Importing a Puppy from Outside the USA
For quite a few years I considered importing a puppy from outside the USA. I personally feel it is important to bring fresh blood into the US from outside our borders. The co-efficiency of inbreeding has become so high in the US that I believe more breeders should take into account the many quality dogs that are outside the US. The following information is based on my own experience.
Importing a puppy is not that complicated. In fact, it is not that much more difficult than flying domestically with a puppy in cabin. The most difficult part about importing a puppy is finding a breeder whom you trust and that you feel has the same breeding and puppy raising goals in mind as yourself. There are many breeders outside the US who completely health test and temperament test their breeding stock. All you need to do, is start asking around and talking to people. Fortunately Facebook allows us to make those connections and begin to build a relationship. There are several International Stud Dog and International Puppy Announcement Facebook pages. I would start there, by looking through to see if you find any dogs that are interesting or that are the type that you prefer. If you have questions about a particular dog, don't be afraid to reach out to the breeder. Most breeders are happy to answer questions about their dogs.
If you make contact with a breeder, ask if they have previously imported any dogs to the US. If so, ask if they would be willing to put you in contact with that person so you can see their dog in person, or at least reach out to them and ask about the health and temperament of their dog. You can also ask about their experience with the foreign breeder and the communication during the process.
If a foreign breeder knows you are looking for something in particular, they will sometimes try to work with you on decisions such as picking out a stud dog for their litter. Ask them about showing titles and performance titles the same as you would any US breeder. Most countries offer some sort of temperament test though their kennel club, also ask if their dogs have been tested and passed as that is typically a pretty good indicator of temperament. One thing you will find outside the US, is that most foreign kennel clubs do not allow registration of directly related dogs, or dogs that have a high COI.
Once you have found a breeder that you feel has your best interest in mind, it is important to tell them about yourself, how long you have owned the breed, and what you are interested in doing with your pup, the same as you would a US breeder. This will help the breeder choose the best puppy to fit what you are looking for in terms of conformation and performance. Ask if the litter will be temperament tested and ask how the litter will be exposed to new and novel items as they grow. Ask about conformation evaluations and how they will choose the best puppy for you.
Once the litter is born, typically they will be registered. Registration works a little different in some countries, and for some, each puppy must be named and registered prior to leaving the breeder's home. Once the litter is a couple weeks old and you have worked with the breeder and decided that there will be a puppy for you, you need to decide if you will fly with the puppy, or if the breeder will ship the puppy to you (some breeders prefer you fly with the puppy). I personally prefer to fly to where the puppy is so that I have a chance to spend some time with the breeder, the litter, and the dam to ensure the puppy I am bringing home is truly the best puppy for me. This affords you the chance to build a rapport with the breeder as well. This also allows the puppy to fly in the cabin with you on the way home (less traumatizing). There are also some options of using a puppy transporter to bring the puppy to you, but that is however more costly, and more recently restrictions have increased for pet transporters importing dogs to the US to curb the import of rescues.
Before purchasing your airline ticket, ensure you talk to the breeder and ask about any flying restrictions such as requirements for a direct flight (i.e. from Denmark I was not allowed to land in any other European country due to rabies restrictions (Denmark is rabies free)). I highly advise you use an airline that the breeder suggests and then ensure that the airline allows flying with a pet in the cabin. After making your reservation, contact the airline right away to pay for the return pet fee from the country you are importing from. Also ensure your domestic connecting flights allow pets, and pay those fees as well. Set up any car rentals or hotel stays so you won't need to rush at the last minute.
Ensure you are working with the breeder so that your puppy is fully examined by a veterinarian and you are provided the required paperwork, including the pet passport to bring your puppy into the US. For a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, I would say the maximum age to fly in cabin with you is 9 weeks. After 9 weeks the puppy will be outside of the maximum weight restrictions. So work with the breeder to ensure you are there in that 8-9 week window of time. For countries that have rabies restrictions (coming into the US), you will have to wait until the puppy is old enough to be vaccinated for rabies, and the puppy will have to be flown in cargo.
Before you leave the US, ensure you are innately familiar with all requirements from the USDA and Customs. Make sure you print off all the requirements and that the breeder understands what the pet passport needs to have in it to bring the puppy into the US. Also, before you leave ensure that you have a good way to communicate with the breeder such as Facebook messenger, as most US phones will not work in foreign countries.
Be prepared to fly back with your puppy by purchasing a soft-sided travel bag before you leave the US. Also ensure you purchase a small brightly colored martingale collar with your phone number on it and a leash. Bring some puppy pee pads with you, possibly something for the puppy to chew on, and be sure to line your pet travel bag with an absorbent hospital pad in case your puppy gets motion-sickness, or has an accident in-flight.
Puppies do amazingly well on flights. I have flown both domestically and internationally to bring puppies home. Since everything is new and scary, they are typically pretty quiet and will sleep much of the flight. I do offer water, but I do not feed until we are home (unless you have a very long domestic layover). Mostly this is because I want to try and avoid poop blowouts in flight. During the flight, make sure to take breaks to the lavatory, spread out your pee pads, and let the puppy pee if he wants to (some will, some won't). You can also do this after you land at the airport by using the handicapped stall in the airport bathroom.
Once you are home, make sure not to forget about the breeder. Send them lots of photos and keep in touch with them regularly. Just like US breeders, they want to know that have made the right decision for their puppies.
Faroe during our Denmark trip.