Traveling Internationally with Your Dog

Since we live in Germany and our family lives in the United States, international travel has become much more frequent in the past 6 months.

Of course, our families are really happy to see us, but they are super excited to see Copley! I mean, who wouldn’t be?! And this past trip to Chicago, Copley came with us. This was her longest flight ever and she did absolutely amazing. I thought I’d share our experience/advice with you.

Note: Copley weighs 6 pounds, so she’s able to fly in the cabin with us. Any pet can travel with you as long as the pet and its carrier don’t weigh more than 18 pounds. Check with your airline before making any flights. 

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Start Early. Just like when we flew from America to Germany, we needed to visit the vet to get all of Copley’s paperwork in order. The United States requires that all pets have a rabies vaccine and a health certificate from a home vet. The requirements vary by state, so I had to do some research early. It is also required that pets have a rabies vaccine no less than 30 days before entry. Be sure to plan ahead.

Also, once you make your flight reservations, call the airline and reserve your dog. She won’t get a ticket, she’s attached to your ticket, but there are limits for how many dogs can be in the cabin at one time. This will ensure that your dog is registered as flying with the airline.

Get the pet used to their carrier. Copley loves her airport bag. I set it out a few days before we leave so she gets used to having it around. I throw treats in the bag and she jumps right in! And she’s ready to go. We did more work with her before her first flight, like taking her in the car in the bag, to make sure she was used to it. Now, she knows she’s coming with us immediately when she sees the bag.

Visit the vet. Paperwork can’t be completed no more than 10 days before your flight.  This time was easier because we just needed her health certificate.  Her rabies certificate from our Michigan vet was still valid. You just schedule a regular check-up for your dog and the vet will issue a standard health certificate. Easy.

I will note that this trip to the vet was interesting because they only had a form in German. So, we had to do some on the fly translating, but it all worked out.

The day before your trip. We take Copley on a few more walks than normal the day before we travel, especially for an 8 hour flight. This way, she’s a little more tired than she usually is and she’s okay just sleeping.

The day of your trip. Don’t feed or give your dog water for about 6 hours before your flight. This way, she won’t have to go to the bathroom while you’re traveling. Copley got a little bit of breakfast and a little bit of water before our 5 PM flight. She went to the bathroom for the last time at 11:30 AM. Plan to arrive at the airport at least 2.5 hours early because you have to go to the check-in counter.

Be prepared to pay. It costs $100 each way to fly the pet in the cabin. We had to sign a form at the ticket counter once we checked-in, but everything was super easy.

At the airport. Do as much walking as possible. I don’t put Copley in her bag until I absolutely have to. She stretches her legs, sits with us while we eat and is able to be less confined. Some airports have pet relief areas in the airport with turf, but Copley doesn’t like them. She just doesn’t want to go on them.

Boarding. The boarding process is always fun because it’s the first time Copley has been in her bag. I throw in more treats, zip her in and wait in line. She moves around quite a bit while she gets situated, but she settles down after a minute or two.

Once we’re seated, she uses whines or barks, especially if kids are crying, but she has to remain in her bag the entire flight! I unzip the top of her bag a little bit and put my hand in there to help calm her down.

The flight. I have no advice for this because Copley is amazing on the flight. She did not make one peep. Once we’ve landed but not at the gate, she starts to whine a little bit because she can tell we’re not moving but she’s still in her bag.

Once we’re out of the plane, I keep her in the bag until we’re through customs.

Customs. In Germany, we just walk through with her. No one asks for her paperwork, nothing. (I know, all that hard work and no one looks, but better safe than sorry). In America, the customs agent asked for her shot records, which we had. And then we had to claim her on our Claims report. You might have to go to a different line at the last checkpoint, but it was super easy. Again, just showing her rabies certificate.

And then she’s free!! We go outside, let her relieve herself and get going to our destination. This past trip, she held her bladder for 17 hours. No accidents or anything. She is better than us! I think I went to the bathroom twice on the plane.

That’s our experience and Copley is used to flying now and she loves that she gets to come with us. And I love that she doesn’t have to go to a pet sitter while we’re gone!

Have you ever traveled internationally with your pet?

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