My dogs are a furry extension of me. They go where I go and if they can’t come then I need to make SURE that they are well taken care of. When we moved abroad everyone asked: BUT WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE DOGS? In caps and everything. I answered back similarly: THEY ARE OUR CHILDREN! Of course we are taking them! Duh. Now sometimes when we travel we can’t bring them along, but in this post I’m going to outline the best way to travel with dogs. This guide will also go through how to move to a new country with your pets, the best bets for traveling, and what to do when you can’t bring your furry friends along.
When we moved from Dallas, Texas to Heidelberg, Germany the first question was: how do we move with the dogs? They are my husband and my best buds and I can’t imagine not having them along. We knew it would take some doing, but it was worth it to ensure we could bring them.
We were worried: how could we bring along our slobbery 65 pound Doberman and rambunctious 35 pound English Springer Spaniel in a seamless way that was easy on them? Lucky for us, Germany has a no quarantine law. That meant it was fairly easy to move over with them. We had to fill out some paperwork, ensure their shots were updated, figure out how to get them on the plane, then it would be a fairy simple process once we arrived in the country.
The research process was a lengthy one, and we looked into many countries rules and restrictions (since that was a big part of why we chose to move to Germany.) This guide will attempt to give you a full overview of not just moving, but also traveling around with your dog or pets.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs
Making the Big Move
Moving with dogs is a big feat. It can be scary with some challenges, but totally worth it. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to stay on the ground. That means driving or taking a train with your pets. The laws and means by which you travel are a bit easier. But that isn’t always feasible. Such as in my case where we were moving overseas. Of course, we knew we'd be flying and the research process for this differs from country to country as well as each airline.
First up, especially if you are moving to a new country, look at the laws for your new home. What are the quarantine policies? Are there any breed restrictions? What kind of shots do they need? Pet Travel gives a great overview of what you need when you move abroad with a dog. Some countries require things like a pet passport and insurance, so know before you go.
Certain countries have certain restrictions on bringing your pets. For example, in the UK pets need to have tests run about 3 months before you move. And in New Zealand dogs need to be quarantined for 10 days. Each country has different rules and restrictions. Pet Relocation also will give you a great overview of how to move with your pet. In fact, they even have services to make the move easier.
A good place to check for your new country’s rules and regulations is their government website or with the consulate office itself. This way you can have a full understanding, in their terms, for what you need when bringing your pets.
For us, Germany does not require quarantine, but it does require a recent rabies vaccination, a microchip, and a veterinary health certificate. We had to have a USDA accredited vet do the checkup and complete the form. You can find an accredited vet on the USDA website here. This needed to be done at least 30 days before we made the move to ensure we could get it all done before we left.
Basically, the best advice I can give is to plan ahead. If you're fully prepared you won't have any (or at least, as many) surprises ahead that delay your travel or mean your pet can't come along.
Checking with the airline
Once you know the rules for your country, it's time to call the airline. Different airlines have different policies for flying with Fido. Some allow pets to travel in an airplane’s cabin if their cage is small enough to fit under your seat. So if you have a small dog they can fly with you in the cabin.
If you have a larger dog they are often required to be in the cargo hold in a kennel. Depending on the time of year, they won't fly with your pet because different air pressures and temperature can affect them in the cargo hold. Meaning, they could get very sick or worse in the cargo hold in a drastic temperature drop. However, there is something called a “pet travel scheme” where you can fly to the UK with your pet. From there, you can then drive or train to your destination. Also, Virgin Atlantic offers another option that makes sure dogs are comfortable flying. You'll pay for it, but it's worth it to know they are safe!
Some who have trouble or anxiety flying can be prescribed an emotional support animal. If you get particularly stressed or nervous during flights then you can have your pet travel with you in the cabin.
Many airlines will have you sign a waiver that your pets won't go to the bathroom during the flight, espeically if they are on a flight with you. If they are in the cargo hold, make sure they are acclimated to their kennel so they feel more at ease.
Make sure you check prices before you book, because the price can really change. Costs to ship your dog one-way for an international destination can be as low as $80 if you transport it in the cabin, but as high as several hundred dollars if you check them as baggage.
My advice is to fly as direct as possible to minimize how long they have to hold their bowels and stress while flying. When we flew over with our dogs we made sure they had enough food and water before the flight, then ensured they could go to the bathroom at the last possible moment. Make sure you bring all the paperwork (along with copies) along the way.
Traveling With Dogs
It's become much easier to travel with your dog and pets nowadays. With cars, train travel, and even flights, you can bring your pet along for your journey. When we moved abroad to Germany we knew we needed a car to easily transport our dogs and head off to more remote destinations.
Before we travel
Our dogs are SUPER rambunctious. So we make sure they get exercise before we hit the road. That means taking them on a run, bike ride (Michael holds the leashes and pedals at the same time like some kind of circus act), hike or if we're short on time a walk around the park.
We make sure to load the car with everything they'll need on the journey: food bowls, water bowls, food, leashes, doggy bags, bones, treats, blankets, and anything else. The same goes if we are traveling via train. We make a dog packing list and make sure to check it twice before heading out. Then we also put a car seat cover down (this is the one we have and it's awesome!) to help keep the seat clean.
During the trip we make sure they have regular breaks every few hours to do their business and get some water. Also check the weather before you go to make include anything they might need for snow or sand, hot or cold, mild or crazy weather.
A place to stay
There are a surprising number of places that will let you stay in a hotel or book a room with a pet. Again, Pet Travel will offer options for hotels that are dog friendly. Many hotel sites will also specify whether or not they allow dogs.
When we arrive we let them take a long walk and sniff out the new area. We make sure to designate areas where they can eat and go to the bathroom and then take them back to those places to do each.
We actually lived in a hotel for 5 weeks while we were trying to find a place to live, so we got used to staying with our dogs in a hotel. The process was pretty easy, espeically when we took them out they knew that this meant they were eating or going to the bathroom.
Activities with your dog
When we bring the dogs along, we make sure that we include them in many of the activities we do. Meaning, if we can bring them along, we do. Our dogs love hiking (and so do we!) so we tend to frequent places that they would enjoy as well. For example, we often go to Austria since it's an easy drive and there are lots of activities we can do with our pets. The website Bring Fido also goes through activities you can do that are pet friendly in your destination. The site also lists dog parks, hiking trails, restaurants, and more.
When The Dogs Can’t Come Along
Of course, there will be times when your pet can't come along. It can be somewhat worrisome to leave your pet's care in someone else's hands, but if you do the research you can find great places for your dog. For a long time, we only used a dog kennel or boarding facility. We made sure to check out the place beforehand and visited to ensure it would be a place they could enjoy.
Some factors to think about when boarding your dog: is it clean? Will they be with other dogs? Do they get time to run around? You can also have them stay at your vet's office if you can't find a boarding facility you like.
Make sure you have detailed instructions on how much food they should get (we write it right on the bag) or medications they should take.
Another great option is to have a sitter come and stay at your house and take care of your pet. There are many websites that act almost like AirBnb where you specify the length of time, what your dogs are like, and other details. Then, someone comes and stays for free at your house and also takes care of your pets.
We use a site called Trusted Housesitters to do this. It's great because our dogs get to stay in the comforts of our home but also have walks and playtime in familiar areas. This is a great way to connect with people who want to stay and take care of your dog while you don't have to pay the high prices for boarding. I know my dog's boarding has often cost more than my hotel lodging.
We've used this site a few times and the best way to be successful is to be as upfront as possible. Before agreeing to have people stay in our home, we lay out exactly what will be expected with them for our dogs. Hugo and Millie are high energy dogs and often pull on their leash during their walks. They need to be walked three times a day, fed twice, and so on. Once that's clear then we make sure they are comfortable with our home and the rules for the dogs. We lay out as specific but condensed list of what they need to know while they are here.
Bottom line, do your research. Make sure you have everything in order for your dogs whether it be international or local travel. Bringing dogs along, to me, is necessary and makes travel so much fun. Have a tip for traveling with your pet? Share it in the comments below!
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