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Study abroad with your pet: a step-by-step guide

A few months, and definitely a few years are a long time to spend without your pet. It is only natural that when you get accepted to your dream school abroad, your first worry is how to get your pet there as well. It is not enough to find a dog friendly hotel for the first few days– you will need to think about a long term plan for your pet.
Let’s help you out! We have prepared a step by step guide to clear the fog around some procedures you’re going to face. We also interviewed the one and only Dave Lorch, an expert on positive dog training, on the psychological aspects of the move for your dog. 

Bringing your pet to study abroad with you – a step-by-step guide

1. CHECK out the immigration status for your pet. Each country has its own regulations. Here is where to start your search in the most desired destination countries for international students:

→ UK: Start your search at The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Make sure you come from qualified EU countries or non-EU qualified countries.

→ US: after a quick overview, check out the Centers for Disease & Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

→ AUSTRALIA. Start here. Beware that in most cases, the pet will need to spend some time in a quarantine facility to ensure he/she has no disease.

→ EU. It may depend on which EU country you are going to. Anyway, start your journey here.

 Tip: also check out the formalities to bring the pet back to your country once you complete your studies.

2. CHOOSE a pet friendly airline. Read relevant airlines’ websites to see if they allow pets. Then contact the airline to verify that your specific route allows pets.

√ Tip: Do not take a layover flight unless it’s long enough so you can take your pet out during the layover. The connecting flight increases the stress for the pet, and direct flights reduce the possibility of loss.

3. READ the airline’s requirements for pet travel (such as here). There are breed restrictions, crate guidelines, etc.
4. CALL the airline. Make sure you got it all right and notify you’re flying with a pet.
5. PAY an extra few hundred bucks for flying your pet (depends on the airline).
6. BUY a pet carrier kennel crate that this airline approves (they are very strict on this!)
7. ASK yourself: are you taking your dog in cabin or as luggage?

→ In cabin. Generally, it will have to be a small pet that fits under the seat in front of you. The pet will need to travel in the carrier kennel crate.

→ Pet as luggage. Technically, you check in your pet as luggage. It is supposed to be between 45F/7C and 80F/26C in both ends of the trip (even then, pets are exposed to high heat on parking ramps and in baggage handling areas).
8. PACK: your dog's leash, a bowl for water/food, plastic bags, absorbent diapers /pads, canned food (unpacked food is not allowed (including treats)).
9. HAVE the dog chipped. Make sure the chip is of the type that can be read in your destination country. Have a collar with ID tag and contact phone numbers.
10. INCLUDE up to date vaccination records plus an approved veterinarian checkup one week before travel (you may need another checkup at the airport to ensure the pet is healthy enough to travel).
11. CHECK IN EARLY. Allow plenty of time at the airport. Checking in the pet takes forever.
√ Tip: You can use a pet shipper to help get all parts of the process complete. The shipper looks after all the paperwork, and makes sure everything conforms with the requirements.

Have other questions about going to study abroad? Visit - we are here to help you!
Interview – Dave Lorch – positive dog trainer
Dave Lorch, an expert on positive dog training, gives some great advice on helping your dog go through the move without liking you less by its end.
Would you suggest to take or not to take the dog with me when I study abroad?
Dog owners may be distressed at the thought of separating from their dogs for an extended period. Dogs in the millions have flown and gone on to live happy lives. Speaking for your dog's psyche, most mentally prepared dogs do not experience long-term psychological trauma from flying. Average post-flight depression is minimal.
That said, flying with a dog is a risk, albeit a statistically minor one. Major US airlines - Delta, Continental, United, etc. - fly tens of thousands of pets per year (each). In 2013, the Department of Transportation reported only 42 flown pets were "injured, lost or deceased". That's a very small percentage. Unfortunately, if it happens to you, the statistics don't matter.
You should bring your dog with you unless they'll be happier or safer without you. There are many potential difficulties for dogs who fly internationally. Some you can prepare for, others you can't. We'll talk about many of them today.
Generally speaking, dogs are more adaptable than we are. It completely depends on your dog. Sick, injured, or old dogs should never fly. Some dogs come off airplanes more relaxed than their owners. But dogs can experience stress-inducing stimuli while flying that they would never encounter otherwise. For example, dogs that aren't already used to traveling or spending many hours in a cage or kennel will not fly well. Any health issues dogs have may be exacerbated in a cargo hold. Dogs' food and medicine needs may be difficult to meet overseas. Owners' living situations or time availability may become less conducive to their dogs' needs. These and more are reasons your dog may have difficulty flying.

How do dogs feel during long flights if they are allowed to fly in cabin?
This is a tough question. How do humans feel on long flights? To the extremes, some of us feel gratitude at a few phone-free hours to catch up on some projects while others can't taxi a runway without popping a Xanax. Like us, all dogs are different.
Dogs are most afraid of new and surprising experiences. Dogs are more comfortable flying if they've done something like it before. First time flyers will be a little distressed and uncomfortable, regardless of their species. It's important that dogs become accustomed to a simulated flying experience as much as possible before they fly.
Dogs are usually not permitted to exit their kennels from the time they enter the airport until they exit at the other end, which can cause some dogs higher than usual anxiety and/or energy. Veterinarians used to recommend sedatives for dogs who fly but they now recommend against it due to risks of heart and respiratory complications. Vets do recommend that dogs fly on an empty stomach so your dog could feel hungry and/or lethargic. Your dog's health, age, breed and flight destination are all considerations when restricting diet. You are allowed to open your dog's kennel to pet your dog and give them treats. Ice cubes are good treats for most dogs on flights. Dogs on flights should receive petting and treats only while behaving calmly to increase the likelihood of this behavior. Attempting to comfort dogs when they're already anxious on planes usually has the opposite effect.
Overall, dogs are often nervous in a new situation. As long as your dog reaches you safely at the other end, they usually recover quickly.

How do dogs feel during the flight if they fly in the cargo bay?
They feel about the same as dogs who fly in cabin. If dogs are well-prepared, flying in the cargo bay feels to them somewhat like your typical workday, maybe a little longer, depending on your destination. Unprepared dogs could be terrified by separation from their owner among new, stressful stimuli.
Some airlines won't allow certain breeds - usually snub-nosed breeds like bulldogs and mastiffs - to fly in the cargo bay due to health considerations. Dogs that fly in cargo bays are sometimes left in cargo holds or on the tarmac if flights are delayed, so weather at the time of your flight is a consideration. Flight length, health conditions, both mental and physical, and age are all important considerations also when deciding whether to fly with your dogs in the cargo bay.

Any tips on how to prepare the dog for the journey?
Do your research. Know that the conditions of your flight will be safe for your dog.
There are numerous aspects of flying for which you can prepare your dogs. Today I'll discuss four of them: CAPS - Crate training, Acclimation, Potty training and Separation. It's best to begin at least 3-6 months before your dogs fly.

- CRATE TRAINING. Dogs need to stay in airline-approved crates for numerous hours while flying. Crate training your dogs before this experience is essential. Long before departure, buy the crates your dogs will fly in and start reinforcing positive associations with it. Feeding inside crates is an easy positive association to start with. Gradually and with the help of a professional dog trainer, help your dog learn to stay in the crates calmly for a flight simulation - a long car ride in a cage. The more time your dog can safely and calmly spend in their crates before flying, the better.
- ACCLIMATION. Walking your dogs regularly in areas they've never visited before will help them prepare for the adjustment to a new environment. Keep walks positive and fast-paced. Reward curiosity only when it doesn't include pulling on your leash.
- POTTY TRAINING. You'll be required to pad the bottom of your dog's crate with absorbent material. You should give your dog regular access to water until the time of travel. If your dog aren't used to holding it in for the length of transit, they'll need to pee inside. Pad your cages with "pee pads" (potty training pads) and train your dogs, with the help of a professional trainer, to pee on these pads indoors only when the pads are available. This will help avoid discomfort for dogs who wouldn't otherwise pee indoors.
- SEPARATION. Some dogs experience severe distress when left alone. If they must fly, they should get focused separation training with the help of a professional trainer.

How do dogs adjust to a new country?
By experiencing it. Dogs are more adaptable than we are. As long as a primary motivator they know from home (you) is available, they adjust by socializing with new stimuli in calm, pleasant and preferably familiar ways. Long walks are a great start.

Is there any influence to the dietary change resulting from the move abroad?
Bringing bottled water and bags of dog food can help minimize dietary adjustment periods. New food or water should be gradually introduced by mixing it into imported food or water in gradually increasing proportions.

What can I do to ease the adjustment for my dog?
If you plan to leave your dog with a sitter while you go abroad, try to sleep and eat with your dog where they'll be staying a few times prior to departing. Dogs should go to sleepover camp with familiar items from home like their food, toys and beds.
If you bring your dog with you, prepare them behaviorally for flying (with CAPS training, see above). Bring everything your dogs could need. Know the dog service providers (veterinarian, food vendor, groomer, etc.) you'll use at your destination. Socialize your dog when you arrive with numerous walks, even in extreme weather (with your veterinarian's approval). Try to follow routines that your dogs are familiar with from home – such as training, playing and exercise. Exercise your dog often because tired dogs are happier dogs. Pet and praise your dog when they behave calmly. Enjoy your adventure together!

Dave Lorch is an expert on dog training and is the developer of the Positive Dog Training for Humans method. Visit Dave's website on Contact Dave by email ( or Facebook (


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