Moving abroad can be a stressful and difficult process, especially when your family includes pets. It’s important that once you know you’re moving to start preparing your animals for their trip overseas. Our dog, Sherlock, was too big to fit in the cabin with us and had to travel in cargo. We started a year before we left, planning and preparing our dog (and ourselves) for the journey.
In this post, I will detail the items needed for your dog and his journey. This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing any linked item will help support this blog. I also encourage you to check your community for local & independent pet stores. Thank you! Pet your doggo for me.
Prepare a Safe Space
- An airline-approved crate. Check with your airline (or any international airline) for a list of airline approved crates. Sherlock flew in the Petmate Sky Kennel Portable Dog Crate. If your dog is flying in cargo, you have my deepest sympathy. Get a crate the second you know you’re moving abroad and set it up in your house. If your dog is not familiar with being in a crate, make the process a slow one so he has a while to acclimate and get comfortable with his travel buddy. Sherlock ate every meal in his crate since the day we got it (about 10 months before we moved) and occasionally slept in it. He was comfortable but preferred the couch.
- Metal screws and nuts. Swap out the plastic fasteners on the crate for metal ones. Most of the time these crates come with plastic ones that are not airline approved and you need to buy metal ones separately. In my experience, TSA will not allow you to zip-tie the crate.
- A water and food bowl needs to be attached to the inside of the crate. People say to freeze water in the bowl to keep it from sloshing around. When we traveled with Sherlock, he was not allowed ANY water or food in his crate due to TSA security regulations. They forced us to detach the bowl, empty the contents and reattach it before we could even send him through security. We were livid. The cargo handlers promised to give him some water, and I hope they did because the next time we saw him was 14 hours later. I just tried to remind myself that dogs can survive for three days without water.
- If you are putting your dog in cargo, remove his collar and keep it with you. As much as you want his crate to be a cozy place, you also need to make sure it’s safe. Keep the bedding minimal so your dog has plenty of ventilation, room to move, and nothing to get stuck on. Put a toy in there and something that smells like you. If your dog is prone to anxiety, consider using a pheromone spray like Adaptil to calm him. Practice using it at home to see if your dog reacts well to it before using it the day of your journey.
- Put his name on his crate (you can even tape a photo to the top). It will make the crate less of a package to the airline and remind the handlers that there is a family member inside. I did this for Sherlock and every handler and attendant I met called him by his name when they talked to me about him.
What to Pack in your Carry On
- All necessary documents: Health certificate, copies of rabies certificate (this needs an actual signature, not an electronic signature), and copies of microchip number. You can read about what you need for your journey (and my harrowing experience getting it all) in my previous post. If your dog has a HomeAgain tag, take off the yellow tag and stick it in your wallet or on your keys. This one has the microchip number and you can keep it with you for easy access if he gets lost. Since you’re moving, the HomeAgain address information will be incorrect. Even if you choose not to renew your membership with HomeAgain, they will keep your last known address and information (including email and phone number) on record. Plus, once you register your pet in your new country (more on that in another post) they will have the microchip number linked with your new address and information.
- Leash/Collar: Remove his collar once he’s securely in his crate and ready for boarding. Keep his leash and collar with you so you’re ready to pick him up when you land.
- Travel food/water bowl: These collapsible bowls were a lifesaver for us. We used them in transit, while looking for an apartment, and hiking. They collapse to flat and have a key-ring that can be hooked to backpacks, luggage, etc.
- Reusable water bottle: If your journey is anything like ours was (I pray it’s not) you will run out of water. Make sure you have a way to keep some with you and you don’t need to rely on the kindness of strangers to hydrate you and your dog.
- Dog waste bags: Just in case. Don’t rely on your destination to have these handy. Be a good pet owner and pick up after your dog.
- Medications: We sedated our dog for the journey. You know your dog best. Talk to your vet about sedation during travel if you’re considering this as an option.
What to Pack in your Luggage
- Dog food: You might find it difficult to find a pet store at first, and it’s definitely not something you want to do when you first get there, so bring a decent sized bag of food with you. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to ease your dog into the new diet. We brought a 7 lb bag of Taste of the Wild, then switched to the Made in Germany Mera a few weeks after arriving.
- Harness/muzzle: Put these items in an outside pocket for easy access to put on your dog when you arrive. While Sherlock doesn’t normally wear a harness, I felt more comfortable having extra control of him while on public transport and in crowds. Just like with any new item, practice using the muzzle beforehand if your dog is unfamiliar with it. We didn’t use the muzzle at all, but dogs are required by law to be muzzled while on public transport (no one ever does it unless told to, and no one told us to).
- Toys: A little something from home for familiarity and to help get him comfortable with his new surroundings.
- Treats: These can also go in your carry on, or in the outside pocket of your luggage for easy access. Give them to your dog when you arrive and reward him when you see him. We chose not to feed Sherlock until we arrived at our destination in Bielefeld. We just gave him a few treats here and there. He was so tired that he didn’t feel like eating that much anyway.
During our journey, I never felt under-prepared when it came to Sherlock. I think he had everything he needed. While I believe that the muzzle was a legal necessity, I wish we could have gone without it since we didn’t use it at all. We still have it and we will bring it with us any time Sherlock travels on the Deutsche Bahn. Just in case.
Is there anything you would absolutely need to bring for your dog? Let me know in the comments.