Importing a dog to Australia
Updated: Sep 3
The process, the costs, the stress.... Whilst I have always wanted to import a dog, the whole process to me was just too scary for various reasons, most of which rooted in fear, paranoia and hearing horror stories - so, importing was put at the back of my mind for my chosen breed, the Great Dane, to me it was just too risky, too much stress and so on. Then, one day I had just come back from looking at a litter of pups (of a different breed) and I was really disappointed, there was nothing there that made my heart sing. I was trying to move away from Great Danes to another breed but my requirement of a dog who could be a show dog and a performance dog meant that I was being restricted, what I wanted in structure and personality just didn't seem possible in the breeds I was drawn to.....until later that afternoon when scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, a photo of a puppy came up that a friend had liked and I was like WOW Yes!!!! It was a breed (Xoloitzcuintle) I had watched for a number of years - to this day, I say that Belmont was universe sent.
Photo: 4 month old Belmont. I didn't know the puppy was for sale initially, I had sent the breeder a message in October of 2021 to just let them know how beautiful I found their puppy. I didn't know the breeder and I had no idea where in the world the puppy was.
We got talking and I learned that the puppy was in the Czech Republic and that he was available for sale and they they have exported before but only to America which the process is very simple. They showed me 4 other male puppies and I wasn't interested in them, Belmont was who caught my attention! The good news was, local breeders who I knew, knew who they were, knew the lines and gave me the confidence to take further steps. I asked them if they would import to Australia, they asked me to find out how that would all work as they knew the rules were tougher than in Europe. The first thing I needed to do was find out how much this would cost and whether I could afford it. I made some enquiries to friends if they knew of a company (Agent) who could take care of the process and give me a quote. I have had friends who had imported before and I knew it was around the $20,000 mark but we were in Covid times and people were telling me it would cost double, well there was no way I would be able to afford that! Thank heavens, it wasn't the case!
The agents fee is $1,500 AUD, they'll take care of the paperwork, communicating with your breeder, preparing the timelines, submitting the import permit, checking paperwork, booking the flight etc. This fee is on top of everything else i.e. permit fee, vet fees, flight, quarantine etc.
For whatever reason, my risk adverse self when it came to importing just flew out the window when I saw this dog, his structure, his expression....it just spoke to me. Could this be a mid-life crisis? Sitting in my driveway was a 21 year old Toyota people mover, she was reliable but had just started to give some hints that her time was nearing, I had been saving to replace her....I wonder if she would last one more year so I could use this money to import the dog?! I decided to take the risk!
Was I being crazy?! Usually people import dogs of breeds they know and love....I was importing a breed I had never lived with, one that was primitive (still exists as a wild dog in its country of origin) and known to be quirky, challenging to train and aloof to people but who were known to love their family hard. I had researched this breed as much as I could, I read every book there was on this breed, I had purchased webinars about living and training primitive breeds, spoken to breeders, sat in a number of online community groups of those who lived with them - I was as ready as I could be, I was going to sink or swim....hopefully the latter!
Whilst I'm finding out the regulations and prices and so forth, the breeder sends me more photos and videos and I fall more in love, they also send me videos of them showing me his teeth/bite, testicles, every part of him - sign me up! Let's do this! And car, you better last at least another year!!!
Now, we need to talk money! Belmont's show handler as shown in the video and photos is also his co-breeder but Belmont lives with another co-breeder - they all have to decide on how this is going to work and what it is going to cost because he can't just get on a plane, because he is from a group 3 country (which relates to its rabies status), there is a protocol to follow and he will not be able to leave until he is 10-12 months of age.
Rabies free countries are called group 1 & 2 countries. Group 1 countries include Cocos (Keeling) Islands, New Zealand & Norfolk Island. You don't even need an import permit when bringing in dogs from NZ or Norfolk Island. Group 2 countries who are rabies free but require an import permit include: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Christmas Island, Cook Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Iceland, Japan, Kiribati, Mauritius, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tonga (Kingdom of), Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna. Group 3 countries are described as approved countries and territories in which rabies is absent or well-controlled and animals from these countries require an import permit to be eligible for import to Australia include: Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia (Republic of), Cyprus (Republic of), Czechia (Czech Republic), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland (Republic of), Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands , Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa (Republic of), South Korea (Republic of), Spain (including Canary and Balearic Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America (excluding Guam and Hawaii), Uruguay, Virgin Islands (British), Virgin Islands (United States of America).
There are countries which you can not import from at all such as India, Mexico and Russia. You can bring in a dog from these countries but they would have to go to an approved country first and spend their post rabies vaccination titer time there (180 days). This means you would have to find someone in that country to care for your dog and do their Vet work and paperwork process.
Belmont's breeders quote me 6,000 Euro ($9,800 AUD at the time of currency conversion), this is to keep Belmont until he leaves and to show him with an aim for 2 Junior Championship titles. The breakdown is 2,500 Euros for the dog and 3500 Euros for boarding and showing.
Some breeders will not charge you for boarding at all, some will charge less than the above and some will charge more. What a breeder has to go through paperwork and Vet wise (let alone the emotional upheaval) to prepare a dog for export is no small feat and they will probably never want to do it again.
Shortly after we start the process with the importing agent, Belmont's breeder contacts me and let's me know they have decided not to go ahead with it, its too much for him to come to the other side of the world - whilst I understand, I am absolutely devastated. I plead my case and ask a local breeder to vouch for me - thank heavens, they agree to send him.
Belmont's breeder whom he lived with spoke Russian - we found the best way for us to communicate was for me to speak English and for her to put my communication through Google Translate - this isn't a perfect system, there will be mis-understandings! A local breeder who had been through the import process before gave me some good advice: Do not use slang or abbreviation, keep your language simple - that is actually harder to do than it sounds, also don't use humour or sarcasm, it will be lost in translation!
The cost of dog and boarding does not include the Vet work that is required to prepare the dog for export. All of my vet work cost 860 Euros ($1,369 AUD).
Step 1 Rabies vaccination, this needs to be done no younger than 90 days (3 months) of age, if it was, it needs to be done again.
Wait 4 weeks and then have blood drawn to be sent to a German Laboratory to perform the Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test otherwise known as the RNAT this takes about 2 weeks.
If the test shows antibodies, then 180 days from the test arriving at the laboratory, the dog can fly to Australia - of course, after other things have been done during that time that are required to prepare a dog for export!
An official government veterinarian (not the dogs regular vet) needs to complete the Rabies and RNAT test declaration.
The RNAT paperwork is infamous for being problematic, every T must crossed, every I must be dotted, if the RNAT paperwork is not completed 100% correct it will be rejected by the team in Australia who issue the import permit and this is what happened to us even though I had an agent who takes care of things. Apparently the paperwork for the RNAT had recently changed so this caused some confusion. Thankfully, the issue was rectified quickly and we didn't have to go to the back of the que again with the import permit team. If you're not using an agent, be sure you read all the rules surrounding what is required at least 5 times.
The dogs microchip must be scanned at every Vet visit and noted especially on official documentation, this can be a common error when preparing a dog for export.
Step 5: It's time to apply for the import permit once your RNAT is sorted, this can be done at least 42 days prior to the proposed fly out date - check this paperwork yourself even if you have an Agent, they can and do miss things. If you are using an Agent, they will prepare and send the import permit paperwork in. The import permit cost $528 AUD.
Step 6: Book Quarantine, if you are using an Agent, they will do this for you. All dogs entering Australia from Group 3 countries must spend 10 days at Mickleham post entry quarantine facility in Melbourne. You cannot visit :( Quarantine cost $1,980 AUD.
Step 7: At least 14 days before export, vaccinations need to be checked to ensure your dog has all the right vaccinations and they were done at the correct times.
Step 8: At least 21 days before export, a government approved Veterinarian must treat the dog with a product that kills ticks and fleas on contact at least 21 days before blood collection for Ehrlichia canis antibody testing. If fleas or ticks are found by the Vet within those 21 days then the 21 days has to start all over again.
Belmont was treated with Frontline spray - I have heard other people have given treatment chews as well as they do not trust Frontline enough. Continuous protection from external parasites must be maintained until the time of export. If quarantine finds ticks or fleas on your dog then there's going to be a problem and your dog is likely going to have to stay in Quarantine longer whilst the problem is rectified.
Step 9: Within 45 days of export, blood needs to be drawn and tested for Ehrlichia canis. Ehrlichiosis is a disease that occurs when a brown dog tick infected with the bacteria, Ehrlichia canis, bites a dog and has recently been found in the Kimberley region of Australia. The test must produce a negative result.
Blood is also taken to test for Brucellosis unless a dog is desexed and produce a negative result. Remember this one, this will cause me issues later on that I'll talk about. It is possible that a dog may be infected by contact with an infected dog or its body fluids. It is likely that infection may be transmitted from an infected dog when it is bred/mated.
Blood will also be taken to test for Leishmania infantum and Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola and produce a negative result.
This round of testing was 6 vials of blood that also included pricks to Blemont's feet - Poor Belmont!
Paperwork will be returned to Vet from the Laboratory to show the results.
Within 5 days of export, another parasite treatment is given and a pre-export clinical examination takes place at the government approved veterinarian or the official government veterinarian. At this appointment, you bring all your paperwork with you.
The veterinary health certificate which is appendix 1 of the import permit is to be completed by the official government veterinarian who must complete, sign and stamp all pages of the veterinary health certificate - things can be missed here, so be sure to check it yourself even if you have an agent. A box was missed on mine and we were alerted to this by the Vet in Quarantine in Australia and needed to be rectified.
A complete detailed list of the import process from a government standpoint can be found here for Group 3 countries.
There's a bit of waiting time between the RNAT and the last blood tests, a perfect time to relax on our end before the stress starts! During this time Belmont was able to become a Junior Champion of France and Slovakia, get a Best in Show at a large show and get a 2nd BIG (Junior) at the European Dog Show!
Booking the flight
I got many grey hairs here! My agent told me that they didn't book flights until 10 days before but as it turned out my flight was left until the last minute and this was problematic and it meant that he couldn't fly out on the proposed date, he was delayed a week and Quarantine had to be re-booked, luckily Quarantine was able to accommodate this.
Payment for the flight was my responsibility to pay an agent in Europe, my agent gave me their quote and how to pay - cue the next problem...
When my agent gave me their quote at the very beginning of this process, I was quoted:
Flight: $4,100 AUD
Crate: $470.00 AUD
Total: $4,4570 AUD
In the end, it cost me $5,787.00 AUD, understandably flights will change in prices over an 8 month period, but what the actual problem was, was that the European agent wanted me to pay via Western Union, the fee alone for this was over $200.00 and their exchange rate was terrible! So be prepared for this to cost extra and try and use Bank transfer where possible!
The next issue was the flight the Agent had booked Belmont on arrived into Melbourne too late in the day so was rejected by Quarantine. Quarantine pick your dog up from the airport and they have operating hours, there are, I believe 2 days per week where they accept after hours flights. So Belmont had to stay in Doha much longer than he should have so he could get on a flight that would be accepted by Quarantine. He ended up arriving on one of those days that they allow later arrivals and for that privilege, I was charged $143.00 AUD which I did not find out about until after the fact.
The local European agent caused me stress as it was all very last minute and my breeder wasn't communicated with in terms of where to go at the airport etc. until the last minute. I was worried that if they weren't communicated with in time, the flight would be missed and I would lose my money that I had paid for the flight. Thankfully that was all sorted in time.
The fly out day finally arrives! Prague to Doha (where he changed over) is a 10.35 hour flight. Belmont's breeder was given instruction when to stop feeding prior to the flight to avoid him toileting in the crate. Anything inside the crate including on the dog such as a collar will be destroyed on entry to Australia so nothing of value should go in there. We choose to include bedding and shredded paper underneath incase he toileted. Water is available at all times.
As he was spending a longer period of time in Doha, they let him out of his crate and into a penned area where he was given food. Belmont's breeder took zip lock sealed bags of food to the airport and these were taped to the top of the crate.
I was given an email address of the Doha Cargo team from a friend who exported a dog recently and the cargo team were great, they let me know he had eaten and toileted and sent me a photo. The Doha facility is very modern!
About 3 hours after arriving in Australia I received notification that Belmont has been checked in Quarantine.
Prior to Belmont arriving, I had contacted the Quarantine team about if I could send a jacket for him, they were very helpful. They do have underfloor heating there but the air is still going to be cool in Melbourne's winter. Because it is quarantine, you aren't going to get your jacket back, it will be destroyed at the end of your dogs stay.
I contacted the team after his arrival just to check on him especially being a primitive breed who may not trust strangers. They let me know he was eating and toileting well but was being wary of the staff and they asked if I had any tips, I said just give him time and that's all he needed, he shortly became playful with them. The team were really good, he got a rash and they sent me an email with photos and asked if I would like them to do anything.
I have heard from others who have imported that you shouldn't expect much if any communication from the quarantine team unless there is an issue so I was careful not to be annoying and to be thankful and polite.
Shortly after arriving in Quarantine, the Vet contacts myself and my agent to let us know that Belmont's Vet did not tick a box to say he had not been used at stud, this means that Belmont was not compliant! This missed box was an issue because of the disease Brucellosis which can be sexually transmitted Eeeek! Thankfully this was an easy fix, Quarantine contacted Belmont's Vet and he was able to tell them this was an oversight and that he had not be used at stud. If he had been used at stud then this would have been problematic.
After 10 days, you can go and pick your dog up or have them flown to you. I chose to have Belmont flown to us as I wanted him to arrive early in the day so we could have him meet and greet our dogs and settle in with enough time before night fall.
The night before he arrives, I was looking at the email from the transport company to see what the address was to pick him up, I see they have booked him to fly to Newcastle not Sydney, this was after business hours that I see this...eeeeek! So now I think I'm going to have to drive to Newcastle to get him and arrive back late in the day. Thankfully, our Agent who had booked the transport company got in touch with them and had it changed at the last minute! Again, don't trust people with the details, always check them yourself! Lesson learned! In hindsight, it all makes sense as the flight cost me just shy of $800 and I couldn't understand why it was so expensive! I actually still need to contact them for a partial refund!
The day came to pick Belmont up from Sydney Airport, so many big feelings! Nervousness, apprehension and excitement all wrapped into one so when I saw his crate being wheeled out and they said my name, I cried.
Belmont was happy to jump in the car and set off on the short trip home to meet his new fur brother and sister!
Belmont has now been home for 2 weeks and I'm so in love with him.
Was he worth the $21,897.34 AUD? Absolutely, what's money for if it's not to spend on beautiful dogs that bring you joy?!
So, what about that 21 year old car? Well, she started to display more signs that she wasn't going to make it so I had to replace her earlier than I had hoped......living on 2 minute noodles isn't so bad...
My lessons from importing a dog....
People will think you're crazy....screw them, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life hahaha
It will cost you more than what you planned for.
Double check all the paperwork even if you have an agent.
Know everything might not go to plan.
A dog having to spend 10 days in Quarantine doesn't sit well with breeders, this might be a deal breaker for them. How I put it forward was that it was just 1.5 weeks, similar to if they went to a kennel if you went on holiday.
People will tell you all the horror stories of importing and quarantine that they've heard - I don't know why they do this, tell me positive things, I'm already stressed!
It's likely the dog will be a bit shell shocked coming out of quarantine but if they have good genetic temperament, they should recover just fine with your love, time and safe socialisation.
I was so incredibly lucky to have found a breeder who absolutely adored the dog I was importing, treated him like a much loved companion and did everything she could even in the face of covid restrictions, snow and war.
Our plan now is just to keep getting to know one another, provide him safe socialisation which he is taking like an absolute pro, do foundation training etc.
We are not rushing into the show ring, I couldn't imagine doing that especially with a primitive breed - let's get to know one another first and build a relationship so you trust me.
His papers just arrived from his breeder so they need to be sent off to have TWO! words translated otherwise Dogs NSW won't accept it to register him in Australia.
If you are curious about the Xolo breed and how Belmont is going, head here
---- Update - 3 months after arrival In the rescue dog world, we use the rule of THREE which is 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months - at each of these milestones the dog settles in more. The first three weeks is generally the honeymoon period and three months you can largely consider them to have settled in, hence why I have chosen to do an update at three months.
I never thought the language barrier with a dog was a real thing, after all, they don't listen in sentences from what they tell us but just pick out key words. It was, it was a challenge, 3 months on, he just starting to work it out pretty well now.
Whilst I knew getting an entire male at 12 months of age could be challenging - I think it was further compounded by not having a previous relationship with the dog in question. A hormonal teenager who wants to make love to a 2cmx2cm patch of grass a bitch in season wee'd on at dog show and then continuing to whine and making distracting noises in the ring and be completely unfocussed because he couldn't find her/have her is definitely something to work through!
After about a month of arriving, I started to work with a friend for show training, one on ones. What became evident was that Belmont didn't understand what I was doing or asking him to do. Whilst he had been lightly shown in Europe, the handling style was different, it was quite food heavy and can be quite hands off. In Australia, we do not generally offer food to a dog until after the judge has checked the mouth, so Belmont had to learn a different style and this was hard on him, he didn't want to participate in something that didn't benefit him as much - we met in the middle and we continue to work on it. Whilst at home, I can do almost anything to him stacking and show wise, when put in an arousing environment with bitches in season and just a lot of energy including aggressive small dogs trying to attack him through their crates and trolleys, it's a lot harder for him especially at this hormonal age which also coincides with the 2nd fear period dogs experience at this age.
So, whilst my friends thought I'd just be able to walk into the ring with him no problems, that wasn't the case at all, I wasn't expecting the challenges either but would it really be fair if I had it that easy? haha!
Before getting Belmont into the ring here in Australia, I had to go through a process of re-registration which means I needed to register Belmont with my States registration body which is Dogs NSW. Because Belmont's pedigree wasn't 100% in English, I had to get it translated, this cost $120.00 with a company called Lexigo - I sent that translation along with his original pedigree, the re-registration form & proof he'd been at quarantine (his departure letter) to Dogs NSW and in 5 days, I had his Australian pedigree. I did have to end up sending it back to get his junior European titles added to it though but Dogs NSW did that for free.
His first shows were Spring Fair which was 2 months after arriving - these 3 shows gave me a lot of....what we'll call "information" to go home with to work on. Each show he has been better at and just yesterday (11.09.22) we had the non-sporting dog show which was a double show he won a Junior in show at one of the shows after being on his best behaviour! He however, was wild and noisy with him whining loudly in the other show - so whilst he is inconsistent, he is still improving each time.
An exhibitor that hasn't been introduced to me yet told me yesterday that I needed to get on-top of his behaviour and I shouldn't feed him (treats in the show ring) as it's making him worse....damn....did I just get told off? LOL Coming into a new breed can be a little confronting but I have to admit after 15 years of showing Great Danes, I hadn't expected to be told off but I'll presume it came from a good place hehe
Thankfully the day was topped off with lot's of lovely complimentary comments from other exhibitors and judges about Belmont - I'm sure we're all looking forward to him getting his shit together.
So, if you're in the non-sporting ring and you hear a weird sound that sounds like it might be a dog from within the ring and it seems to get louder...I'm sorry, that's probably Belmont but know we are working on it and hopefully in time (in the near future!) it will be a thing of the past!
Living with the naked one He really is such a kind & loving dog. He is a perfect fit for our existing dogs - if anything, this was going to be the most important aspect of bringing in a new dog, not him behaving perfectly in the show ring.
Training Belmont is an interesting dance of creating FOMO and thinking outside of the box to get them interested enough to do the weird thing the human wants them to do....ask me in a year how we're going there but at least he is now sitting which he refused to do before without pressure.
He is an incredibly affectionate dog who loves you with every fibre of his being and I love this naked crazy dog back and I'm incredibly grateful the universe sent him.
One year on.... Lot's of relationship building and figuring each other out, Belmont and I are now working nicely together for the most part in the show ring and he achieved his Australian Championship title and lot's of frilly ribbons along the way.
Belmont has also achieved his Endurance Test (ET) title in the last year with absolute ease.
He's just 1 pass off achieving his Trick Dog Starter title, he achieved high scores in his first 2 trials with a 59.5/60 and a 58/60 + earning himself a 3rd place amongst a sea of working breed dogs.
Belmont also achieved his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title, show casing our relationship, his training & temperament in a range of different situations.
Belmont has also commenced his agility foundation training and is doing well, our goal is that this time next year, he'll be be ready to trial.
We're working on our Rally training too, I'm enjoying seeing how much he progresses each time - this sport is a bit more challenging for him because it requires a good dose of focus.
He's loving his scent work training and is progressing well, our goal is that in about a year he's ready to trial.
We've done a lot in one year and I look forward to seeing him develop more and what he really likes and excels in - right now we're enjoying spending the time together and just having a bunch of fun along the way.
I have met some amazing people in the breed over the last year who have been very giving of their time and very supportive and as you would expect, there are others that seem to look forward to you or your dog to failing in some way vs just wanting the best for you and your dog in this new breed experience. Being new to a breed as I have said before can be challenging/confronting but you seemingly increase that when you have an import, so don't be surprised when you hear that you apparantly have an aggressive dog or for people to get on their high horse about the faults of your dog...perhaps that is insecurities on their behalf, I don't know but, they can do them and I'll do me.