About a month ago, I took Oakley on a plane for the first time. Even though we have done lots of training, even in the airport, there were some things that I hadn't prepared for. Luckily, Oakley was a champ through it all and made me proud.
Here are 5 tips on flying with your service or emotional support dog:
1. Call your airline ahead of time to let them know you will be bringing your dog with you on the flight.
I called a few times to make sure that my airline was aware that I was bringing my service dog. They put a note on my ticket that said service dog and allowed me to enter the plane first. If you call ahead, you can request a bulkhead seat to make sure your dog has enough space on the floor.
2. Practice Practice Practice!
When going into the airport, we were put in several scenarios that I was relieved I had practiced. Make sure your dog is comfortable in busy locations with large crowds, able to hold a stand stay even while being patted down by a stranger, and work with or without their gear on. While going through security, each airport had a different way of sending us through. The first time we went through security he kept setting off the machine, and so they asked us to take off all gear except his collar and leash. The second time we went through security, they asked if I could take all of his gear off, which meant he was a naked dog in the airport for just a moment. Even though it isn't required by law, I complied because I was in a rush. He then had to hold a stay on one side of the scanner as I walked through and I then had to instruct him to walk through slowly. I hadn't prepared for this specific scenario but was glad Oakley's "naked" obedience was spot on!
3. Teach your dog to "Tuck" under as many things as possible.
We practice our cue "under" whenever we see a chair, table, or tight space. This is a really important thing to teach your dog to make sure they aren't in the way while at the airport or in the airplane.
4. Teach your dog to "Potty" on cue.
Our flight was only 3 hours long, but I made sure to cue Oakley to "go potty" both before the flight and after. This was a life saver for us because as soon as we reached our destination we had to jump onto public transport. The airport should always have a designated area, either inside or out, so make sure to practice this on different surfaces (fake grass, dirt, sand, mulch, etc.).
5. Speak up!
This one can be especially hard for me personally, but it's really important that you speak up to your flight attendants to ensure your dogs safety and comfort. When we first got onto the plane, they put us in seats with "more leg room" which ended up being insanely tight. Oakley was stuck in-between my legs while we were squished in the middle of the row and as you can see, it was really tight! I spoke up and once they saw the flight wasn't full, they moved us to the back and let us have an entire row to ourselves.
These were some of the things that I wish I had known before going to the airport but it ended up working out really well! We wish you good luck while flying with your dog and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us!