11 Things to Know When Flying with a Large Service Dog

There are important pointers to remember when flying with a large service dog. And you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to get the lowdown on these pointers. Read on to boost your know-how when it comes to flying with a large service dog.

Taking a flight with your service dog requires keeping in mind a few crucial guidelines. Besides helping ensure that your flight will be as comfy as possible, you won’t encounter any major issues as well. Make sure you follow along so we can get started.

Flying with a Large Service Dog: The Essentials You Have to Keep in Mind

flight flying with a large service dog

You can bring your service dog along during your flight to keep you company. This is great news for people who are suffering from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. 

Having them around during your flight means you won’t have a tough time coping with your triggers. You can shake them off without a problem, too. You can just give your service dog a quick hug whenever you feel anxious and you’re going to be alright. 

But the thing is there are certain key points to remember when you’re flying with a large service dog. And they’re not complicated unlike what most people think. So if you’re looking to fly with your service dog soon, here are the things you should take note of:

#1: Flying with a large service dog? Prepare the required documents.

When you’re flying with a large service dog, you have to prepare all the required documents to avoid any issues. These documents are needed so you and your dog won’t be blocked from getting inside the airport’s premises. They’re also required so the both of you won’t be barred from getting on the plane itself.

The following are the documents you will need to ensure that your flight with your service dog will be as smooth as possible:

  • Secure your ESA letter

For starters, do not confuse your Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter with your Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) letter. These two are distinct and separate from each other although they may share some similarities here and there.

An ESA letter is basically a document provided by a licensed and duly-qualified mental healthcare professional. It declares that you’re entitled to an emotional support animal. The said animal is there to help ease and prevent the effects of your mental health condition. Examples of mental health issues that are covered by the ESA letter include anxiety and trauma.

Emotional support animals that can be obtained through an ESA letter are generally there for companionship. They are typically not trained to take care of special tasks and assignments. ESAs may not be entitled to free flights.

  • Have your PSD letter handy

Now let’s check out the Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) letter. Similarly, a PSD letter and an ESA letter may share some similarities, but they are not the same. Both have distinct features from the other.

A PSD letter is essentially a document that announces that you are entitled to a psychiatric service dog. This service dog is there to assist you with your needs due to your psychiatric condition. Mental health issues covered by a PSD letter include phobias, attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders, as well as obsessive compulsive disorder.

A psychiatric service dog is usually trained to perform certain special tasks. Besides companionship, they are also taught how to guide their owners away from obstacles and other specific assignments. PSDs may be given free flights.

#2: Make sure your service dog isn’t overfed.

Keep in mind not to feed your service dog lots of food before your flight. Apart from making them uncomfortable during your trip, he or she could throw up once you’re up in the air. This experience will be very embarrassing for both you and your service dog.

Although it’s recommended to still feed your dog on the day of your trip, remember to lessen the overall intake. One way to do this is by reducing a third of your service dog’s rations. Say, if he or she usually has three bowls of food in a day, make it just two this time..

#3: Flying with a large service dog? It is important that they already did their “business.”

Make sure your service dog has already urinated or defecated before the plane takes off. You’ll definitely be in for a little “accident” if you don’t keep this in mind. You can do this before you get to the airport. 

You can also take care of this when you are on the airport’s premises. Just ask around to access kiosks that are specifically designed for pets and service dogs. It is also important to prepare a go-bag for your service dog during your trip for easy access to toiletries.

#4: Exercising them before the flight is a smart idea.

Service dogs can be quite active. This attribute could manifest when you’re already up in the air. Chances are there could be passengers that will become annoyed with a hyper service dog in the plane. While this may sound like a big dilemma, there’s a quick solution you can use to fix this.

Remember to give your service dog an intense exercise session before your flight. This helps remove most of the bottled-up energy and spark that the animal has. He or she will most likely stay in place or behave all the way to your destination with this strategy.

#5. Flying with a large service dog? Remember to bring all your service dog’s necessities.

necessities flight flying with a large service dog

Although this was already mentioned earlier, having a go-bag just for your service dog is a must for your flight. This helps you keep clear of reaching for things frantically when you really need them.

But the thing is, preparing your service dog’s go-bag is not a hit-or-miss affair. There are certain items you should always remember to include in the mix. The following things should not be absent from your service dog’s go-bag on the day of your trip:

  • Harness

A harness is an essential equipment you’ll need to ensure that your service dog won’t wander away inside the plane. Allowing him or her to do that will just lead to disaster…and some very annoyed fellow passengers.

Remember to place your harness near the tip of your service dog’s go-bag. This is so you won’t have a tricky time locating it when you need to put it on your dog. You can also roll it up and place it inside a bag pocket.

  • Water bowl

Your service dog can get quite thirsty during your trip. It is important that he or she has easy access to water to prevent the risk of heat stroke. This is the biggest reason why you need to have a water bowl in your go-bag.

While a regular water bowl will already suffice, grabbing one of those collapsible types will be much more convenient. It also provides a lot of extra space in your go-bag with its collapsible features.

  • Leash

A leash helps you maximize the level of control you have over your service dog during your flight. It restricts his or her movement without being too harsh. Moreover, you can easily give the go signal to walk with a gentle tug or two on the leash.

Akin to the harness, the leash is an essential equipment you have to bring during your trip. Remember to bring one in case your harness breaks or malfunctions. You will be safe from awkward situations with this pointer.

  • Emergency receptacles

Emergency receptacles are basically containers you can use to take care of any “accidents” your service dog may have. These include plastic bags or containers of varying sizes. It is also smart to have at least two in every pocket of your service dog’s go-bag.

While we’re at it, make sure you also have tissues and wet wipes along with these emergency receptacles. It’s better to be prepared at all times than to be subjected to an embarrassing situation.

  • Tether

A tether is basically used to keep your service dog in place. This is particularly useful in tight spaces such as an airplane. Its primary purpose is to prevent your service dog from getting to places he or she shouldn’t be in. This could lead to injury sooner or later if not checked.

Only use your service dog’s tether when the plane is already preparing for take-off. You can just use a leash or a harness when you’re still preparing for boarding.

  • A few treats

These treats are not for satiating your service dog’s hunger. You have to bring a few treats with you as a calming tool. It’s not uncommon that there will be instances of turbulence along the way. You can simply pop these in your service dog’s mouth to help calm him or her.

Make sure you only use these treats as a last resort. Using them prematurely will just make your service dog think that it’s already dinner time.

  • Blanket

Your service dog can still feel a bit chilly regardless of how furry he or she is. Make it a point to have a blanket with you during your flight. You can also use the blanket as a “border” to let other passengers know you’re accompanied by your service dog.

Don’t go for a thick blanket. Choose a thin one that has a semi-firm fabric. This is so you can easily stash it in your service dog’s go-bag.

#6: Always check in with the flight crew.

Remember to inform the flight attendant that you are travelling with a service dog before you settle in. It is possible that he or she will provide some instructions to make your flight as comfy as possible. The flight attendant will also direct you to your seat. He or she will also tell you where your service dog will be positioned.

Don’t forget to follow his or her instructions. Listen to every detail. This is so you won’t disturb your fellow passengers who may not be that keen on flying with a dog. And speaking of your fellow passengers…

#7: Be patient with other passengers.

Some people will be a bit surprised to see your service dog with you. This is alright. Don’t be angry with them. It could be that they are not that comfortable seeing you flying with a large service dog. Just remember to smile. Don’t mind them even a bit. However, be extra careful that your service dog isn’t causing trouble, too.

#8: Make sure you are always by your service dog’s side.

Don’t ever leave your service dog’s side for the whole duration of the flight if possible. This helps prevent making him or her anxious as you go along. Make your trips to the bathroom as short as you can if need be. 

#9: Flying with a large service dog? Be prepared to comfort them during turbulence.

Turbulence can take place during your flight. This can startle your service dog. Remember to always use calming words coupled with a gentle caress or two. Pop in a treat or two to distract him or her when things get really rough. 

Always remind your service dog that everything is alright. One trick to calm your service dog during turbulence is stroking the back of his or her ears. This creates a cool distraction. 

#10. Avoid encouraging your service dog to be active.

There will be times when your service dog gets excited by the smells and sounds during your flight. Sounds like the announcer’s voice on the plane’s PA system can also get your service dog curious. Be firm when you remind him or her to behave. 

Give your service dog a quick hug if he or she does get a bit active This is a quick restraining strategy you can go for. 

#11: Flying with a large service dog? Take time to research the requirements for service dogs in other countries.

Other countries may have different requirements for service dogs. Keep in mind to research a bit before you book your flight. This will ensure that you and your dog will have a safe and fun flight together.

11 Things to Know When Flying with a Large Service Dog

by Francis SEO time to read: 8 min