Bringing your dog to Canberra: Six top tips

A cockerpoo dog relaxing in the sun

Finding a home that would take Mr Pup influenced our choice of neighbourhood.

It’s been a long haul to get Mr Pup from Denmark to Canberra, but a few days after his homecoming, he seems to be settling in nicely.

In response to my last post, I was asked by the nice people at Canberra Your Future to offer some tips for new migrants who want to bring their dog to Canberra, so here goes.

Plan a long way in advance
The Emigration Checklist published in each issue of Australia and New Zealand magazine advises that, six months before migrating, you should check your pets are fully inoculated and fit to travel. In our experience, six months before departure is already too late. Ideally, you need to start planning 12-18 months before departure, largely because of the process for getting your pet vaccinated against rabies and the subsequent blood testing requirements.

Double, triple and quadruple-check every word of the regulations
Just one word in the animal import regulations cost our dog an extra three weeks in quarantine (and our bank balance significantly more). Read the regulations carefully, make notes so that they are clear in your head, then double check them with your vet and, if in doubt, make a direct call to the Australian Department of Agriculture to clarify anything you don’t fully understand.

Check how dog-friendly your house and neighbourhood will be
Rental houses that welcome dogs are as hard to find as a contact lens in a bowl of marbles, so bear that in mind if you’ll be renting when you first arrive. In addition, Canberra has some very specific rules about where you can take dogs, where they need to be on a lead and where you can let them run freely. This information, in the form of shaded and colour coded maps, is freely available on the web and it’s worth checking out as you research potential places to live. If your dog absolutely must be exercised off the lead each day, then you’ll want to live near an area that allows this, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time commuting to and from your dog walk. Our local offerings are pretty limited, but the options wider afield are spectacular, and include forest walks, swimming holes and spectacular scenery.

Remember to register your dog with the local authority
Dogs in the ACT have to be registered. It’s a one-off process for a small fee, but it means your dog is given a registration number, which must be displayed in their name tag, and can be tracked back to you if they ever get lost or cause a nuisance. It’s been a long time since they had dog licences in the UK, and there was no dog registration system in Denmark, so I’d imagine this might take a few people by surprise.

Plan the homecoming process
If you’re moving to Canberra, the chances are you’ll opt for the Eastern Creek quarantine facility, which is a three-hour drive away in Sydney’s suburbs. Bear in mind that dogs are released at a specific time each day and as soon as their quarantine period ends. So, if you want to collect your dog at a weekend, you’ll have to synchronise their arrival to ensure a weekend release. Release times are first thing in the morning, so if you want to avoid a dawn drive, you might have to book a hotel of B&B nearby and travel the night before. You’ll have to take away your dog’s travel crate or you’ll be charged a disposal fee. These crates are usually pretty big so, in our case, we had to fold down the rear seats in our car to fit it in. This meant that there wasn’t room in the car for the whole family to go and fetch him.

Make home feel like home
Finally, any belongings you dog had in his cage will have been destroyed. Likewise, it’s unlikely that your old doggy-smelling belongings will clear customs when your furniture arrives (and anyway, that might be a few months off) so consider whether you’ll need to have a new bed, toys and other paraphernalia ready and waiting so your dog can settle into his new home quickly.

Mr Pup’s still getting used to all the new smells and noises of Canberra, but his daily walks to drop off and collect the kids from school are proving a highlight – after all, what dog wouldn’t want to be fussed over by a playground full of kids?

You might also want to look at my previous posts on the whole process of exporting a dog to Australia, the process of finding a suitable rental house, on how a missed detail caused an extended quarantine, and how Mr Pup spent his first day in his new home.

The ACT government publishes an online interactive map showing which areas allow dogs and where they can be exercised off a lead.

They also publish the rules for keeping dogs in the ACT, which include mandatory de-sexing of dogs over six months old, and the ned to gain special permission to keep four or more dogs.

There’s also a great booklet on country walks, each of which is given a set of information icons showing, amongst other things, whether dogs are allowed. (PDF download)

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