Tips for Traveling with a Service Dog during the Holidays

Traveling on our own can be difficult, it is even more stressful when traveling for the holidays with our families, now add a service dog to the mix. This is no easy feat. Luckily, there are ways to be able to accomplish this with your service dog successfully. Here are our tips and tricks to traveling with your canine partner with ease.

There are many steps involved when preparing for airline travel with your service dog. Depending on certain factors of your flight, you will need to consider the following: the time of year you plan to travel, if you plan to fly internationally or domestically, and how long you anticipate your in-flight time to be. No matter how long you are traveling or to where, you will be able to learn what to expect, how to be prepared, and what to bring to make your trip and the holidays much easier. Here are the most important things to consider:

Speak To Family Members Prior To Making Travel Plans

It can be difficult planning a visit for the holidays with family individually, now take into consideration your service dog. Some family members may be unsure about how to act around your dog or what arrangements you and your dog may require. Others may be unfamiliar with and unsure of the idea of you having a dog to assist you with your medical disability in the first place. Take the time to speak with your family well in advance about the important role your service dog plays in your life, what accommodations they could provide to make your visit easier and what is and is not appropriate interactions with your dog during your visit.

If you are unsure of where to start, think about what your service dog would typically require and how you can make this easier for your hosts. Using “I will bring…” statements when talking to family members, may make hosting your service dog seem like less of a burden to them. For example, if your dog usually sleeps in a crate or has a special place in their own bed, plan on telling them that you will bring this if you are able to. If your family wishes to have treats to give your dog to make them feel more comfortable, let them know you will bring the treats your dog is used to receiving so there is no concern of an upset tummy with new treats. This way, when you do arrive, you can focus on enjoying your family’s company and spending time with them because you have made your expectations clear and all of the difficult questions have already been answered.

How To Have This Conversation With Family Members:

“This will be my first time visiting your home with my service dog. I would like you to know that she is properly crate trained, she does not cry in her crate nor create other disturbances. I have a bed for her to settle on with something to keep her busy like a toy when she is not working for me. She is properly trained to be unobtrusive in public and with strangers, even in the home. I appreciate your understanding that my service dog makes traveling for me bearable. I will bring anything my service dog will require during our stay myself, so you do not have to worry about a thing. It means so much to me that you care about my safety and well being.”

What To Consider When Visiting Churches and Schools

Many of us, even with a service dog, may be unaware that Public Access rights do not apply to private entities like religious churches and buildings, and private schools. In these cases, it is important to contact the place of worship or private school prior to attending a service. We have linked the ADA Questions and Answers below for your convenience and assistance when approaching this topic with private entities.

Call The Airline Prior to Flight If Traveling Via Air

If you are flying via airplane, it is important to communicate that you will be traveling with a service dog to the airline. The best time to notify the airline that you will be traveling with your service dog is to call at the time of booking your tickets. In the United States, notifying the airline in advance is a courtesy, however, if you are flying internationally or through different countries, the US laws may not apply. When flying with a major airline within the United States, there is not much to be concerned with, as the Air Carrier Access Act does outline that your service dog can accompany you on your flight and there are no further regulations. Remember that the Air Carrier Access Act is the law that gives service dog handlers the public access rights on an aircraft. However, when traveling outside of the country, via airplane or vehicle, there may some additional steps to take and various laws to consider prior to travel. Some airlines may simply need to be aware of the weight of the dog in consideration to the weight of the aircraft, while others may require you to provide a health certificate prior to entering the country of destination following their own animal import laws and regulations. These steps may also be relevant during ground travel in vehicles if traveling internationally., If flying via aircraft, it is helpful to choose seats for you and your service dog while calling the airline just after booking tickets. Depending on the size of your dog, it may be important for you to consider requesting special accommodation in bulkhead seating to ensure extra space. However, keep in mind that service dogs are not allowed to be seated in emergency exit rows. While we know that our assistance dog is able to fly with us, there are reasons like this that make it important to communicate with the airlines ahead of travel.

Determine Ahead of Time How and What To Pack

There can be quite a lot to consider when beginning to pack for your service dog to travel with you. As we are generally still traveling with our own personal items, medical supplies and medications, it is helpful to have a list of supplies to pack for your service dog. A small bag (a diaper bag is a great option) is typically recommended for service dogs, as there are many pockets and storage solutions available, with generally easy to carry handles.

A quick list of what we recommend to pack for your service dog is as follows:

Dogs Folder:

  • Vaccination & Veterinary Record

  • Passport/Travel Health Certificate

  • Training Certificate (This is not required in the United States, but may be when traveling internationally as many countries do not recognize service dogs)

  • Letter from Doctor (This is also NOT required, however can be helpful)

  • Extra Leash and Collar

  • Vehicle Restraint Harness and Extender

  • Two Servings of Food

  • Extra Rolls of Doggie Waste Bags

  • 2-3 Potty Pads with a Sealable Zip-lock Bag for Each (easy disposal)

  • Small, Portable Travel Mat/Towel

  • Small Bag of Favorite Treats

  • Small, Collapsible Water Bowl

  • Empty Reusable Water Bottle (If flying: fill past security)

  • Travel-Sized Grooming Pet Wipes

  • Travel-Size Disinfecting Wipes

  • Pants/Underwear for Intact Females with extra liners (for intact females)

  • Favorite Chew/Toy for Delayed/Long Trips

  • First Aid Kit: gauze pads, vet wrap, styptic powder, Benadryl (Always check with your Veterinarian to ensure any medication is safe and to get a proper dosage for your dog before giving any medication)

This may be a long list, however, each of these items can be potentially necessary. While service dogs are potty trained, they can sometimes get sick, especially during situations of travel. Doggy potty pads and Disinfecting wipes are helpful for managing and cleaning up these types of incidents while grooming wipes are there to clean up your dog if necessary. Having bags you can seal packed for each potty pad allows for easy, sanitary disposal after each use. Many of the items are self-explanatory, but be sure to leave a comment for any questions or further suggestions.

Hanna Bareihs

Smart S.E.N.S.E.S Dog Training

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