Dog travel nanny? Pet flight nanny? Yes, this is a very real and in-demand job. It also pays quite well and has some great perks too. This niche gig was recently highlighted by Jennifer Kopczynski, a TikToking dog travel nanny. “Taking puppies across the country (& even the globe) sounds like a dream job. Kristina Owen Chief Editor of fitdogster.com says, “But, there are some very real responsibilities and requirements.”
This industry got a big push more recently. Covid restrictions increased passenger flight restrictions, due to safety reasons. Cargo hold restrictions tightened even more too.
The pet transporting service market is already at $522 million market, per Future Markets Insights. Even more remarkable, it will grow 4.5% annually and reach $812 million by 2032, due to these main drivers:
- Continued acceptance and convenience of buying all things online
- Tightened federal rules imposed last year narrowing the definition of service dog (banning emotional support animals)
- Cargo areas are viewed as an inhumane means of travel for our furry companions, with instances of animal injuries from fallen cargo
- Tight travel restrictions for animals in airline cargo holds, including heat and cold temperature restrictions. Certain breeds also can’t travel in the cargo area.
“These are just a few reasons this gig has started to take off.”, adds Kristina Owen. This article explores this rewarding “feel good” gig.
How Does It All Work?
There are some interesting planning and logistics involved in being a dog travel nanny. While road travel is good for short trips, our focus for this article is on air travel. Let’s run through this using breeders as the sending party. Most breeders prefer to use air travel, especially for longer distances. This gets pets quickly and safely to their destination, as well it is less time/stress involved for the pet. Basically, a dog travel nanny escorts a lovable furry pal through the air travel process.
Depending upon the situation, planning can be done months or weeks ahead. But, at times, it can even be done days ahead. To save money in these tighter timelines often the breeder (who pays for the flight and most related travel expenses) may instruct the dog travel nanny to travel on standby. Keep in mind, the buyer is responsible for paying the dog travel nanny fee and an upfront deposit is almost always required. This can sometimes make the logistics a little more interesting. So in this situation, be flexible!
Day of travel logistics is done through a group text on a cell phone with the dog travel nanny communicating with the breeder and buyer at all important points along the route. This allows everyone to remain up-to-date along the journey, and communicate delays or any possible issues. This also serves as a log for the entire process.
Photos are usually provided along the journey. Photos of all people involved in the exchange of the pet (as well as the pet, of course!) and messages at pick-up at the departing airport. If a layover is involved, more photos will be shared, along with message updates.
Upon arrival at the destination airport, the photos of the pet (in the carrier) will be provided by the pet flight nanny. Photos of the dog travel nanny and buyer will also usually be exchanged to help identify each other at the final destination meeting point. Several messages will also be traded leading up to the exchange.
Upon payment of the balance of the dog travel nanny fee, the pet will be exchanged with its buyer and the pet flight nanny will take photos of the buyer with the pet. This acts as proof to the breeder that the pet arrived safely at its final destination.
Who Hires a Dog Travel Nanny and Why?
Most often a dog travel nanny is hired by a breeder to escort a puppy to its new owner. There are also other situations where a dog travel nanny is used. Other reasons for using a dog travel nanny include escorting show dogs to different locations or if a family is moving across the country or internationally.
Breeders prefer flight travel for longer distances if dogs meet the air travel restrictions. Show dog handlers tend to travel with their dogs but on occasion, it’s not possible or some dogs may have differing travel locations. This travel can be done by ground or air, depending on the size of the dogs, distance, and logistics. For families moving internationally, in addition to airline travel restrictions, they need to be mindful of possible quarantine requirements. While some countries have strict quarantines, most North American, South American, European and Asian countries have no quarantine restrictions. Be sure to check!
What Are the Requirements for Being a Dog Travel Nanny?
Most of the requirements for being a dog travel nanny won’t come off as surprising. Often a high school diploma and a clean background is required. The ability to fly (& perhaps even drive)-domestically and internationally – is also needed. Often being responsible and flexible are listed as qualifications too. Some hiring ads have also mentioned flight attendant experience as a plus. Being independent won’t hurt either with lots of solo travel!
As you’d also guess, a genuine love of dogs is essential. But, just being a dog lover won’t cut it in most cases. Whether you’re seeking to work for a company or striking out on your own, companies and breeders alike are looking for sincere interest in pets. So having experience pet sitting, and volunteering at a local animal shelter and/or vet, pet store or groomer will help set you apart.
If you intend to start your own dog travel nanny business, keep in mind you’ll need a USDA AWA (Animal Welfare Act) license. An AWA license is required for transporting animals and the USDA is moving to a 3-year ($120.00) license.
How Do You Check the Reputation of a Dog Travel Nanny?
Some dog travel nanny or pet flight nanny services are just getting established. While reading through Google, Facebook or website-specific reviews might be OK for many routine purchases, we suggest digging deeper. Read these reviews but rely more on recommendations from breeders. They are most acquainted with these services. A USDA-accredited veterinarian may also be a decent source for a recommendation as well. They must provide a health certificate for travel.
You can also look up pet transport flight or ground services on the USDA APHIS website or the Better Business Bureau.
It’s important to ask if the service is insured if anything goes wrong. Some even opt to get their new puppy microchipped. Unfortunately, there have been scams reported related to customers having deposits taken or even more worrisome, their pets. If it sounds too good to be true, investigate further and do your homework!
How Much Can a Dog Travel Nanny Make and What Are the Perks?
If you’re independent and you’re OK with giving away cute, cuddly pets this might be for you! The pay is also compelling and there are some great perks.
ZipRecruiter estimates that pet transport workers can make about $56,000 on average. That said, there’s a large range with some making $120,000 and other making $15,500 per year. We’ve seen specific job ads offering $10.00 – $12.00/hour and others offering $350 – $500/day. So this wide range of compensation is very real.
Since the cost of the plane ticket, dog cabin fee (about $125 – $175) and parking are pass-through expenses, the nanny service fee is where dog travel nanny services make their money. This nanny fee can be anywhere from $300 to $500+ for long domestic or international flights. There’s also extra income from tips. You can see where this can add up, which makes it a great side hustle too.
If you like to travel and don’t mind doing it solo (with a furry pal in tow for the trip) it can be a great way to see the country and even other parts of the world. If you can coordinate the logistics, you can turn some of your trips into extended stay vacations too. It’s also a nice way to build up your frequent flier miles for personal travel.
What Are the Typical Responsibilities of a Dog Travel Nanny?
In a nutshell, escorting a cute, cuddly companion to their final destination. You are also responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of that small companion along the route. This involves making sure you have an appropriately sized pet carrier, plenty of water, and some toys and snacks available. When the opportunity arises you will also need to provide your friend with potty breaks and some needed exercise. This is usually before the flight and during any layovers. Sometimes you’ll need to do the same before you deliver your furry companions to their final destination. Prior to travel, you will also need to coordinate with the breeder to obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection within 10 days of travel for your companion from a USDA-accredited veterinarian.
What Are the Flight Restrictions for Pet Travel?
As you can imagine there are several flight restrictions for pet travel. Below is a listing of several basic restrictions that are fairly common across domestic airlines. These vary somewhat from airline to airline and are subject to change, so it’s important to check with any specific airline prior to travel.
- Generally, pets need to be less than 20 pounds. Some airlines have no weight/size restrictions – hard bottom, leak-proof pet carrier needs to fit in the foot space in front of your seat.
- Pets must be at least 8 weeks old by law. Some airlines have opted to up this to 10 – 16 weeks (or some airlines do this for international travel only), good idea to bring the puppy’s birth certificate.
- All animals need a certificate of health issued by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. Vaccination certificates must be up to date.
Pet Travel Pro Tips
- Call the airline 24 – 48 hours before your flight to re-confirm you’ll be traveling with a pet.
- Feed the pet four hours before the flight, but not sooner.
- Be prepared with water available.
Must-Have Travel Items:
- Collapsible water bowl
- Pet toys
- Bottled water (buy at the airport)
- Plastic bags
A dog travel nanny is a very real and growing profession in today’s economy. It’s also a fantastic side hustle with great perks. Whether you’re interested in becoming a dog travel nanny yourself or using the service it’s important to understand the ins/outs of this in-demand “feel good” gig.