to know you as well. And even though we'll be on the east coast, you can always read about Loki here.

Anonymous said...

Pet Airways, too!

man and van in London said...

Intriguing topic you choose to write on. I like the way you express yourself, how you underline, so to speak, specific areas, on which you want the reader's attention. Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

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