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Taking a Road Trip with Your Service Dog

socializing service dogs in training

If you have a Service Dog, there will probably come a time when you will need or want them to accompany you on a road trip. Here is all the information you need to make your road trip a successful one.

An awesome road trip begins even before you grab the keys. Before you go, it is important that you do some research so that you do not have any unexpected surprises. Here are a few things to look into prior to your trip:

Service Dog and Human Companions in Niagara Falls

The author, SD Barkley and their friend Alexander aboard Niagara Falls Canada’s Whistleblower

  1. Where You Will Be Staying- Unless you are staying with family or friends, it is important that you look into possible hotels/motels and their acceptance of Service Dogs. Although the rules regarding dogs staying in hotels/motels varies depending on the location, it is generally accepted that Service Dogs should be able to stay anywhere that the public is welcome. I also find that it best to call them before you arrive to tell them that you will be bringing a Service Dog. This way there are no surprises.

Staying in a pet-friendly hotel is also a good idea. This is because it is a place that is used to accommodating dogs. Great sites like BringFido allow you to search for pet friendly hotels worldwide. Please remember though that you NEVER have to pay the additional pet costs that some hotels add to the cost of your stay. Remember Service Dogs are not pets. Also, since Airbnb is becoming more popular, here is their Service Dog policy for your reference (this applies only to the U.S. however, so please get in touch with Airbnb to confirm other locations).

2. Tourist Information Center- Contacting the tourist information center of your final destination and/or stops along the way, can also prove helpful. Although this is not required, as Service Dogs should be readily accepted, it will make the trip less stressful if you ‘iron-out’ any difficulties ahead of time.

If they are used to having Service Dogs in the area, ask if they could suggest some activities that would be best suited to accommodating a Service Dog (zip-lining for example is not the best choice, unless you have someone familiar to your dog to stay back while you complete the activity). If Service Dogs have not visited their area, ask if they would be able to call ahead to the activities that you are interested in to let them know that you will have a Service Dog accompany you. You can also personally call around to notify your planned activities of your arrival, however sometimes it is best to have them call as it provides them with an updated status of the quality of accessibility in their area.

Additionally, preparing an itinerary prior to your trip can be helpful as well (sites like Travefy can assist you with this). Make sure you include stops and breaks for your Service Dog in the schedule, as well as a list of emergency veterinarians on route.

3. Packing- Now that you have your plan, it is time to pack. Along with your items, here is a list of things you will need for your Service Dog:

  • Enough food to satisfy your Service Dog for the duration of the trip
  • Collar, leash and Service Dog vest (make sure that the identification on your Service Dog’s collar is up-to-date)
  • A favourite toy
  • Treats
  • Food and Water Bowl
  • Poop bags
  • A water bottle (that you will be able to pour in your dog’s bowl as you travel)
  • Medication (if applicable)
  • A blanket or dog bed that your Service Dog is familiar with
  • Vaccination records (get an updated copy of these from your veterinarian before you leave)

4. The Day of Departure- Finally, it is time to go. For both yourself and your dog’s safety, it is important that you secure your dog while you are driving. Products like the Roadie Safety Harness are ideal to ensure your Service Dog’s safety, as they have been crash tested.

Puppy on Beach

Puppies are more likely to experience motion sickness, as ear structures that promote balance are not yet fully developed.

It is also important to recognize symptoms of motion sickness in your dog. According to Vet Street, motion sickness is especially common in puppies and young dogs. This is because ear structures that promote balance are not fully developed. Also, if a dog was sick or nauseous the first couple times they travelled in a car, they may begin to associate the car with stomach sickness and become ill during travel more often.

Symptoms of motion sickness include:

  • Anxiety
  • Gagging or Heaving
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Increased Salivation
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea

However, you can reduce motion sickness by:

  • Taking several smaller trips to introduce them to the experience.
  • Avoiding feeding your dog two hours prior to travel
  • Reducing your dog’s water intake before getting in the car (offering your dog small sips of water frequently, is much better than large gulps)
  • Cracking the windows slightly
  • Keeping the temperature inside the car on the cooler side
  • Planning frequent breaks and/or small walks throughout your trip
  • Consulting your veterinarian to see if medication for motion sickness will help

5. When You Arrive- You have finally reached your destination. Before you go out to experience all this location has to offer, allow your Service Dog to take a small rest before heading out on your next adventure. This is also an ideal time to take them for a walk to stretch their legs. For many dogs, a road trip can be extremely overwhelming, therefore this break is essential to their wellbeing.

Service Dog at Niagara Falls History Museum

Barkley at the Niagara Falls History Museum

6. Report Back- After you have returned home, make sure that you report back to the tourist centre of the location you have visited, to respectfully share the positives and negatives of your experience. Even though you may never visit this area again, as a Service Dog community it is important to bond together to achieve greater accessibility. Remember, in order for changes to happen, people need to be made aware of it. Do you part in making the work more travel friendly for Service Dogs and their human companions.

Hopefully these tips will help to ease your road trip jitters. They say that life is a highway. Why not experience it with your Service Dog?

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