Flying With a Service Dog – 5 Must Know Tips

Complete Guide to Flying With a Service Dog

Service Dogs or Psychiatric service dogs are specially trained dogs who perform work for an individual with disabilities.

The good part is, Service dog owners can take their pets on airlines, both domestic or cross country. 

Psychiatric service dogs are allowed to accompany their handlers in the airplane cabin. Also, the Air Carrier Access Act insists airlines allow Psychiatric service dogs or support animals to travel for free.

However, apart from and along with the legal/ authority permissions, there goes a lot in Flying with a service dog. 

This guide is all about practical insights to help you with your airport and flying experience with service dogs. So, without any further ado, let’s get into the ultimate journey of flying with a service dog.

Do airlines allow psychiatric service dogs?

Yes, the Air Carrier Access Act has mandated all airlines to allow travelling for animal support, that too for free.

ACAA act of 1986 that discrimination based on disability in air travel is strictly prohibited.

Soon after the act passed, airlines were asked to provide equal access to psychiatric service dogs throughout the air travel process. 

What qualifies you for a psychiatric service dog?

What do psychiatric service dogs do? Individuals who suffer from certain medical conditions that are straightly debilitating qualifies for keeping a psychiatric service dog.

These mental conditions include schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder, and more. 

Normally psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks that mitigate a person’s disability.

From providing comfort to interrupting the self-harming behaviour, these dogs are trained for several conditions.

Being is emotional support dog or a service dog is a JOB, and one cannot keep them as pets.

Can airlines ask for proof for my service dog?

Airlines usually do not ask for much proves from the owners for service dogs and emotional support dogs;

however, if it does, these are a few of the proves you must carry along,

  • A credible verbal assurance.
  • A U.S. DOT form. It must be attesting to the animal’s health, behaviour, and training.
  • A U.S. DOT form. It must be affirmed with details like:

Your dog can relieve itself in a sanitary manner

Also, the service dog will be on a flight that is eight or more hours. 

Apart from these, airlines usually do not ask for any other legal documents. 

Can an airline deny a service dog?

Yes, airlines can deny a service dog under few circumstances:

  • If your dog creates disturbance in the airport, boarding or aeroplane cabin area.
  • If the dog poses safety and health threats to co-passengers and airline staff.
  • Incase the dog is too huge or too heavy to settle within the aeroplane compartment. 
  • If the dog violates any health requirements that keep them from entering the territory (destination).

How can I get my dog certified as a service dog?

Contrary to popular belief, service dogs do not require any official certification. It is all only upon the dog’s training and learning to assist individuals with disabilities.

As long as your dog is trained for helping you with disabilities, lawfully, everyone has to recognize them as service dogs. 

In short, considering your service dog can fulfill your needs, all departments across the world will take them as service dogs. 

However, most of the time, landlords and property dealers may ask you for legal papers or reasons why you are keeping a service dog.

In few circumstances, they may also refrain to provide you with certain services.

Can you train a service dog yourself?

The relationship between Service dogs and their owner is on a whole different level, unlike the regular dog-owner relationship.

Service dogs are truly man’s best friends who provide their companions with a quality of life. 

Individuals who need service dogs can either train the pet themselves or hire a professional trainer.

Of all the essential things you can teach them, specific skills are necessary and unavoidable. Here is a list of them:

  • Able to keep their focus upon the handler.
  • Learning and retaining information quickly
  • Sensing a Medical alert.
  • Reminding the individual/ owner (handler) to take their medication.
  • Tactile stimulation during a panic attack.
  • Adapting to different social environments and keeping calm in any new environment. 
  • Grounding/blocking individual/ owner (handler) in public areas.
  • Scouting a room for handlers with PTSD.

How long it takes to train your dog as a service dog?

Training a service dog has no quick and easy way. The process requires a particular dog, hours of training, the correct exposure, and a lot more. 

As per International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) guidelines, training of a minimum of 120 hours or six months is a must for service dogs.

However, the timing precisely can fluctuate depending on the dog and the required skills.

Along with that, during the entire procedure, the training dog also needs to work a minimum of 30 hours in public settings.

This helps them generalize their skills and handle commands, and sense instructions in different public locations. 

What dog makes the best service dog?

You cannot just choose any other dog and train them for being a service or psychiatric service dog.

There are dogs with special (standard) abilities that make for the best service dogs. Here are few options for you:

  1. English or American Labrador Retriever
  2. Golden Retriever
  3. Poodles
  4. Boxers
  5. Great Danes
  6. Border Collies
  7. German Shepherds
  8. Bernese Mountain Dogs
  9. Pomeranians
  10. Portuguese Water Dogs
  11. Pitt Bulls

How do service dogs go through airport security?

Service dogs go through airport security just like their owners. The staff on duty will ask you and your service dog to pass through the metal detector.

Like, American Airlines, ask travellers with service dogs to reach the airport 1 hour early.

Such travellers are also requested to inform airlines 48 hours well in advance (about their service dog accompanying them).

With that, airlines locate seats for such dogs far away from passengers who are prone to allergies. 

Which airlines do not allow emotional support animals?

Frontier Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines do not allow emotional support animals.

Before January 2021, passengers were allowed to bring their pet on the flight in the name of Emotional support.

However, when fraud in the name of emotional support animals grew, the government removed the rules starting in 2021.

Now it is up to the specific airlines whether they want to allow emotional support animals on board or not. 

Does insurance pay for service dogs?

A fully trained service dog costs a hefty price, nearly around $20,000.

The cost may decrease or increase upon the type of service dog you want. Though unfortunately, Insurance companies do not pay for service dogs.

Neither do they cover the cost of buying, nor do they cover care for a service dog. 

For people who are looking to buy a service dog, here are few financing options that you may like to consider:

  • Flexible spending account: Individuals can use their Flexible spending account for buying a service dog. It makes the process less expensive.
  • Nonprofit grants: If buying a service dog is your necessity, but the budget does not allow it, you can connect with Nonprofit grants in your region. For example, Assistance Dogs International and Service Dogs for America offer such help to disabled people in America. They aim to make the dog buying process affordable or even free at times. 
  • Personal Loan: If the circumstances allow, you can apply for a personal loan and buy yourself a service dog. 
  • Crowdfunding: If none of those mentioned above options works for you, then consider going for crowdfunding. For that, create your very own fundraising campaign on social networking sites. You can view sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe for that. 

Can a service dog sit on your lap during a flight?

Yes, if your service dog is small and well-behaved, you can make him sit on your lap for the entire flight.

However, if the passenger is next to your object, you will have to place the dog back in the carrier. 

Where do dogs pee on long flights?

On both short and long flights, dogs usually pee inside their crates only.

That is why pet owners must always line their crate with pee pads before heading for the flight. 

At times your airline staff may allow you to take your pet in the flight bathroom as well.

Though there too, place pee pads on the bathroom floor and make your dog pee upon them. Later throw those pee pads inside the bin. 

Wrapping up

While traveling with a service dog, you must ensure that your dog is well trained. Otherwise, in circumstances when you have to manage an untrained dog in flight, things can go highly frustrating. 

Also, before taking your service dog on a flight, make sure you contact the airlines first. It is always safe to learn about specific policies and submit papers (if required). This will ease down your flying process to the most.