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.


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* Information courtesy Thames Pirate – ISR Open Forum Member