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Puppy Travel:  Tips for a Successful Trip

Puppy Travel TipsPuppy Travel Tips

Puppy travel doesn’t need to be difficult, but it does require a little planning.

One reason people love the Shih Tzu breed is that it is highly portable, meaning that they are easy to travel with and most enjoy the experience.

Often the first trip that a puppy takes is going to their forever home from the breeder's home or kennel. 

Since it has become harder and harder to find the kind of dog you want these days, most new puppy owners must either travel or arrange for transportation to get their puppy home. 

Flying is an option if the breeder is able to do so. 

There are U.S.D.A. rules that severely limit flying a puppy from the breeder to the new owner. 

When this is possible, it is safe as long as the breeder follows the recommendations of the airlines.

Puppy Travel Via Airlines

Other than getting to the airport to greet your new puppy, you may not need to worry much about puppy travel.  There are a few restrictions, though, that you should be aware of.

Restrictions to Shipping a Puppy

Airlines will not fly a puppy less than eight weeks of age and many breeders will prefer to keep the puppy until 10 or 12 weeks of age.

Weather restrictions apply no matter what breed is being transported by an airline. 

Airlines transport puppies in the cargo bay. The cargo area of a plan has oxygen and is climate controlled. But, sometimes the puppy must wait on the tarmac for loading, so the airlines require that the departure and arrival temperatures be within a certain limit to keep the puppy comfortable.  

For many brachycephalic breeds such as the Shih Tzu, a larger crate size is required to provide more ventilation and air circulation. This adds to the cost of the flight.

Depending on the length of the trip, the airlines will offer food and water to the puppy, but it may not be as often as you would wish.

There is always the chance that something will go wrong -- flights delayed, flights canceled, on even human error such as the airline personnel forgetting to load the puppy onto the plane. 

(Yes, that has actually happened to me.)  

If you decide to go this route, have the breeder arrange the flight to the nearest large airport. Puppies cannot be loaded onto commuter planes because smaller planes do not have a cargo area.

Flying to Pick Up a New Puppy

If flying is the easiest way to bring a puppy home, you might consider flying to the breeder and bringing the puppy home with you in the cabin of the plane. 

Although stressful to a new puppy, flying in the cabin can be a better experience for him.  You are close and can pet or calm a nervous puppy while on route. 

The airlines will not permit you to remove the dog from the carrier, but at least you are close.  This usually puts people's minds at rest.

If you decide to fly, pack a few accessories to help along the way


  • Wipes
  • Folded paper towels
  • Nutri-Cal or other high caloric gel to feed instead of food.
  • Collapsible water and food dishes
  • Small bag of food
  • Soft-sided Crate lined with puppy pad and small blanket
  • Puppy paperwork including a veterinary certificate.

Remember that the crate must fit under the seat in front of you.  This means that you will need to purchase a soft carrier not the hard, ridged plastic types. The crate will count as one of your carry-ons, so anything you pack for your puppy must also fit into your other allowable carry-on.

Puppy Travel Via Automobile

Car travel is another viable option.  Even puppies who have little or no experience riding in a car do fine.  My experience has been that most will curl up and sleep most of the time.  My puppy buyers who travel to my home to purchase their puppy confirm this as well.

It is always easier when there is more than one person traveling with a puppy.  One can comfort a nervous puppy while the other drives.  Two is always better than one at rest stops.  I don’t encourage anyone to leave a dog or puppy unattended in a car, although many people do. 

Tips for Making Puppy Travel By Car Easy

Here are a couple of tips to make the trip successful.

Pack a Puppy Travel Bag

Items to Include:

  • Puppy wee-wee pads (to line the crate and replace if soiled)
  • Paper towels and trash bags (for cleanup)
  • Moistened wipes (diaper wipes) to clean puppy if he gets messy
  • Poop bags for cleanup
  • Small bowls for food and water
  • Small bag of food the puppy normally eats
  • Water bottle filled with the water the puppy normally drinks (recommended but not necessary)
  • Crate
  • Soft blankets or bed for crate
  • Chew toys
  • High caloric supplement if traveling a long way

Puppy Travel is Safest when Puppy is Restrained

If possible, keep the puppy in the crate or a car seat while driving, especially if you will be alone.  It is just safer that way.

Restrict Food Intake

Do not feed a large meal prior to traveling. If worried the puppy will get hungry, buy a yummy tasting supplement such as Nutri-Cal for Puppy High-Calorie Nutritional Supplement, 4.25-Ounce Dogs love this high caloric paste. Squeeze a little onto your finger and place the dab on the roof of their mouth.

Once they see how good it tastes, they probably will want to eat it directly from the tube. 

You can load them with this high calorie paste in lieu of feeding a large meal and this usually prevents them from vomiting on route.

Frequent Rest Stops

Stop every two hours to rest and allow the puppy to eliminate.  If the puppy is too small for a leash and collar, choose a grassy area away from traffic.  Shih Tzu puppies will not stray from their human so you should not worry about them running off.  Offer a little water each time you stop.  

The best places I have found for stopping are interstate rest stops.  This means, of course, that you will need to stock up on food and drinks for yourself before leaving, or plan on using fast food drive through. If you must use the facilities, you can usually take the puppy with you. 

Be prepared for the Ohhs and Awws as everyone loves a puppy.  In my experience, I have not had anyone stop me from bringing a puppy into the building. This is not the case with restaurants and fast food establishments. 

Puppy Travel Conclusions

If you make the trip a pleasant experience for a new puppy, the next car ride he takes will be much easier.  For small pups the next car ride is usually to the veterinarian.  All of these pleasant experiences help socialize the puppy, something that is critical for a well-balanced happy dog.

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