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International travel with a large dog: What to expect

Large dog breeds need special care and preparation while travelling overseas. Relocating large and giant dog breeds such as Great Danes, Neapolitan Mastiffs, or Siberian Huskies to a different country involves a little more planning than smaller breeds. It is not impossible to fly with these breeds, read on to understand how you can make their international trip more comfortable.

Custom dog crates

Perhaps the most important aspect of travelling with a large dog is selecting the right crate. Airline regulations demand that the crate is IATA compliant. The crate must be sturdy and rigid, have ventilation on all four sides, and be large enough for your dog to be able to stand and turn around comfortably.

Giant and extra-large dog breeds may find that normal-sized travel crates are not big enough and you will need to get a custom crate made especially for your large dog. The custom crate must be crafted using your dog’s measurements and must comply with all IATA regulations. If you find that the extra-large crate is just a few inches small, you can consider crate extensions to add a few inches. It is best to confirm with the airline first whether crate extensions are acceptable.

It is imperative to get the right crate for your large dog. How comfortable he or she is on the flight depends largely on the crate. Airlines strictly will not let your pets board the plane if the crate is not the correct size or if it is not IATA compliant. If you are unsure about the right crate, contact a professional pet relocation service for expert advice.

Begin crate training early

Crate training is making your pet comfortable inside the crate. Your pet must associate the crate with happy and positive memories. It is advisable to get the crate much earlier than your travel date and make sure your pet is accustomed to the crate using positive crate training techniques.

Large dogs take a little longer to get used to the crate and the earlier you begin crate training, the better it is. When your large dog is comfortable inside the crate for extended periods of time, he or she will be comfortable during the flight, no matter how long the duration.

Speak to the vet

A healthy dog is the best traveller; he or she can take the rigours of international travel with great ease. Before you start your travel plan, let the vet assess the health of your giant dog. If your dog is obese, work with your vet to bring him or her to a healthy weight. Make sure your dog is healthy and fit, and has all his vaccinations in order before embarking on the journey.

Fly with a pet-friendly airline

While flying with a large dog, it is always recommended to fly with a pet-friendly airline that has experience in handling and transporting large dogs. The aeroplane must have a cargo hold big enough to accommodate the giant crate, and it is critical that the cargo hold is climate-controlled.

Try not to schedule the flight during peak hours and holidays. It is best to book a direct flight and avoid layovers. If you must have a layover, try keeping it as short as possible. If you are planning to travel in the summer, schedule your flight early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid extreme temperatures. Similarly, in winter afternoon flights are recommended for the same reason.

If you are not sure which airlines to book with and how to schedule the flight so it is comfortable for your large doggy, contact a pet relocation service for help.


Dehydration and heat exhaustion during the flight are real risks for large breeds, especially large brachycephalic breeds. Remember to hydrate your doggy in the 48 hours before the trip. Attach a bottle of water to the door of the crate for your doggy to drink from during the flight. Alternatively, you can freeze water in the bowl and then attach it to the crate in warmer climates which will also be less messy during the trip.

Sedatives and tranquilizers

Do not give your large dog sedatives or tranquilizers before the flight. Sedatives and tranquilizers elevate the risk of heart and respiratory problems in dogs at high altitudes. Giant breeds, especially brachycephalic breeds, are extremely susceptible to respiratory distress during the flight and should not be sedated under any circumstances.

Banned and restricted breeds

Most countries have a restricted or banned breeds list, and dogs on that list are not allowed entry into the country. Before making your travel plans, check if your doggy is on the list for the country you are travelling to. Commonly banned breeds are Brazilian Mastiff, Japanese Tosa, American Pit Bull Terrier and Pit Bull Terrier breeds, Presa Canario, and Argentinian Mastiff.

Get professional help

Relocating to a different country with a large dog can be a tough ask, especially if you are unaware of airline regulations. Ensuring every requirement is met is crucial for the comfort of your dog, and failure to comply could lead to the airline refusing to board your dog. Still confused or unsure about how to travel internationally with a large dog? Reach out to Petraveller, and we'll draft a comprehensive travel plan for your large doggy.