From our struggles to our triumphs, Zala and I have learned the harsh reality of navigating the globe with an International Dog. Size, weight, and breed are very important factors to consider before you select your future travel companion.
Small dog breeds are the easiest to travel with. Many airlines allow small dogs (and cats) to fly in the cabin with their passenger. Quite a few hotels allow small dogs or are easily persuaded to make an exception. Many trains, buses, and metros (particularly in Europe) allow small dogs to ride free if they remain in their carrier. Little dogs often slip under the radar (pun intended) and are allowed places no other dog can go. For example, the opera in Monaco is open to dogs under 5lbs. Our friend Montecristo Travels is a fantastic resource for individuals who wish to travel with their small dogs.
Medium dog breeds can be transported in a cost effective manner contrary to popular belief. I distinguish between medium and large breeds because many airlines have a weight cut off at 32kg for pets transported as checked luggage. A travel blog called Let’s be Nomads has flown their Entelbucher Mountain Dog for free on airlines that allow pets to be counted towards the checked luggage allowance. When traveling to off the beaten path destinations, expect the aircrafts to be smaller and transportation options to be limited for big dogs. For example, Bangkok Airways cannot accept dog crates exceeding 80cm x 45cm x 65cm on their ATR 70 aircraft. Also, certain cities are starting to implement policies again large dog breeds. Beijing and Shanghai only allow one dog under 14inches tall per person within the city.
Large dog breeds are the most challenging dogs to travel with. This is the category my 70lb Dutch Shepherd fits into. There are not many resources available for travellers with large dogs simply because most people believe it cannot be done. Airlines that charge by weight are not reasonable for travellers on a budget. The best option for big dogs are airlines that charge a flat rate such as Airfrance, KLM, Delta and a few others. The purpose of this website is to not only to provide a fresh perspective on travel destinations but to become a resource for travellers with large breed dogs.
Traveling with a big dog requires extra work and the ability to think outside the box. This may mean part of your journey may be by air and the other part by ground due to airline restrictions. You may watch a small dog ride for free on your train ride from Lyon to Milan knowing your dog’s ticket cost the same as yours. Accommodations will be difficult to find in certain cities and countries, but writing personable messages and providing dog references can sway guesthouses and hotel owners. Zala and I have had the most success finding accommodations via unorthodox places such as airbnb, couchsurfing, and Facebook. Yes, Facebook, it is our secret to finding accommodations in Thailand. Many small guesthouses do not have websites, but they do have Facebook pages.
Dog breed is also an important factor to consider. Certain dog breeds are more limited than others. Snubbed-nosed dog breeds such as boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are not allowed to fly on several airlines.
These dogs are prone to breathing complications due to their short muzzles. They do not breathe as efficiently as dog breeds with normal length snouts which makes cooling off when overheated or stressed more difficult. Short nosed breeds are more vulnerable to changes in temperature and air quality in a cargo hold. Although the they receive the same quality of pressurized air as passengers in the cabin do, air circulation is not as ideal for a dog inside of a crate.
Because these breeds are statistically more prone to health complications or even death on air flights, some airlines do not allow these breeds on board. Travellers with a snubbed-nosed dog will be limited in airline choices. Do not let this stop you from owning and traveling with a dog that fits within this category. Just be aware of the individual limitations of your dog and always put their health and safety first. If your dog is easily stressed or has known breathing problems, do not put your dog at risk on a flight.
“Aggressive” dog breeds are restricted and banned in many countries. Some airlines simply will not fly breeds that carry this label regardless of the importing country. These lists vary but always (sadly) include Pit Bulls. Pit Bull is a generalized term for breeds labeled as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and any mix breed that matches the phenotype (appearance) of a Pit Bull. In addition, accommodations around the world may have restrictions against these breeds. Below is a basic list of restricted dog breeds. Please be aware this list varies among different countries, provinces, and states.
Owning a dog that is labeled as aggressive can make travel complicated, but be aware some countries merely have restrictions on the breed. This means extra paperwork and acquiring a license for your dog in countries such as Spain. Dogs such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are often listed among the top dog breeds reported for bites. Poodles and Dalmatians are known as aggressive dog breeds yet none of these breeds are put on these ban lists. Be informed and take care not to get wrapped up in the media circus surrounding some of these “dangerous” breeds. Support punishing the deed not the breed. Most dog attacks are a reflection of the owner not the dog breed itself.
I want to give a special thank you to one of our readers who posed this question to us. I hope this provides insight to those hoping to travel with their dog and also those who are looking to select the perfect companion to explore the globe with.