I love traveling on exciting expeditions with my service dog, Wynter.
While we have done road trips from the East coast to the west, extended day trips, and overnights. But until recently, Wynter and I have never had the chance to fly together. I often fly with my husband and daughter, choosing to leave my service dog home on her own vacation away from the stress of air travel. But this time she and I were on our own.
Planning For A Smooth Trip
Wynter is amazing. She's alert, smart, and always keeping her eye on me. So planning this trip was something I knew she could do, but I planned ahead to be sure she was as comfortable as possible.
After contacting my airlines and letting them know I was traveling with a service dog, I was happily surprised at how smoothly I was able to book our flight. Because she is a larger dog, we chose to upgrade my ticket to first class and the bulkhead seat, so she had more room. Although she tucks in nice and tight under most seats, this flight was a long one and I also wanted to make sure I wasn't holding my feet off of her and cramping up.
Vet Check Is A Must
Next, I took her in for her pre-flight physical exam. As always she got a clean bill of health and updated shot records. Both are needed for her travel. In this exam, the vet checks her heart, makes sure she is physically ready for a long working day.
Flying is not easy for dogs. This isn't a fun trip to the dog park. It is exhausting and very stressful. So if you are just taking your dog along because you think it will be fun to go on vacation with your pet, love your dog enough to get a good dog sitter and leave them home.
After being cleared to fly and getting her flight clearance form filled out by our vet, we were ready to go.
Training Is A MUST
Wynter's “down stay” is great and I knew she was small enough to wiggle down under the seats, but I am glad we moved to the front to give her more room.
But there is more to flying with a service dog than just getting on the plane. You have to consider the long lines getting into security, hectic travel rush, and lots of strange noises that most dogs have never heard before.
Wynter has been working for almost 9 years, and for the first time, she heard the “Whoosh” of subway air-brakes, and it actually scared her. I know she's getting older and her time to retire has been here a while. She works less and less each year. But I had no idea that this sound would make her so upset. I felt terrible.
Once we got to the gate, she was fine and ready to settle down for a 5-hour nap. However, many dogs won't react as well to upset and being scared. So please consider this before your flight as well.
Traveling with a dog isn't easy.
There are extra things to pack, more planning involved, and yes even thought out “potty” breaks that must go into the scheduling. Wynter didn't like the indoor “doggy bathrooms” and refused to go when we landed. I am thankful that she's a pro and I had withheld her food from the night before.
Here are a few Must Haves when traveling with a Service Dog:
- Water bowl & bottled water
- food bowl & food
- travel bed or blanket
- vaccination records and vet safe to travel slip
- leash, collar with tags, and waste bags
- downtime toys or bones
- map of where airport doggy “bathrooms” are located.
As of 2016, all American airports that have over 10,000 travelers per year are required to have an area for service dogs to do their business before their flights. This means many airports are busy converting spare space to accommodate our 4 legged friends. I love this, and it is another reason why I am finding myself brave enough to bring my SD along.
If you are traveling with your Service Dog this year, we would love to read about your adventures. Please share your links in the comments! Do you have a Service Dog Twitter or Facebook? Share those too!