Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tips for Traveling with a Service Dog

Traveling with a service dog can be a bit of a challenge at times, but with good planning and knowing what to expect, it should go smoothly.  My husband Allen has had his service dog for almost 3 years now and we have traveled quite a bit with her in tow.  We have learned some tips to help the traveling days go smoother and I was asked to write some of them down.  So, here they are.

Tips for flying with a service dog:

  1.  When making your flight reservations, always inform them that you will be flying with a service dog.  They can not charge you extra for your dog to fly with you, but we have found that it always goes smoother when they are expecting you.
  2. On the day you are going to fly, do not feed your dog!  We always give Frankie a little late night snack the night before just because we feel sorry for her.  But the morning we are going to fly, we do not feed her or give her any water.  That way, if we do not have time to take her out to do her business, she doesn't have much in her tummy to need to go.  As soon as we get to our final destination we have her food and a drink ready.  By doing this, she is able to go the day without having to relieve herself.  It will also reduce the chances of her getting sick for those that are prone to motion sickness.
  3. Call TSA ahead of time to make arrangements with them to help you through security.  The phone number I use is 703-603-1558 or 1-800-427-7890.  Tell them you are going to be traveling with a wounded warrior who has a service dog and will need help going through security.  This has been a life saver for us.  I usually try to call 24 hours in advance.
  4. One of the most important things is to know the ADA laws about service dogs and their access.  We usually carry a copy of the law with us in case we are questioned.  That way we have the law with us, so we are prepared to educate!
  5. Every airport is required to have a place to relieve service dogs.  However, many of these are in a dark corner or very far away from the terminal so we often do not have time between flights to take advantage of them.  We almost always have to exit security and then go through security again to get back in.  So, we try to avoid this at all costs.
For traveling in a car I follow many of the same rules.  If we are not going to be stopping regularly, we often will not feed her the morning we are going to travel.  This helps cut down on stops we have to make.  However, we do still try to stop somewhat frequently so that she has a chance to get out and stretch her legs.  Allen usually has some type of ball with us too so that he can throw her a ball for a few minutes when we do stop.  This helps her get in a little exercise and not be so restless in the car.  Something to always remember, depending on what time of the year you are traveling, the pavement may be really hot or really cold and your dog may not be used to that.  Always keep that in mind, as you do not want to damage your dog's pads on their feet.  This is where their sweat glands are and can cause serious problems if they get burnt or even frost bite.

A great site that has many more tips for traveling can be found at http://www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=492.  One last thing to keep in mind is do not panic if your dog has an accident while out in public.  We have been very lucky with this, but have had one incident in an airport where Frankie did have an accident.  Allen just took the time to clean up after her and it was fine.  As well trained as service dogs are, we do have to keep in mind they are still a dog.  By keeping calm and just cleaning it up, it draws less attention and seems to keep others calm as well.  Even if someone says something, just remember that not everyone has been educated about service dogs.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for providing contact information for TSA. I have traveled extensively with my Service Dog, and even when I have provided my military ID, I've had problems with the TSA. Usually, everyone EXCEPT the TSA is with the program. Most of the time I have been singled out for extra searches, people have attempted to deny me access through security and/or separate me from my dog, etc, all while have I not been afforded extra time to get to my gate! It's amazing how much people don't know.
    I will definitely give your directions to my Service Dog Handlers as well as personally following your advice with the TSA.
    Also, unless you have several hour layovers at the time, you dog will have to relieve himself on a pad in the rest room. If you have a dog that will do that, great for you! For the rest of us who have dogs who thing puppy pads or beds, not toilets, we have a few extra variables to deal with.
    Thanks again!