Getting to a New School with Your Dog in Tow

Going international with man’s best friend can be a rigorous exercise in red tape, rules, regulations, paperwork, procedures and what seems like endless visits to the vet.

To help you navigate the often murky waters of traveling internationally with your pet, a small group of ISR Members who are experienced with international pet relocation are here to share experiences and offer advice.

Of course, your situation may be different and unique.  So use this information as a jumping off point from which to launch your inquiry into the specifics of what may be required of you and your pet before and after take off.

Before Recruiting for an Overseas Position

The very first step to going overseas with a pet is to learn whether your breed will be allowed into the country on which you’ve set your sights. More than a few countries have breed restrictions. Imagine the stress of finding a teaching position in the land of your dreams, only to later discover your dog is not welcome.*

The next step is Googling to find out what living in the specific country with a pet is actually like. Look for dog parks, for example, or whether pets are allowed on public transport. Look at housing availability and price differences. Do you need a yard? Look at climate and vaccination requirements. And once you have made a determination, look at quarantine rules. REMEMBER, all of this should be done BEFORE interviewing or even applying to schools.*

The Job Search

You’ve done your homework and are certain you’ll be interviewing for schools in countries that are fido friendly. Well done! Now it’s time for some first-hand advice. When in a recruiting interview ask the interviewer to shed some light on what it’s like to import a dog. Sometimes, admin have their own dog which makes them a good source of first-hand information. Other times they can direct you to staff with dogs. Admin can also answer your questions about school housing for teachers with dogs and/or what they have seen out and about. Be sure to ask.*

Transporting Your Pet

This part of the process will be the most rigorous. To begin with, you’ll need an airline-approved crate that your dog knows and in which s/he is comfortable. Note that for domestic shipping the crate-size requirements are different than for international.*

Shipping crate preparation

Illiane_Blues:  Make sure to get the dog crate well in advance. ITs I knew who had a dog used to have him sleep in there the month leading up to the flight so it would be familiar. Others tried that as well, but when their dogs refused to give up their regular sleeping spots, they put the food bowls in there so the dogs would have a positive connotation with the crates.

Thames Pirate:  One thing we did–we wore old t-shirts for workouts and then didn’t wash them. We put them under the padding in the dog crate so that it would smell like us and be a calming thing. Be aware if your dog eats things like that, it might be a choking hazard.

Find out what health papers are required 

Thames Pirate: Some carriers require certain vaccinations months before transport, so plan accordingly and talk to your vet. We needed a rabies shot AFTER the implantation of an international microchip. Then we had to wait a month before the next round of shots. We also needed a 10-day health certificate valid upon arrival (not departure). You will want a buffer to cover cancellations or delays.

Eion_Padraig:  A lot of it will be country-specific, and some may depend on where you’re bringing the dog from and if it’s an area that has rabies. Some island countries may not allow importation at all or have highly restrictive quarantine, so you could be limited by the countries you consider. 

Choose an airline and a route

Thames Pirate:  Lufthansa is hands down the international animal-shipping giant and Frankfurt the best airport. They do millions of animals ranging from pets to exotics. But if you can avoid layovers, do so. I would steer clear of United–enough horror stories to make me nervous. We rented a car and drove a few hours on both ends rather than fly city to city–avoided two layovers and it was way easier on the animals. We just requested that from the school in advance.

Temperature restrictions

Eion_Padraig:  One issue is that airports often limit animals on planes if the temperature taking off is too hot/cold or the landing location is too hot/cold. Since most schools are on an Aug-June schedule, there may be a heat issue in the northern hemisphere or in the tropics. You will want to be careful with times and locations for take-off and landing.

In the weeks prior to departure

Thames Pirate:  A week before we left we did the vet visit, then we sent an overnight FedEx of the paperwork to the office for the stamp, and included a prepaid express-return envelope. The vet followed up with a phone call. Talk to your vet about medication for the flight. Generally they will give anti-anxiety rather than sleeping meds, or nothing at all. Our vet was familiar with shipping dogs and talked us through the whole thing.

Checked luggage or cargo?

Thames Pirate:  A large dog such as a Shepherd might fit the checked luggage size requirements and would be on your flight, but he might instead need to be shipped on a cargo flight. The latter is a lot more expensive, and your best bet is to go ahead and have the dog sent later. Depending on the time of year, this might be your only option, especially for warmer climates.

The pet-shipping company alternative

Thames Pirate:  There are companies that will do everything for you but we have always done everything ourselves, including the cargo-flight dogs. The checked-luggage dog was only about $200, while the cargo-flight dogs were a LOT more expensive. Talk to your school about shipping allowance!

Final Thoughts

 Interteach:  Bear in mind that taking a pet overseas can be costly. Meeting quarantine requirements and payments, shipping, and figuring out what to do with a pet during vacation periods are factors you may want to take into consideration early on as you research schools and countries that look good. If you will be leaving your pet behind during breaks you will want to consider if your pet will be OK without you for 3+ weeks. It can be done and has been done. Do your homework and keep your dog’s best interests at the forefront of your decisions.


Have something to add to this Discussion? Please scroll to participate

* Information courtesy Thames Pirate – ISR Open Forum Member

19 thoughts on “Getting to a New School with Your Dog in Tow

  1. Dogs are pack animals and the owner is part of their pack. It is better to stay with your pack. Dogs are sentient beings and can get depressed. This can happen when they are abandoned by their pack same as if you were abandoned by your family. They are happier with you than without you despite the cramped apartment or lack of exercise opportunities. Although we have a great dog sitter that my dog loves, it’s not the same as being with us. No matter how long or short we’ve been away she clearly misses us and for days after our return she follows us closely around the house and sleeps in our room. She settles eventually but it’s clear that we are very important to her.


  2. My cat, Hugh, did not have the temperament for a move, so I left him with the house sitter who very much loved cats. It was very hard without Hugh around and our new home in Guangzhou felt empty. Then we learned about an animal rescue organization called Animal Action Guangzhou. Through them we were able to become a foster family to several cats throughout the three years we were there. So if taking your pet isn’t a viable option, consider fostering if such an agency is available.


  3. Something to bear in mind regarding the hiring process (and not just because of the disheartening comment from the “Anonymous” administrator): some people are going to evaluate candidates with pets negatively.

    When I went on the market, the last thing I wanted was something that might not even be relevant (we weren’t sure we’d bring the pet) to sabotage my chances. So it wasn’t discussed until offers were on the table. I didn’t lose a minute of sleep over that decision, as we wouldn’t be asking for any significant support from the school (aside from maybe asking a question or two of faculty with pets). We did our homework up front. We were willing to foot the cost, if we opted to bring the pet. Why should we allow something to go in the minus column that is completely irrelevant, and might not be a factor in our move at all?


  4. I don’t know if this was covered but I lost Ariel on April 5th, 2019. I failed to consider the following: 1. dog unfriendly schools …I couldn’t even bring her on the weekends to work alone in my room. 2. Long hours alone….I rescued 17 kittens and cats to keep her company. 3. Pollution, brutal winters and searing hot summers. It was really hard to get her enough exercise. 4. mediocre, poorly trained vets. The American medicine Previcox killed her but if the vet had initiated poison protocol, keep her in IV fluids with oxygen she might have made it. He did give her fluids and meds but it was an under-reaction. To be fair, vets all over have made the same mistake. 5. availability of safe, high quality dog food. I cooked Ariel’s food. That day my world went from color to black & white.


  5. My dog died in a developing country of leptosporosis. There is only a vaccine available against 1 type. Worldwide there are 9 types. Everything became contaminated after a cyclone hit and flooding resulted. Even though many people successfully take their pets overseas, my experience was truly horrible.


  6. I was fortunate when I was moving to the Middle East, that during the interview and paperwork process, I could bring my cat. A huge problem was that, even though I had all the paperwork and approved carrier, Qatar Airways would not let him ride in the cabin (at the time only falcons could). So, my boy spent 12 hours in the underbelly. Prior to my arrival, paperwork and everything was in place for my boy to come with. I was told it was allowed at my accommodations. A month into working at my school, I was informed that cats were not allowed at my accommodations. It was suggested that I may have to move. Luckily, it never was brought up again and we were able to live there the rest of the year. Point- always be prepared.


  7. Lots of good advice here.
    Another thing to consider is that some host countries require an “exit visa” for your pet to leave. This can be costly but even worse, very stressful for owners when the authorities concerned demand recent paperwork (mostly irrelevant) within 10 days before departure and delay over issuing it, or even expect bribes to speed up the process.

    We travelled with two small dogs and a cat to several African and Asian countries. Lufthansa, Air France/KLM were the best airlines but we also had need to use Ethiopian several times, which was in fact ok and even accepts small cats or dogs in the cabin. Before boarding any plane I always check with airline staff that the animals are actually on board.
    Upon arrival at destination your pet carrier will likely have been sealed with plastic tags. When you are finally reunited make sure you have a means to break the seals – no knives or scissors in hand luggage! Our dogs never pee on route so we always head for the nearest exit….
    They are still alive and well after their travels and settled permanently in Europe now.


  8. In my day, and we started in the nineties working at international schools, people just didn’t bring pets. Recently, it seems everybody brings pets. These are exaggerations on either end, no doubt. At our latest place, one family even brought two big dogs and two cats and many other families, singles and couples brought at least one pet (including “big” to live in an apartment … I feel more sorry for the dog); it has become expensive for these people and the logistical problems are often great not to mention repair costs. Thus, it seems that in this day and age people bring everything including the kitchen sink. My view is that if people have to do that, it is probably better to stay at home and find a job at home. Being an expatriate used to be about “travelling light” and “living light”. Those kind of people were a different breed.


    1. I started in the 90s, too, and wouldn’t dream of leaving my dogs—though they’re apartment sized. We lived in her small apartments in Turkey, and one couple had a Great Dane. Ridiculous and so unfair to the dog.


  9. I haven’t moved a dog, but two cats that I adopted in Cairo. I have had them now for 10 years and two moves. It was an easy move the first time as it was only a 3-hour flight and there were no pet restrictions for domestic cats going to Qatar. The next move to Zambia was a bit more difficult with a layover. I am now in the process of moving back to Qatar, and like China, the government has started a one-pet only restriction, but I was able to have another friend sponsor the second cat. It is tough, but after a while you get down the methods of asking for a contact at the new school that has recently moved a pet (to get a local vet to process paperwork for you) and working through the paperwork for both countries.
    It is imperative to microchip your pets and keep the vaccination records up to date to make the move work more smoothly. It makes me really angry when people “adopt” and then dump an animal because it is “too expensive” to take them as they have been lazy and not had the animal vaccinated or RATT tested and it will be a lot to do it in the 3 months before they leave.
    I also recommend using a licensed pet expeditor for help as well when you can. These people, if you get a good one, can really smooth over problems and make the move so much easier and are usually not that expensive.
    I agree with moving the animals as luggage when it is possible as air cargo can be thousands of dollars versus a few hundred as luggage. I have been working hard to deal with that one in my move out of Africa.
    I must admit that taking cats is usually easier than dogs and that there are also some countries where dogs are not seen as pets, and are not treated well. You should be honest in your job interview about bringing pets. I am and I make it clear I will not accept the job unless I can bring my pets. I also agree with dogs that it is sometimes better to go in advance and determine whether it is a good situation to bring a dog. In the ME where the temperatures are quite high most of the year it means the dog will have to be indoors a lot and for some breeds that is difficult.


  10. Our school has made us stay in off-campus apt since we have a dog and there was no room for us to stay in a dog-friendly apt. on campus. Overall, it has cost us over 20k to not be able to take advantage of on-campus housing in a dorm. make sure you find out if you can have your dog on campus should you need to take him/her with you occasionally due to long days/hours, etc. esp. if it’s a boarding school. Most students LOVE having dogs around as they miss their own, but school admin. policies don’t allow them in dorms or on campus which is a real shame for all involved. Find out what your school’s dog policy is ahead of time and what other expenses you will accrue having to live off-campus b/c of your furry friend.


  11. From an administrator’s perspective, and many of my colleagues have shared this same opinion, this is a big downer for schools. You have a great interview and the person seems like a perfect fit, and then boom…I need to bring my 200 pound mastiff.

    Time and time again this has become a huge problem. While in my country many breeds can come in quite easily, some are prohibited, and although I try to be sensitive to the dog issue, and am not 100% sure of what breeds are allowed and which are prohibited (and I have be criticized for not knowing this in an interview).

    I now start my interviews with the question, “Do you have anyone that you might consider accompanying you that is not listed on your application, like a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parent or pet?” And yes, one person wanted to bring his mother.


    1. the same time, typically it’s the pet owners who end up being a more compassionate, well-adjusted employee…in my experience. Please don’t penalize potential hires b/c they have decided to share their lives with another loved one, albeit furry one.


    2. Nobody is penalized for wanting to bring a pet, but it is better the school and teacher are CLEAR from the beginning.


    3. This is really disconcerting. I get that there’s a logic here, but it’s the kind of questioning that falls into the “it’d be illegal in most Western countries, and is (at minimum) distasteful.” In most U.S. job searches (especially in academia), we train our candidates not to discuss these sorts of things until there’s an offer on the table. While you can argue that there are different variables that make some of these matters relevant (e.g. visas), the scope of your question goes too far

      It’s one thing if a candidate tries to pull a fast one and get additional benefits for a dependent who wasn’t declared on an application/profile. It’s another for you to probe them during a pre-offer conversation about anyone they “might consider” part of their life months (or years) down the line.

      Let’s assume people even dignify your question with a direct response. What if you hire in December or January and a relationship blossoms; are you going to assume that the candidate deceived you? Resist providing them visa assistance? What if a family member passes and the candidate becomes responsible for a pet? And let’s not ignore the biggest elephant in the room: pregnancy. It’s flagrantly illegal in many countries to even take an interview in that direction.

      So while I understand your rationale as an administrator, if you’re truly *starting* your interviews with these questions, I’m making my first answer “Is there someone else with whom I should be discussing this position? Because I find these sort of topics inappropriate at this stage of the process.”

      Liked by 1 person

    4. The scope of the question goes too far? So when I spend one hour of a primetime interview with a candidate I absolutely want to hire and they respond with, “I have a non-teaching boyfriend who is coming with me,” or, “I have a pitbull I want to bring,” this is okay? Both of those statements have been said to me, and both of those scenarios are impossible. During job fairs, questions and scenarios have to be streamlined. This is often uncomfortable for both administrators and candidates, but given we have about an hour (if we are lucky) of interview time before candidates move on to the next interview, it is imperative to be strategic. Follow-up interviews are GREAT, when possible, but they usually don’t happen given the way most schools throw out job offers.


  12. I moved from Romania to Pakistan with an alley cat I had adopted years earlier. I went through paper work hell. Months later and with all my pet’s documents in order I approached customs on my way out of Romania. All they guy had to say was ….”.that’s a big cat.” He didn’t ask for any documents. As I entered Pakistan I was bracing myself for the worst. At customs the officer ask me my cat’s name as he stuck his finger in the cage to pat him. That was that. George was now living in Pakistan. So, you just never know, but it’s good to be prepared.


  13. I rescued two dogs during my work overseas: one from Sierra Leone and another from Cuba. I wrote about my experiences here and included a lot of info on how to get a dog into the UK from abroad:

    1) Sierra Leone –

    2) Cuba –

    I am with them in the UK and will move somewhere with them this year hopefully. My main observation of owning a dog in Cuba and in Sierra Leone is that they were constantly sick with intestinal parasites – in fact there was almost no time period where my dog did not have diarrhea or was refusing to eat food. In the UK, he has had literally no problems.

    Next time I live in a less developed country, I would probably opt to keep my dogs inside a yard or hopefully large garden all the time (i.e. not to walk them in the street at all, as this is where they pick up disease). Another issue with that is: how safe are they outside in a garden – do people poison dogs regularly? This can be a relatively common occurrence in various countries and has happened to several friends (specifically friends in Kenya, Costa Rica and Turkey).

    Another consideration for destination is: what are vet facilities like in destination and do they have good access to medication? My Sierra Leoneon dog broke a tooth in half and was in immense pain, however, there was no vet facility to extract the tooth in Sierra Leone – we had to wait 2 months to get to the UK. She also has epilepsy so ensuring I have access to her medication and also a decent vet in the event of an emergency is a big consideration.


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