Deciding to move abroad with a pet is not an easy decision to make. The first question that everyone asked us when we told them we were moving to Germany was not where in Germany are you moving or when they could come to visit, but “are you taking your dog?”
We had lots of loving offers from friends and family to keep or dog during our two years abroad. We always declined them knowing that he was part of our family and we couldn’t imagine not sharing this new experience with him. How “dog parent” does that sound?
Regardless of your first instinct, there are a lot of factors to consider when moving abroad and deciding whether or not to bring your pet. Not all pets are equal and not all moves are equal.
To set the stage, we moved our one-year-old Golden Retriever named Jeter to Cologne, Germany for a two year rotation abroad for work. During our time abroad we wanted to travel as much as possible and decided we would take Jeter on as many of those trips as possible.
There are many things to consider when moving a pet abroad, let me break it down for you!
- MAKING THE DECISION
- GETTING PREPARED FOR THE MOVE
- TRAVELING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY WITH YOUR PET
MAKING THE DECISION
What country are you moving to?
The rules for bringing animals into a country vary dramatically. The country can stipulate what type of animal and what breed of the animal you are allowed to bring into the country, as well as required vaccinations and potentially a quarantine period.
Luckily for us, golden retrievers are generally allowed to travel to most countries and Germany does not have a quarantine period. A good online resource is the USDA website for pet travel which lets you select your destination country to get an overview of the requirements.
How long is your stint abroad?
Just like it takes time for you to adjust to the move, it also takes time for your animal to adjust. To make the transition a little easier, we brought familiar toys from home to help our dog feel a little more like home as well as familiar food to start mixing with German dog food. If you are only going abroad for a few months, consider whether your animal has enough time to adjust to living in a new country and then also has time to enjoy their new home.
GETTING PREPARED FOR THE MOVE
The vet and paperwork
We found a vet in Dallas that specialized in international moves. What does that entail exactly? This vet is versed on all the requirements of whichever country you are moving to and knows how to fill out the required paperwork within the appropriate deadlines.
Typically I would shrug both of these points off as something that I could do myself, but decided to move forward with the intonational vet because:
- There is a ton of information out on the internet and sometimes it can be contradictory which is frustrating and confusing
- You will have many other things going on will trying to get ready for your move and;
- Most countries require an official veterinary certificate 2 weeks prior to taking your flight with your pet, and an international vet takes this one step further by filling out the required paperwork CORRECTLY for you
We wanted to ensure that we had everything covered and the transition would go as smoothly as possible. We DID NOT want to land in Germany and find out that we didn’t bring the right copy of his rabies vaccination and our dog be denied entry at the airport.
Surely you can do the research and paperwork on your own, but there were small nuances that the vet pointed out to us that could affect the processing time of the paperwork. And when you have to get the vet exam and send in the paperwork at the earliest only two weeks before your flight, you want to make sure everything goes smoothly.
If you are in the Dallas area and moving abroad in the near future, send us an email, we have you covered with a great international vet recommendation!
Our dog is not taking any consistent medication for any health problems, however since he was a year old when we moved, he was still taking prescribed heart worm medication from the vet. We stocked up on a few extra boxes before we left and were pleasantly surprised that the vet here in Germany was able to get him the same medication.
If your pet requires any specific medication, you should consult with an international vet here to ensure that you can get that medication in the country you are moving, or identify an alternative solution.
Approved Flying Carrier
As we were flying with American Airlines and AirBerlin, we had to check both company’s pet carrier policies to make sure our carrier was approved by both airlines. BringFido is a great website where you can compare the policies of multiple airlines in one place. It is also a good idea to double check the policy on the airlines website in case it has been updated, as you are responsible for making sure that you comply with these policies. One extra thing that American Airlines required was to tape a bag of food to the top of the carrier with feeding instructions. This food was not used, but in case of an emergency it is good to have his food available.
We even picked up the phone and discussed our situation with the airlines separately to ensure that we were meeting all the requirements. This can help put your mind at ease to speak to someone directly at the airline.
Since we have a golden retriever, we wanted to get the largest kennel possible so that he was as comfortable during the flight. However, the largest kennel sold is typical a 48” kennel (dimensions: 48”X 32” X 35”) and the largest dimensions accepted by American Airlines was 40” (dimensions: 40” X 27” X 30”) and a combined weight of 100 pounds.
We did a lot of research and decided to go with the 40” Petmate Sky Kennel because of how durable it was and also the ventilation. This carrier also comes with “live animal” stickers which are required by some airlines as well as a clip on food and water tray. It is also a good idea to invest in metal screws to replace the ones that come with the carrier for added strength and an absorbent mat for the bottom of the carrier.
Booking the right flight
If you plan to take your animal on the flight with you as an emotional support dog there are generally no restrictions on the flight you can book. If you pet will be flying under the plane, each airline has strict rules for when live animals can fly.
We needed to fly out of Dallas at the end of August and ran into some troubles because American Airlines says that it can’t be more than 85 degrees or less than 45 degrees at the time of take-off. We had to book an early morning flight leaving Dallas to ensure that the temperatures didn’t raise too high for Jeter to fly. Then since we had a connecting flight through Air Berlin, we also had to check their policies for flight temperatures and approved carriers. While it is sounding like a pain to book a connecting flight, we thought it was worth it to get out dog out of his carrier for a couple hours during our layover and break up the trip for him.
If you plan to take your animal on the flight with you as an emotional support dog, there are no extra fees, however you do need to have them certified as an emotional support dog. We paid 200 dollars at the airport for Jeter’s ride on the first leg of our trip. And since we had a layover in Boston, we also paid for another live animal fee at the Boston airport to another airline!
TRAVELING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY WITH YOUR PET
Know your pet
For example, our dog thinks that every time we leave the house we are on a parade through the streets and he is the main float. If you simply look in his direction his face lights up and he will approach you for some pets and cuddles. It is just his personality that he love to explore new places and does not mind a crowd of people.
By contrast, if your animal gets anxious in new places or around large crowds of people, it may be in your pet’s best interest to stay at home when you travel.
We do not ever fly with Jeter between European countries or even when we make short visits back to the USA. We decided to minimize the amount of times he has to fly to getting to Germany and returning home to the USA. He only goes on road trips with us, like this one through the Champagne Region in France.
The next sections dives into what we do when we do not take Jeter on our trips.
Where do we leave our dog when we can’t take him with us?
This is by far the biggest question we get from coworkers who see how much travel we go on the weekends. There are many different options for your pet to stay at home and have just as much fun as you are traveling.
Leave them with a trusted neighbor or friend
If you know your neighbors well enough, there is the old school approach to ask your neighbor to watch your pet. While this is one of the most popular (and cost effective) options for people in Germany, we have never done this because we do not know our neighbor well enough, and our dog is a handful!
Have someone come to your house
Similar to this option is the Trusted House Sitters program which is similar to the Rover app in the United States where you pay someone to come watch your pet in your home or you take them to their home in exchange for a fee. Trusted house sitters is actually free after you pay a yearly membership fee, in exchange for the sitters staying in your home. We have also never tried this options because again, our dog is a handful!
Depending on the country there are different boarding opportunities, as well as veterinaries that offer boarding services. This is the approach that we have taken since it was most like what Jeter was used to back home.
Although not entirely as easy as it may sound at first, we have finally found a daycare/boarding service that our dog goes to when we travel and his face lights up when he knows he is going there. This makes us feel better about how much travel we do and have to leave him behind. This is probably the most expensive option out there ranging between 25 to 40 EUR per night, however it is worth it to us to know our dog is being well taken care of while we are gone.
Because people in Germany don’t typically board their dogs overnight I can be hard to find a daycare that also offers this service. Most of the times when we are boarding Jeter, he is one of the only ones so the owner of the daycare will take him back to her house at night to play with her own dogs! We know that he is really well taken care of there, like he is one of her own!
When to say “No”
Again, we never bring our dog when we are traveling by air within Europe, or when we take a couple week trip back to the US. We want to limit the amount of time he has to ride on a plane to the “moving to Germany” and “moving back home” flights.
Mainly any trip where we are taking our car, our dog usually gets to come with us. However there are times that we still say no:
- Is your trip really museum heavy? Unfortunately most dogs aren’t allowed in museums.
- Are you going to France and planning to use the metro? We found out the hard way that dogs are not allowed to use the metro in France (unlike in Germany).
- Does your dog have anxiety and is not able to stay alone in a hotel room for the afternoon?
If you find that your pet cannot enjoy a lot of the activities you have planned with you, why not leave them at home?
No matter where the trip is, there are sometimes things you want to do that are not conducive for a pet to come along. While we wouldn’t do this for the whole day, there are times while traveling with our dog that we will leave him in the hotel room, with the do not disturb sign on the door, so that we can go to a museum or get some dinner at a nice restaurant. He does not get separation anxiety and does not destroy anything in the hotel room, so we are comfortable using this as an option for when we travel. However, if your pet would not do well alone in an unfamiliar place this would be something to rethink.
Bring the pet passport
Once we got to Germany and found a vet in our neighborhood, we got our dog set up with a pet passport. This is a little blue book only issued by a vet within the EU which contains all the health and vaccination information for your pet. With the pet passport, Jeter was travel between all the EU member states without any problems or additional documentation. Sometimes we forget to bring it along, however, we have never been asked to show his pet passport. Read more about the EU pet passport here.
Detail Day Planning
Traveling with your pet takes and extra level of planning if you would like to enjoy some activities on your trip that are not suited for your pet. For example, even on an upcoming trip that we are planning to Switzerland, where it seems that everything would be pet-friendly, we have to consider that some inclines and trains will not allow our dog on board. It’s best if you have researched these things a head of time so you are not standing in line at the incline only to get turned away. We have been standing on a metro train in France and gotten yelled at over the loud speaker in French to get off the train since we have a dog. We don’t speak French, so it was only after everyone turned around to stare at us that we got the hint.
If we want to do an activity while traveling where our dog isn’t welcome, we try to get him out early in the morning to release some energy and then plan that activity for his normal nap times (ie. the remainder of the morning and into the afternoon). If we get to have him with us the entire day, its just a plus because he will be wiped out by the end of the day!
Where we stay
Europe is incredibly pet friendly. I am constantly amazed by the number of hotels / airbnbs that we have been able to stay in with our dog. Booking.com and airbnb make it extremely easy to filter for pet friendly hotels right away so you don’t have to filter through options that don’t allow pets. Most hotels will charge a pet cleaning fee or roughly 10 – 20 EUR extra a night, where airbnbs generally do not.
In total, Jeter has been to 8 countries, and has 3 more on his itinerary for 2019. He does not know his country count, but he is the happiest pup when we are out exploring somewhere new!
Was this just an excuse to post picture of our cute dog in many countries, maybe? But we truly hope that this is helpful for making your decision! We are in no way dog-parent experts that flawlessly moved abroad with our pet, however we hope that by sharing our experience we can help you make the best decision for you. Let us know if you have any questions below.
Here are some other great dog-friendly trips you can do around Europe:
- Road trip to the Netherlands for Tulip Season
- Visiting the Cherry Blossom Avenue in Germany
- A day trip to Brussels, Belgium
- Driving the Alsace Wine Route in France
Thanks for the great article
You are welcome!