Flying With My Service Dog

You are staring into the seats in front of you, observing other airline passengers fumble about. Your service dog glances up at you from the floor. Their bright eyes find yours, and you immediately sense their nervousness.

You’ve made it through the terminals with your luggage and your service dog, and now the next step is to take off.

How my service dog helps me

This is how I’m expecting my first cross-country trip to go later on this year. There are a number of ways that I’ve been preparing for this expedition with my service dog. I frequently have sleep attacks due to my type 1 narcolepsy.

My service dog helps me by alerting to these sleep attacks up to 15 minutes before they start. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for ensuring that the plane trip itself goes as smooth as possible for both of us.

Required service dog paperwork

Documentation for service dogs is commonly required to be filed at least 48 hours before the flight. I will be filling out a “US Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form.” This form states that my service dog is fully trained for public access work and for mitigating my disability.1

For flights over 8 hours, I would also need to fill out a “DOT Service Animal Relief Attestation Form.” This means that I have either trained my service dog to hold their potty in public for longer than 8 hours, or I have a solution to the issue (such as doggy diapers).2

My dog is trained to potty on command

My flight will be around 5 hours, so I will not be filling this particular document out. Regardless, I do know that I have trained my service dog to potty on command and not to potty in public. This was a part of her basic service dog training when she was a puppy.

To be safe, I will have to ensure that she empties her bowels and bladder shortly before our flight. I don’t want any “accidents” happening. Could you imagine how mortifying that would be?

Getting my service dog used to small seating space

Before traveling, I need to ensure that my service dog will be used to the small cramped seating arrangements for hours on end and the loud noises. I have been doing this by training my service dog at the movie theatres. This may sound strange, but it is one of the more similar environments to riding a plane. Or so I’ve heard – this is my first airplane flight too!

How I will calm my service dog's nerves

I plan on dosing my service dog with Benadryl before the flight. Not too much because I don’t want her so groggy that she can’t do her job. But just enough to calm her nerves a bit. I will be consulting with my veterinarian to ensure that I give my service dog an appropriate dose.

It is always helpful to have a good relationship with your veterinarian when you have a service dog for questions such as these. Since my health is directly affected by how well my service dog is doing, it is of utmost importance for me to keep her safe and healthy.

Finally, I will make sure to bring training treats with me. Having these on hand helps to keep my service dog more motivated and less nervous in new situations.

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