How to Make Your Dog Comfortable When Traveling Overseas

Bringing your dog along for the move to another country is a scary thing. But if you think it’s scary for you, it’s worse for your dog. There are...
international pet travel

Bringing your dog along for the move to another country is a scary thing. But if you think it’s scary for you, it’s worse for your dog. There are a lot of unfamiliar noises and sensations they will experience and they won’t understand exactly what is happening. If you look online you will find horror stories of runaway dogs, dogs getting left in the hot sun on the tarmac, and captains forgetting to put the hold under temperature control.

Now that I have sufficiently scared you, I am here to tell you not to worry. Thousands and thousands of dogs travel internationally every day, and the chance of something happening to your dog along the way are about equal to the chance of your plane crashing. So if your doggy goes, it probably means you’re going together.

That being said there are a few things you can do before, and during, travel to make your dog as comfortable as possible.


Buying an Airline Approved Cage

Spend the money to get a high quality cage with a 4-way locking mechanism. Make sure you are buying an airline approved cage that has breathing holes on all 4 sides. Check the inside of the cage to make sure there is nothing sharp or sticking out that could potentially hurt your dog.


Familiarizing your Dog with the Cage

You want to get the cage at least two weeks before you leave, preferable a month, and have your dog start sleeping in it. You don’t have to lock him in there, but if you start giving him treats and toys inside of it, he will begin to associate it with good things. After he gets used to having treats inside the cage, put his bed inside and he will most likely just start sleeping in there on his own. You want the dog to be familiar with the cage long before travel time.


Preparing for Traveling with your Dog

Write your contact information on the outside of the cage in permanent black marker on multiple sides and put a copy of all your dogs vaccination records along with a picture of him or her inside a zip-lock bag and tape it to the top. You can buy a travel water bottle at most pet stores that will attach to the door of the crate. You’ll also want to start giving your dog some water from the water bottle leading up to the trip so you can be sure they know how to use it. The day before the trip, freeze the water bottle to help prevent your dog from drinking it too quickly. A week before the trip, you should start sleeping with an old t-shirt or some other cloth that you are willing to leave in your dog’s cage during the trip. After sleeping with it for a week, it will pick up your scent and comfort your dog when he is on the airplane.


Traveling Day with your Dog

Either put your dog’s bed or a nice thick blanket in the bottom of the cage to keep them warm and comfortable. You can’t give your dog any food, treats, or bones inside their cage on the day of travel because you don’t want any chance they will choke. So no chew toys either. Feed your dog a good sized meal a few hours before traveling then, after they have had a chance to digest it, take them for a walk. If you feed them right before you put them in the cage, they will probably wind up having an accident during the trip. Feel free to give them a few small treats at the airport and just before you leave them with airline staff. Make sure you have all your documents in order with copies of everything stored in another bag.


Getting your Dog Ready for Travel

Give your dog lots of exercise leading up to the travel day and, if possible, on the travel days as well; you want them as tired and relaxed as possible during the trip. Best case scenario they sleep though most of the flight. Unless specifically directed otherwise by your vet, under no circumstances should you give them any sedatives. Almost all vets agree that doing so is more dangerous for your dog than the stress of the trip.

That’s it. You’ve done all you can do. While I know that is easy for me to say and it doesn’t make you feel any better, just know that I understand and I went through it myself. It’s not as complicated as you think and you’re dog is way tougher than you are. He or she will be fine. Soon you and your best friend will be living happily in your new home country.



Brett Dvoretz

A long time traveler and recent expat, Brett wandered through over 25 countries before he decided to settle in the little beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. After struggling through the process of setting up a new life abroad, he decided to start Expats and Aliens to help other expats find the info they need before making the leap.

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Shelby Pawlus
    24 January 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Hi, my husband was just stationed in Japan for two years and of course we want to bring our fur baby. Do you have any advice for me? She scares easily and I’m super worried.

    • Brett Dvoretz
      20 May 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Buy the cage a few weeks to a month before you leave so that your pup can get used to it. I would also start feeding her inside of it so she associates it with good things. Most importantly, learn how to do a home quarantine before taking your dog to Japan. This process must be started 6 months before you go to Japan, but it allows you to avoid having your dog stay in quarantine once you arrive.