puppy transport: car or plane?
October 11, 2021 12:06 PM   Subscribe

It's looking like we may be getting a puppy. The puppy is in Las Vegas and we live in the bay area. What's my best bet for getting the puppy safely and happily home?

Google maps tells me the shortest driving route between Las Vegas and our town is about 8.5 hours. I'm old and crabby and hate driving long distances.

The flight is easy, like a little over an hour. Our home airport is San Jose. I don't know what the status currently is of the various airlines' permission for people to bring dogs into the cabin. I also have no idea what it is like to fly with a dog of any kind, much less a baby puppy. How would it work in the airport? What if it had to poop/pee? They have tiny little tummies, I'd be surprised if it didn't. What if it cried the whole time? What if the flight got delayed as everything seems to have been lately? Can you take a puppy in a crate into a lounge?

Would a road trip be better or worse? What happens in the car? Does puppy hang out in a doggie bed on the floor in the back or...? How does it tell you when it needs to pee?

What else haven't I thought of?
posted by fingersandtoes to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Best answer: First check to see if it is even an option for your dog to travel as carry-on luggage. For example, American Airlines says that dogs must be at least 8 weeks old, the kennel must fit under the seat but be large enough for the dog to stand, turn and lie down. Dog plus kennel must less than 20 lbs. If your dog is too young or too large then this becomes an easy decision.
posted by metahawk at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe some info at this AKC link will help?

Our dog gets very anxious and stays that way the entire time for car trips of ANY length. I'd definitely want to know puppy's tolerance for car rides.

I also would not let puppy be in the car unrestrained -- if not a carrier/crate, you can get a car seat that has a clip for the collar and maybe line it with puppy pads in case you miss the "call" of nature (our dog whines when she wants to go out, but other dogs may vary), but you may have to check the sizing since I'm not sure how well that works with puppies.
posted by sm1tten at 12:54 PM on October 11, 2021

San Jose to Las Vegas is 528 miles one way going through Bakersfield. That's easily 7-8 hours ONE WAY, and that's assuming no traffic. Unless you're making a vacation/roadtrip of it, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, esp. if you need pet-friendly accommodations along the way.
posted by kschang at 1:11 PM on October 11, 2021

Also short-nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, etc) have restrictions on them by airlines (too risky for the dogs), so good to check on that if your dog has a snubbed nose.
posted by umwhat at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Based on your description, this puppy cannot be trusted to let you know when it needs to pee or poop because it sounds too young to be reliably housebroken. You'll need to take that into consideration.

My advice, as a long-time dog haver, would be to drive the puppy home. Even a very young puppy has some experience being in a car unless the veterinarian makes house calls, and you will want to train the puppy to travel comfortably in a car anyway as it will make life much easier down the road. Pun intended. An airplane... not so much.

And if the plane is a jet, there are additional problems due to the whine of the engines and the pressurization. A propeller plane, while slower, would be much easier on the puppy. Babies are often greatly disturbed on jets and prone to screaming/crying, while they often sleep peaceably on propeller planes; I don't expect puppies to be much different.
posted by DrGail at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Go by car!! I've been on solo road trips with my cat/s before and it was fine; dogs are generally much easier to travel with. For example, Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn let pet/s stay for free and they're all over the US! Stop frequently for puppy pee breaks; keep the pup in a kennel while driving if you're worried it'll be scared or jumpy. If there are two humans, it's even easier because you can take turns if you need to pee or get food. Of course, there are also always drive-throughs for food, stopping at pet stores to pee inside, and peeing on the side of the road in isolated areas if that's all you've got. This has the potential to be your first happy memory together; sure, traveling with a puppy can be hard but life with a pup is hard and wonderful. Ready or not, here you come!

Flying with pets is very hard -- I've also moved around the world with that cat -- and even more of a pain with COVID restrictions and young animals that may not have all their required shots yet. For such a (comparatively) short journey, I'd definitely drive.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:43 PM on October 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The limits on dogs in the cabin are indeed quite small; vallhunds are not big dogs but eight to ten week old vallhund puppies are pretty close to the edge.

Based more on people who've taken our puppies home than on our direct experiences:

How would it work in the airport? What if it had to poop/pee?

Some airports have potty areas for doggos, and if not just put down a pee-pad, ideally in a restroom so you can chuck a poo into the terlet. This will not be the last time you huck your pup's feces. [jazzhands] GLAMOR! [/jazzhands]

What if it cried the whole time?

Then the people around you will be annoyed, just like they would be by a crying baby hoooo-man. Tough shit for them. More likely they'll just sleep most of the time though.

What if the flight got delayed as everything seems to have been lately

Then you'd be in the airport longer, and use more pee-pads, and probably have to work at not being visibly frustrated at your new puppy. Conceivably, you'd have to spend the night in a hotel, and use even more pee-pads. Did I mention you'd want pee-pads?

Would a road trip be better or worse?

Depends entirely on the inner natures of you and the pupper, the kinds of things your puppy has been partly-acclimated to, and how close your puppy is to a fear period.

What happens in the car?

Mostly they sleep. Expect at least a little miserable howling.

Does puppy hang out in a doggie bed on the floor in the back or...?

Puppy goes in a fuckin' crate. One big enough for puppo to turn around in, but not the full-size adult crate (s)he'll need later. Crates are important. Crates prevent dogs from getting killed flying around the cabin in a crash. Crates prevent you from being killed by a dog going 50mph into your head during a crash. Crates prevent the dog from inadvertently putting the window down and jump out of a moving car; this is indeed a thing.

If the puppy remains utterly inconsolable after like twenty minutes, the passenger won't be worse than Hitler for putting the pup in their lap to comfort him or her. But this is a nontrivial risk.

How does it tell you when it needs to pee?

Puppy just woke up: it needs to pee.
Puppy ate something twenty minutes ago: it needs to pee.
Puppy hasn't peed in an hour or two: it needs to pee.
You aren't certain the puppy doesn't need to pee: it needs to pee.

Realistically, on a drive I'd expect a routine like: puppy goes to sleep for an hour or two, puppy wakes up -- stop for potty, water, maybe treatos. Ideally walk around a little bit letting puppo sniff some sniffs until it's time to pee again, then back in the car for another two-three hours.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:46 PM on October 11, 2021 [13 favorites]

Would what you save on airfare cover more hotel stays if you drove? My inclination would be to drive down in one day and take two to come back. Won't make you any younger but, with luck, driving the shorter distances both days will make you feel less crabby.
posted by kate4914 at 1:57 PM on October 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I personally wouldn't do this, mostly because almost 400,000 dogs are euthanized every year in shelters, and there are absolutely tons of great puppies in shelters/rescues near you. A friend adopted an absolutely adorable 8-week-old puppy from Family Dog Rescue in SF a few years ago, and you'd never know it was a "shelter dog."

That said, I'd drive. I've heard way too many horror stories about dogs and planes. Only very small dogs can go in the cabin, and airlines have a bad track record of keeping track of dogs when they're put in cargo (also that just sounds super scary for the dog!).

Driving for a day or two with a puppy is a pain but doable. You will have to stop a lot. The dog will probably cry at the beginning but tire itself out after 20-30 minutes. Agree that pup will go in a crate. You might want to consider stopping overnight. I stayed in two La Quinta Inns when I drove cross-country with my dogs, they were clean and surprisingly nice for the price. One even put us in a room on the ground floor near the side door to make it easy to take the dogs out.
posted by radioamy at 2:50 PM on October 11, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I have flown with cats and dogs and driven long distances with cats and dogs. Honestly, both have been fine. With a puppy I’d lean towards driving but mostly because flying is annoying, not out of any sense that driving is easier on the animals. Plus, it’s your first day(s) with your puppy, and puppies are adorable, and once you hold said puppy you’re just gonna want to revel in puppy love and that’s easier on the road with the indeed frequent potty breaks your pup will need. Stop on the way home at a dog friendly motel. It’ll be a fun adventure that you’ll fondly remember.

That said, flying is not going to be a big deal if that’s what you strongly prefer. Previous advice about pee pads is spot on. Line the carrier with them. Depending on the size of your puppy, the amounts they pee is quite small. My last dog was a barker and over the sound of the plane engines it wasn’t super noticeable.

Congrats on the new furry family member! Puppies are exhausting but so so precious and it’s special to watch them grow up.
posted by nancynickerson at 6:26 PM on October 11, 2021

Best answer: Congrats on your new family member! We just did a ~10h (actual time with potty stops, 8.5h on Google Maps) drive to pick up our pup over the summer. A couple tips if you're planning on driving:
We were pretty paranoid about parvo and distemper, so we had an artificial grass mat over a potty pad in the trunk for potty breaks. We sprinkled some of sawdust that she was used to using over the grass mat, and she took to it pretty quickly. ymmv.
We swapped drivers every 2 hours when she would wake up from her nap and we'd take her for a potty break and water. She actually preferred being in her crate over our laps since it was rather hot, but we always had someone in the back seat to keep an eye on her. She was probably pretty stressed out in a new environment, so she didn't want to wander around too much and napped most of the time.
We brought a collar and tag, but she wasn't introduced to one yet, so I also wouldn't bet on a using car harness on a young puppy unless your pup is already getting desensitized to one.
She didn't eat much before or during the drive (now to think of it, after too, until the next morning), which was probably a good thing in case she got carsick. If you can coordinate an early morning pickup of the pup (or perhaps night if you'd rather drive through the night and it's colder? ), that'd also probably help. Also, you probably already know this, but make sure you have the kind of food your pup is already eating so that you're not introducing a new food abruptly. We transitioned her off a couple weeks later.
We brought a snuggle puppy that many other pup parents swear by, but she just gnawed on it. She also just gnawed on the towel that smelled like her mom, so we didn't actually keep it in her crate either. However, both things to look into in case your pup is not like our little weirdo.
Good luck!
posted by sincerely yours at 7:42 PM on October 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you plan on a three day car trip with 5 hours of driving each day, the overnights would be in the same place so you could have a two day stay in one motel somewhat simplifying the logistics.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:56 AM on October 12, 2021

Best answer: I would not personally take a new pup to a hotel. Instead, I'd drive to Vegas, stay in a hotel, arrange to pick the puppy up as early as possible the next day, then make the drive home in one long day. A night in a hotel w/ a brand new puppy sounds...difficult. (Cute, but difficult!)

Congrats on your new buddy!
posted by nosila at 5:49 AM on October 12, 2021

No experience with dogs but I've transported cats several times, both by air and car. Personally, I'd suggest driving - once you factor in security, walking through the airport, etc the time difference isn't that bad. Plus, you can stop and let the puppy out during rest stops - that's harder to do while flying. And flying has additional headaches: delays, TSA, etc. I hate long drives too but I would definitely drive if I were you.

That being said I listed a few pointers below for flying. If you were to fly, first stop should be the airline's website - what's allowed might vary a bit by airline. Looks like most nonstops between LAS and SAN are Southwest and Frontier. Note both have size restrictions, likely require the puppy to be a minimum age (8 weeks is standard) and charge an additional fee to bring a pet. I would STRONGLY recommend a soft-sided carrier, as you can squish it down a bit to fit under the seat in front of you.

How would it work in the airport?

The only real difference is that security is more of a pain as the carrier has to go through the X-ray while you hold the puppy. When I have done this, I ask the TSA folks for the private screening room to minimize the chance of an escape (most checkpoints have one, although it's usually just a closet/storeroom with a door). I go in there with my stuff + the cat and wait while the TSA agent scans the carrier.

What if it had to poop/pee?

Some airports have pet-relief stations but they are often not convenient to get to. Also stick some pee pads in the carrier. Not ideal, but it at least contains the mess till you can get to your destination and clean things up.
posted by photo guy at 9:04 AM on October 12, 2021

We did something very similar to sincerely yours to get our most recent addition: we drove from NC to MI to get him. This was prepandemic, so we might do something different, but...

We set a pickup time and day with the breeder, and two days earlier just got in the car and started driving. We stopped at a hotel when we got sleepy, and then drove the rest of the way the next day, to a place where we had a reservation and was 20-30 miles from the farm (an actual farm, like with stables and horses and chickens and cats and things--not a puppy farm). This breeder had trained the puppies to use the bathroom on some pine chips so that they would always do those things in a certain place in their room. So she gave us some of those chips and we put them in a big plastic tub so he would know where to go. And he did. And we lined the back of the SUV with a blanket that could be washed. Which we needed to do, but no big deal.

We also got some food from her that he was used to so his stomach wouldn't get upset by new food, and some water in some kind of bowl. We, too, didn't let him out when we stopped to pee ourselves because of parvo and whatnot.

And we drove the whole way back in one day to avoid hotels and those problems. It was a long drive, but worth it. We had a lot of toys but mostly he slept. The breeder gave us a toy that he seemed to like playing with, but again, the sleeping.

Enjoy your new best friend!
posted by Snowishberlin at 3:33 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

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