Flying with a Service dog

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Can I eat it?- Can it eat me?- Do I care?
Barked: Wed Nov 12, '08 9:17pm PST 
I'm visiting family cross-country this Cristmas. And I'm flying with my service dog.
I was hoping someone could give me advice from the first time they flew with their service dog.

I've already contacted the airline, and requested bulkhead/window seating, we've gone to the airport to let her see and smell the situation, and while there talked to the security people. The flights are only six and a half hours long so I'm not worried that she'll need to use the lawn.
I've also memorized the the airport footprint of our destinationand connect flight.
I've never flown without a parent, I'm seventeen and never need to fly, and I'm a little nervous. Any help or info you can share would be great.

Edited by author Thu Nov 13, '08 9:47am PST


born to please
Barked: Wed Nov 12, '08 9:35pm PST 
Quimby.....I read your request. I think that you may get some help if you go on Tips, Tricks and Help on Dogster.com which is listed on the Forums page. You are in the forums for dogs that are sick and old and getting ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. I cannot answer your question because I am not a service dog. Try and post your request on Tips, Tricks and Help. I am sure someone can help. Have a safe trip......Bonitowave

We speak out- against- discrimination
Barked: Thu Nov 13, '08 6:10pm PST 
Go to the TSA website and review, and PRINT OUT their policies regarding service dogs, and bring it with you.
I'd suggest when going through the metal detectors to send your dog through first, and then follow. You'll probably get additional screening then.
I had problems with JFK security, they had a new staff that day and the girl screening me was scared of dogs and became very rude because of it, but I didn't complain because they did worse to some poor old man that day (he was in the papers). All the other screeners were nice and knew the routine at the other airports.
This is what I learned from the experience. Just stay calm and be friendly and compliant no matter what happens with the screeners. If you have a problem with them you can always ask to speak to a supervisor during or after the screening, just ask politely and again, stay calm. If there is a problem this is where your print out will come in handy. Also, remember that they CAN NOT require you to be separated from your SD. Once you're through security the worst of it is over.
On the flight the attendants will probably get all gushy eyed and be really sweet when they see a dog on the plane. I think it's kind of exciting for them. I'd bring chewy things for takeoff and landing for any ear popping.
Good luck!

Sabrina- 2000~2012

To break- injustice we- must break- silence
Barked: Fri Nov 14, '08 7:10am PST 
Dog's ears are shaped differently than human's ears, so they don't have ear popping during takeoff and landing. But it can be scary, so I would bring something to distract them during takeoff and landing.

Flying with a SD can be a bit stressful at first. You've done a great job so far getting your dog used to the airport and getting bulkhead seating etc. When you check in, usually the gate agent will verify that it is a SD. They are supposed to accept credible verbal assurance or presence of or markings on a harness. However, just as insurance I always carry my doctor's letter with me. I've not had to show it, when asked I always say "I thought credible verbal assurance was enough?" and it's been fine. But it makes me feel better knowing I have that (or an ID card) just in case there is some big snafu (especially when I'm trying to return home, that woudl be horrible!).

When we go through security screening I first inform the guard what I am doing. I say "I am going to walk through by myself, then call the dog through". I don't ask, I tell them what I am going to do. If you ask, they get confused. I put Sabrina in a sit, I walk through and once it's clear I don't have metal on me, I call Sabrina through. Do not let them talk you into removing your dog's gear. They cannot force you to. I tell them (not ask) "you can pat her or wand her down". One person I know has made an entirely non-metal leash, collar and vest set for flying. We have normal leash etc. and only sometimes Sabrina sets it off. Most of the time she doesn't.

When walking through the airport you should beware of bomb/drug sniffing dogs and also of carry-on dogs that people are letting walk around on leash inside the airport (no, theyr'e not supposed to do this but they do). Some of teh sniffer dogs get extremely excited when they see another dog, so we give them a wide berth. Most of the carry-on dogs have completely clueless owners who think it is hilarious when their dog starts trying to attack your dog, so we keep an eye out and stay away from them, too (though that might be more of a San Francisco thing than elsewhere in the country).

When we get to the gate we always inform the gate agent I'm traveling with a SD and request priority seating. That way we can get on and get settled before everyone else gets on the plane. I usually remove Sabrina's gear and just have her leash wrapped around my waist so that she has more freedom of movement, and so she can say hello to the flight attendants and the person sitting next to us if they want to say hi. If I'm sitting in bulkhead, I usually bring along a small blanket and I put it over my lap and over Sabrina during boarding. Otherwise everyone will stare and stare and stare at you, since they don't have anything else to do while waiting to get to their seats.

The first couple of times we flew I gave a nylabone to distract her when we took off, but I don't do that anymore. I don't feed or water on the flight, though with Ollie I will probably give ice chips-- he drinks a lot more than Sabrina.

If you need to go to the bathroom on the flight, you have a few options. You can leave the dog at your seat in a down-stay while you use the restroom, or you can bring the dog with you and put them in a down-stay in front of the restroom door. Personally I just hold if if I don't have hubby there because I don't like leaving my dog unattended (people tend to bother the dog or try to feed it etc). But if the person you were sitting next to were nice, you might ask them to keep an eye on your dog whiel you go to the bathroom, or give the responsibility to a flight attendant if they aren't at a busy time during the flight. If you have to do this, I would ask them to watch the dog and then tell them they can pet the dog all they want (or not, depending on what you want), but please don't give the dog any food or water.

When we land, the first thing we do is go outside to find a patch of grass to potty. If you do have a layover, you'll have to go outside through security to potty, then come back in through security. You can ask to jump to the front of the line-- I usually do this as we are leaving to go potty. That way I don't have to spend a really long time int he security line when I need to be getting to my next flight.

I've flown with Sabrina more times than I can count, and she's an old pro at airports now. It's really not all that bad. Getting your dog used to the airport before hand is great. Also have your dog ride as many different forms of transportation as possible-- trains, busses, subways etc. to get used to different feeling floor vibrations etc. You can even put your dog in a wagon or bike trailer and pull them around.

We speak out- against- discrimination
Barked: Fri Nov 14, '08 3:53pm PST 
I don't know about the ear thing, Sati definitely showed some discomfort in her ears when we flew and chewy toys and massaging seemed to help. Maybe it depends on the dog?

When taking Sati out on our layovers I found that if I talked to a TSA screener on the way out they would not only tell me where to find the grass, but be especially nice to us on the screening to come back in. It seems most airports have a grassy area just for the dogs that work at the airport, and if you ask someone can tell you where to find it.