Traveler's Test

Traveling with a Service Dog: 4 Tips

Traveling with a Service Dog: 4 Tips

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There was a time when you left Fido at home if you wanted to fly internationally. But thanks to advances for people with disabilities secured by the ADA, people with service dogs can travel, and more dog owners are traveling with their canine companions than ever. 

If you have travel planned for the future, or you’ve always wanted to visit an exotic locale, think about orienting your trip around your dog. They can be your traveling companion and a vital source of assistance, but they have specific needs too. 

Before you take your service dog on a plane, there are some tips you should know to make the experience more accessible for yourself and your companion. Here are the top 4 tips for traveling with a service dog.

1. Notify the Airlines

The first thing you must do is check with your airline. While the ADA protects the rights of people with disabilities to fly on all US airlines, if you’re going out of the country, the rules might not be the same. Airlines can have varying regulations when it comes to traveling with animals.

One thing you can do is register your service dog to make the process smoother. You can visit a website like servicedogregistration.org to find out how you can register your dog.

If you’re reading this and have an emotional support dog instead of a service dog, note that the rules are different. New TSA regulations have established stricter guidelines that can leave out emotional support animals from protection. 

2. Make Sure They Get a Bathroom Break

When passengers see you boarding with your dog, the first thing they’ll think is how it’s going to get a bathroom break. Nobody wants to see, hear, or especially smell that for hours at a time onboard. 

Make sure you give your dog a low-liquid diet days before travel. That will temporarily shrink their bladder to a point where they’ll be able to go hours without needing a break. 

Before boarding the plane, allow the animal to relieve itself one final time. Most airports have an animal relief area inside the terminal. 

3. Talk to Your Vet

Always check in with your veterinarian before putting your service dog through anything as stressful as a first-time flying experience. Dogs aren’t able to understand what’s going on inside an airplane. The cramped quarters can be scary to them. 

Some vets recommend light sedatives, but others strongly recommend against giving your dog a sedative. Speak with your trusted vet for personalized advice.

4. Ask about Boarding Early

Airlines allow early boarding for people with disabilities, but if you don’t have a visible disability, they might not realize that you can benefit from this, too. 

It can be awkward fitting a career down the aisle of an airplane. Even if you don’t have early boarding privileges, ask the airline attendant if you can board early. For their own sake, they may want to get you on the plane first to avoid the commotion it may cause if you board last with your service dog.

Keeping Your Pet Happy

The most important thing to focus on is your support animal’s state of mind. 

Dogs don’t process events the same way we do. They’re much more sensory creatures who are prone to fright and shocks.

Check in with your vet and develop an action plan for traveling with your dog, including registering it and carrying all necessary documentation. You can never plan too far in advance.

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