Going on vacation or immigrating with your dog to Canada is feasible, all you need is a little organization and a few pennies in your pocket. I know what I’m talking about, I did both! My Owain and I have only recently arrived in Canada, and he is discovering the joys of digging tunnels in Quebec snow! For me Canada was first of all the place where I had to go to visit friends. I came to Montreal alone several times to see them, and little by little I fell in love with this city… I came here on vacation 5 times… Then Owain came into my life!
Owain was born on February 25, 2016, at the breeding of Mrs. Thomas: La caverne des Anges. I got him back in May, he was 3 months old. And in October, I was planning another stay in Canada! Owain would then be 8 months old. Let’s get a few details out of the way:
- We are talking about a companion dog, not a service dog or an imported dog for commercial purposes. My advice is only good for those looking to bring their own pet to Canada.
- Pet regulations change from time to time, check updated sources of information when you travel! The best sources of information are the Government of Canada website and your airline’s website
Preparing Your Dog’s Trip to Canada
The Canadian government says it clearly on their website:
The Government of Canada can refuse entry to any animal that does not meet its import requirements.
Flying Your Dog with the Best Airline
When you book your flight, here are the important points to check with your airline company:
- Does it accept animals or not?
- in the cabin or in the hold? In general, your dog will be able to travel in the cabin if his weight (including bag) does not exceed 8kg. Between 9 and 75 kilos, the hold is mandatory.
- Beyond this weight, the dog will have to travel in a cargo plane, separately from its handler.
- Accepts or not the transport of snub-nosed animals? Some companies require freight transport for this type of animal.
Dog plane tickets are generally quite expensive, and depend on the company, the weight of the dog,… For Owain, a 20kg corgi and a 7kg cage, the one-way ticket cost me about 180 euros. Try to book direct flights if you can. A Paris-Montreal flight lasts between 6 and 8 hours. That’s really long and stressful for your dog.
Vet Appointments and Paperwork
Any travelling dog must have received all the required vaccinations according to its age. The most important vaccine is the one against rabies, which must be done. This vaccine takes 3 weeks to be effective, so don’t do it at the last minute before the trip. It should be noted that a puppy under 3 months of age does not require a rabies vaccine (too young), but proof of the puppy’s age must be provided.
The Vet Certificate
Your vet will have to provide you with a certificate that will:
- be written in French or English
- have been issued and signed by a veterinary practitioner
- identify the animal (breed, sex, colour and weight)
- mention that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies
- indicate the date of vaccination
- indicate the trade name and serial number of the licensed vaccine
- specify the duration of immunity (otherwise, the vaccine will be considered valid for one year from the date of vaccination)
When I came to Canada, this certificate had to be issued less than 15 days before the dog’s departure. Don’t forget to make an appointment at the vet! If the dog does not meet the import requirements for rabies certification, you will need to have your have your dog vaccinated against rabies within a specific time frame and provide the vaccination file to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency office. All of this is to be done at the pet owner’s expense.
The fees in case of non-compliance with vaccination rules are high, so don’t take any risks, be in good standing before you leave. Note: Tattooing or microchips are not currently required by the Government of Canada for pets.
Buying an IATA Dog Cage
The transport cage must meet the requirements of your airline, in terms of size, weight, material…. In all cases it must be IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved. You can find such crates in pet stores or online. Your dog should be able to move and turn around in the cage without any problems. We have an article dedicated to the IATA dog cages but sadly, it’s all in French.
A word of advice: pick a cage with wheels! You will be happy to be able to drive it through the airport when you are cluttered with your luggage. BUT these wheels must be easily removable, as they must be removed to allow the dog to enter the aircraft’s hold. So choose a practical system! (personally I got screwed, I had wheels screwed to the bottom of the cage, and I ended up with 4 legs in the middle of the airport to dismantle…)
Get your dog used to the cage before leaving. Make it a normal part of your house. Set it up at home, with one of your dog’s blankets inside. You can also get your dog used to carrying him indoors when travelling by car.
Picking Dog-Friendly Digs
Hotel, AirBnB, chalet or camping, remember to check:
- If the establishment accepts dogs
- If the establishment will charge you extra for your dog (often it is written in a very small amount at the bottom of the page)
- If there is no size limit for accommodations that accept dogs!
And for accommodation that would require you to clean up after yourself, make your life easier: think of the hair brush… you can’t always count on having a vacuum cleaner available.
The Day Before the Trip to Canada
Should You Give Your Dog a Sedative Before a Flight?
If your dog is anxious or restless, your veterinarian may advise you to take a light sedative before departure. I personally didn’t have the use of it, Owain is the most phlegmatic dog, and everything went well. Myriam and Augustin usually give a little pill to their miniature Dachshund prescribed by their vet.
Food and Drink for Dogs Traveling by Plane
Make your dog drink before departure, think of the portable bowl! Similarly, give him its normal ration of food on the morning of departure, nothing more or less to avoid adding additional stress. No food in the cage during the journey. You will not be allowed to bring your dog food with you either due to entry restrictions. You can’t bring in meat, cheese and other things into Canada.
Have your dog do its business at the last possible moment, just before entering the airport.
What Happens at the Airport with Your Dog
You can enter the airport with the dog on a leash. Put it in its cage at the very last moment, when you have to put it on the conveyor belt. When you land, go directly to your airlines’ counter at the airport to seek staff assistance. The employee will ask you for your dog’s flight ticket, vaccination certificate, and give you a document indicating that your dog is being cared for. You will then have to take your dog to the bulky baggage collection section. Another employee will lock the cage with a plastic rope and place it on the conveyor belt to take it to the luggage area… (be sure to have something to cut the plastic rope because nothing is provided at the airport when you land)
Your Dog’s Airport Arrival in Canada
Remember to declare your dog on the customs form that you are given on the plane, or that you are asked to fill in when you enter the airport, in the “transport of live animals” section. Your dog will arrive in the bulky luggage section. The Canadian government does not impose any quarantine on companion dogs! When you get off the plane, if all your papers are in order, you can pick up your dog right away. Be patient, however, as animals usually arrive after checked baggage, it may take a while. Do not take your dog out right away, wait until you have cleared customs and are in the airport exit hall.
Once the dog and luggage have been collected, proceed to the customs office. Show your certificate to the customs officer, who will take you to his office. He will check the vaccination certificate, the identity of the dog, and will charge you $30+taxes for the entry fee to Canada. He will give you papers certifying that you have paid. You are now free to join the airport exit hall and let your dog out of the cage! You will need a good chisel to cut the plastic tie around the cage, bring one in your bag or ask the person picking you up at the airport to bring some!
Once out of the airport, give your dog something to drink and have him do his business. He may not drink anything due to stress, but he should urinate quickly enough. Owain recovered from the trip very quickly, he was quite normal as soon as he got out of the cage, but some dogs may take a little longer to recover… give him 24 hours of calm to recover from his emotions!
Once Your Dog is in Canada
For people strictly on vacation… all you have to do is enjoy your stay! Respect local rules: keep your dog on a leash, and use dog parks to detach and play him. There are many more than in France and they are very popular!
No visit to the veterinarian necessary for the return. All you have to do is go to the Canadian airport with your dog’s plane ticket its paperwork, which are identical to the ones you have on your way there. If you plan to settle in Canada with your dog, be aware that each city requires that the dogs be awarded a medal, which must be worn. You can get this medal at city halls or by mail, check your city’s website for more information. This medal is to be renewed every year.