Author Topic: First time flying  (Read 300 times)

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Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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First time flying
« on: December 04, 2017, 07:54:43 PM »
Hi there,
 I just had some questions regarding flying with my ESA for the first time. I'll be flying with my sweet shepherd puppy, he loves all people, animals and just about anything! I'm not really worried about his behavior he does amazing in all situations, we have taken him to fairs, black friday shopping, malls, basically everywhere I go and he is a total social butterfly. He has already passed several obedience classes and we are currently in a CGC prep class, he has exceeded my expectations.He heels beautifully and whenever we are out and about we get comments left and right how well behaved and handsome he is. He has a very good stay as well (at 8 weeks old I placed kibble on his paws and could leave the room for 5 minutes come back and he would still be waiting for a release). We practice hour long down stays often and he loves his place command. However I'm worried about him physically... he has never had food or water withheld and I heard it is recommended you skip dinner AND breakfast if you have an afternoon flight. I'm worried about dehydration, do we really need to withhold water for so long? He has never had an accident inside any building since he was potty trained as a 8 week old pup and he goes to the bathroom on command. Overall I'd just like some expert advice here and some reassurance... he is my rock and I couldn't imagine going anywhere without him. He is so keyed in to me, whenever I feel the slightest off he is always there for me. I'm also a little worried about the "pat down" , if they use the metal detector wand on him he might try to play with it (occasionally my serious mellow pup acts like a goof lol), would they get mad and deny us? Can I bring dry treats on the plane? I'm also worried about the wording in my letter, it was from my actual licensed medical health professional who my regular doctor recommended for my disability and I go to her regularly in person so it isn't some BS letter but I see those advertised all the time I'm worried the airline might deny me if it isn't perfect. I'm also wondering if anyone has ever flown before with SouthWest Airlines? I called ahead and wanted to provide them my letter but they said just bring it the day of... I called twice just to confirm and that is what they said both times. When we log in to see his name is already listed there on the flight. I plan on taking him to the airport a few days before the flight just to get him used to everything (more so for my sake) and I want to see if we can practice going through security and if I can talk in person to the people at the south west counter and make sure I did everything correctly but i'm not sure if you are allowed to do that?
Thank you for your help
« Last Edit: December 04, 2017, 08:00:26 PM by GandalfTheShepherd »

Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2017, 08:15:44 PM »
Here is my letter (i've edited out my personal info): This is written on her professional letter head including her license number and all her contact info.

To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is to meet the requirements for obtaining an Emotional Support Dog to assist ****** in managing her ***** Disorder. Gandalf will be the assigned dog for her. I completed ******'s evaluation on February 9, 2017 and plan to continue ongoing therapy with her. ****** has received evaluations in the past documenting the above diagnosis that is consistent with the current diagnostic impressions.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me.


Sincerely,
*****
MA, LMHC

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2017, 10:19:55 PM »
I didn't catch how old your puppy is, but if he's about six or seven months old (which is the youngest I'd take on a plane outside of a crate, and then only for a very, very short flight) then he should be able to hold his bladder for four to five hours at the minimum. Even if your flight is only an hour or two you will have to consider possible delays, security check ins, and technical problems with your plane resulting in a grounding, which may take longer than what your puppy can hold. You can play with him to stimulate his bowels and bladder and have him toilet before you leave the house to make sure he is completely empty. Fasting is safe for healthy, adult dogs. A healthy adult dog can go for twenty four hours without food with no ill effects, I don't think it'd advisable to fast a young dog. I think your options are to limit his consumption but not to fast him, and to exercise him rigorously for an hour or two before your flight. If your dog really can reliably toilet on command and it's been proofed to different surfaces you can try toileting him on a potty piddle pad in the restroom of the plane.

I have never known an adult dog that would leave kibble on his paws with a five minute out of sight stay. Perhaps one of the obedience champs that are around and about may be capable of that but a normal eight week old puppy is not psychologically capable of holding a five minute stay at all. At that point puppies are usually holding commands for a few seconds at a time. Unless your dog was asleep I don't see how that's possible, maybe one of my betters could explain if it is. I know there are a few dogs who would probably hold it (Cole - Kirsten's late service dog - perhaps being one. I know she trained him in out of sight stays with fancy mirror rigging, a very clever trick before smart phones and tablets). Most fully trained service dogs do not have the willpower to leave kibble on the paw for five minutes with their handler out of sight unless it's an exercise that's been rigorously trained and practiced.

Also, why is your ESA going to fairs, black Friday shopping, malls and "basically everywhere else you go"? ESAs do not have public access rights and can not be brought into public venues with an expectation of accommodation like service dogs can. ESAs are only granted special privileges in flying and housing, both are only given with proper documentation. Emotional support is specifically excluded as a task by the Americans with Disabilities Act which is the federal law that protects a disabled handler's right to have their trained assistance dog accompany them in non-pet friendly areas.

The ADA does not protect ESAs of any species and thus you are liable to have your dog removed from any public venue you take him to. You can always call ahead and ask if he can come but unless he performs trained tasks that mitigate your disability (as a rule, cuddling, petting, licking or comforting are not generally tasks - generally because licking can be implemented in legitimate task work) then you do not have the right to be accompanied by your dog in public and any store that sells human food is obligated to decline access to you and your dog because it's a health code violation.

TSA should not get upset with you if your dog tries to play with wands or hands, but if he is at risk of mouthing the agents I would put him in a cloth muzzle when you go through security. If you want to avoid a pat down altogether walk through the metal detector with him - just make sure he had no metal on his collar or leash. You can take it all off and carry him through if he's small. They usually reserve pat downs for dogs who do not pass through the detector. Do not take him through off-leash on the ground.

We have members here who have flown all over the world with many different airlines. You should be fine so long as you follow the airport's instructions.

When you go to fly take all of his vaccination papers with you, as well as your doctor's note.

Dry treats should be permitted on the plane, if you're really worried take peanuts or cheerios as treats.

Airlines permit people with bogus online letters every day, I wouldn't worry about the wording in your letter We have an article on the front end all about flying with ESAs and about ESA letters, I will poke around and see if I can get you links. 
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Offline Arrowcom

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2017, 10:30:29 PM »
Hi Gandalf

Nice to meet ya,

When it comes to withholding food and water, it all depends on how long your flight is. If you have an afternoon flight, I would suggest feeding him in the evening the day before, and just skipping breakfast. Maybe give him a few pieces of kibble right before the flight just to settle his stomach. Some breeds, including shepherds, have a tendency to throw up bile if their tummy is empty for too long so giving small amounts of kibble can actually prevent throwing up. You just don't want your boy to have to go potty in the middle of the flight. If he is still young, make sure he can at least hold it for the duration of the flight before bringing him. Definitely give him water the night before and morning of if your flight is later in the day. I would suggest simply not giving him any water a few hours before your flight, and also playing and walking with him before, along with giving him multiple potty breaks to make sure he has everything out of his system. The increased activity will help him to be more tired and sleep during the flight, as well as help him get everything out of his system when he goes potty.

Planes are pretty close to buses. If a dog can handle the loud noise of a bus engine along with the shuddering and shaking of a bus, it helps prepare them for a plane ride. It's important that he is okay with lying on a shuddering floor. However, since he is an ESA, he can'r be brought onto public buses. I would suggest just putting him on the floor of your car and driving over a bumpy surface to make sure he's okay with that. As long as you act like nothing is wrong, it should help him be okay with the shaking. But others should have more tips on training for an airplane ride.

With security, the best way to do it is to have your pup perform a sit stay in front of the metal detector, walk though, and then when you are all clear, call your boy over. If he is wearing a metal collar or something of that sort it will set off the alarm. The guards will probably pat your dog down and then swipe your hands. It's all very normal, and as long as your boy has a good sit stay and can come on his leash you guys should have no issue. The TSA agents have to deal with a heck of a lot of misbehaving pets being taken onto flights. So your boy who has good obedience shouldn't have an issue.

I agree with summertime. Just a quick note. We love to make sure we are helping everyone to understand the laws and what not here. As long as you have a licensed note from a mental health professional stating you need an ESA, and a recent certificate of health from your vet, that should be fine for an airplane ride. But just to clarify, you have an ESA, not a service dog, so he by law isn't allowed in public places unless they are pet friendly or you have been given special permission. Since you stated bringing your boy into malls above, I just wanted to help clarify. I know they might be pet friendly, but the laws are so confusing I just wanted to add that.

Here is a recent thread talking about airplane rides if you are interested. http://servicedogcentral.org/forum/index.php?topic=45750.0;topicseen

Good luck on your flight! I'm sure your boy will be amazing!

Accept the things you can not change, have the courage to change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2017, 11:02:03 PM »
Letter needs to state either that you are disabled or that you are substantially limited in your ability to perform major life activitities by your condition and that your diagnosis appears in the DSM IV. It should also state that you need the animal in order to fly or at your destination. There's a sample letter on the front end of the site. I'm on my phone which means it's hard for me to flip pages and read. I'll take a guess at the URL but if I'm even one letter off it won't work.

http://servicedogcentral.org/content/ESA-flying
« Last Edit: December 04, 2017, 11:05:40 PM by Kirsten »
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In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

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Offline Kirsten

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2017, 11:10:25 PM »
It's not unusual for them to say you should just bring the letter with you. Some airlines do it that way and some want it faxed in. Some are very picky about the wording and others aren't. How picky they are seems to vary more by gate attendant than by airline. Hence our sample letter, which covers all the regulations say they can require.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2017, 11:17:30 PM »
Your link is functional Kirsten, just fwi.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2017, 12:09:22 AM »
For the pat down, you should have one hand on your dog's head, gently restraining him (turning his head away from the TSA official).  They may instruct you to do that or you can offer to do it.  It's just a good practice because it makes the TSA people feel more secure that they won't get bitten and it reassures your dog.  If you made it through the metal detector and want to avoid a pat down yourself, then you need to be careful to only touch your dog with your hands (no hugs) so that it's very obvious you haven't removed anything from him and hidden it on yourself.  So you'd try to hold him away from you a bit (arms extended rather than having him trying to cuddle while they examine him) and turn his head away from the TSA screener person.

Some TSA screeners will want to go through the dog's pockets, some will carefully feel under vests or harnesses (or collards) so you want to practice this so the dog is comfortable and chill about it.  The metal detector wands can make a high pitched whine.  If your dog is not particularly sound sensitive, this should not be a problem.  I've seen my dog notice the sound but not seem to think it bothersome.  For practice you might go over your dog with an unplugged curling iron and try shaking it or moving it quickly (as if to strike, but not striking) in case the TSA screener isn't careful about how he moves it so your dog doesn't think he's about to get hit just because the screener is nervous and moves quickly or something like that.

They should not require health papers unless you are traveling outside of the US.  They technically can for interstate travel or rather state officials on landing can, but I've never had that happen or heard of it happening on a US domestic flight.  I mention this because getting a health certificate requires a visit to your vet 10 days before take off and that can take time and money you don't have, and it should be unnecessary for domestic flights.  If you want to be cautious, you can make sure your dog is wearing his rabies tag and you have a photocopy of his rabies certificate with you.  I've never been asked for that either, but it would be proof you'd already have stuffed in a drawer some place and not have to make an appointment to get.

That article goes into some detail about all the parts of flying.  I think you asked about withholding two meals?  That shouldn't be necessary.  Withhold one meal before the flight.  So if you fly in the morning, withhold dinner the night before and give breakfast on landing and if you fly in the afternoon, skip breakfast and feed supper on time (or on landing if flying in the evening).  You do not have to withhold water as long as food.  Maybe a couple of hours before arriving at the airport, start withholding water and make sure your dog empties out his bladder before arriving at the gate.  Get to the gate an hour early.  The article explains this.

You don't need the dog dehydrated, just not to have a full bladder.

It doesn't hurt a healthy adult dog at all to fast (not eat) for 24 hours.  In fact, it would bother them a lot less than it would bother us because of how they are designed.  Water is different.  Generally they should have frequent access to water, but in the case of flying you want to withhold water enough before the flight that what they've had can mostly work through the bladder and be voided before boarding the plane.  Your dog might still need to pee on landing, so make finding the potty station on landing a priority (at least know where it is) in case he needs to go.  If you withhold water two hours before and then potty him right before entering the airport (and he's a healthy adult) he should probably be good for 8 hours without feeling pressure to urinate unless something happens to stress him.  I mean, he sleeps through the night without needing to go out, right, and that's probably about 8 hours.
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Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2017, 06:23:19 AM »
Thank you all for your help. My pup is 11 months old, he lets us know when he has to go out potty by ringing the bells and can hold it for a very long time. He also knows to potty on command so before we leave the house i'd ask him to go. I don't think I would be comfortable having him pee on a pad, we have never done that before and the flight is in a couple weeks. He is an amazing puppy, we always joke that he has an old soul! He is a gentle giant, loves everyone and everything especially snuggling with his little kitty. He has the patience of a saint and has been a breeze to train, I'll take a video for you if I could figure out how to post it lol. Huh I really did think it was THAT rare, i'll post a youtube later today for you and link it. Maybe we should go for a world record lol! We always call ahead and ask permission of the businesses before we go to them, I only take him places that they say it is fine. The fair was dog friendly and so was the places we took him black friday shopping like michaels and home depot. He isn't usually mouthy and if you read my post he is a large german shepherd lol. He has also NEVER jumped on a person which I realize must have been rare for a puppy! He is also very silent and never barks even when someone rings the door bell. He has a solid down stay why shouldn't I just have him wait while I go through the detector and then have him follow off leash (and take his vest off)? Again he is VERY reliable with his commands. I was also thinking of putting a non metal leash around him just in case? Our flight is about an hour and a half. I wanted to take him on a bus to see how he would do but i'm too nervous going alone... i've never been on a bus before and i'm not sure how it works. I'm trying to find a friend that might go with me but so far everyone is busy this week and I know I would have to call and get special permission and they might say no. He has been in elevators and loves the car, any situation he has even been in he has faced with confidence. He went on a 17 hour road trip when he was 4 months old and slept the entire time, we had a lot of luggage so he was curled up in a tiny space and didn't complain. I also have taught him to curl up in a box. He has never shown any aggression and loves to give kisses to everyone. Thank you for the clarification on public access :smile: , we always get permission. We live in a very dog friendly area! I am worried he might just try to play with the wand because he might think its a toy, normally he would act fine if a person was just coming up to pet, etc. If i can bring treats we should be good, i'll just distract while they wand over him. I'll be sure to bring with all his medical records too. Thank you all for clarifying that we don't need to withhold his food that long! That makes me worry a lot less! I want him to be comfortable and happy too, I want this to be an enjoyable experience for him as well. I'm still not sure if my letter is okay, I don't have time to make another appointment before our trip. I'm kicking myself for not going over all this earlier, life just got so busy. Also which patch should he wear? DO NOT PET? or IN TRAINING? That is all we have.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2017, 06:34:44 AM by GandalfTheShepherd »

Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2017, 08:31:03 AM »
Planes also scare me and I haven't been on very many (my husband and parents will be going with and it is southwest so I think you get to pick your seats so he should have plenty of room) does the airplane staff show you were the bulkhead seat is when you pre board or am I expected to find it myself? Where is the bulk head at and what does it look like exactly? Our plane leaves at 12:30 in the afternoon and we arrive at 2:50 it says so when should his last meal and last water be given? I'm confident my dog will be great, just this morning we went for a walk and a group of loose dogs ran up and circled us. I put him in a sit stay and he ignored them and watched me the entire time, I was able to shoo the barking dogs off while he sat patiently. I'm so proud of him! I know if he can hold a sit stay in a situation like that going through TSA will be easy for him. Thank you all again for your help!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2017, 09:57:13 AM »
He's not allowed off leash. You'll need a six foot leash so you can leave him on a stay, walk through and then call him, all while he is attached to the leash in your hand.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2017, 10:01:59 AM »
You'll need to request bulkhead seating at least 48 hours prior to take off. It's not plenty of room. He'll need to be able to squeeze into a small space. You aren't allowed in exit row seating either. Sometimes this is bulkhead, sometimes not.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Online SandyStern

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2017, 10:14:39 AM »
I just want to put in a plug for not putting a vest on him. It's not necessary and it makes people think he's a service dog which ends up creating problems for service dog teams.  Emotional support dogs are identified in airports by the papers.  They don't need vests.

As far as feeding, you really need to know his schedule. If he eats kibble and you feed him twice a day, you want to skip breakfast and get him to poop.  You may have to give him lots of exercise to get him to poop since he won't be eating breakfast, which often triggers it.  His stomach will be empty, and some dogs vomit bile when they haven't eaten, so you could give him a biscuit or two when you get to the airport.

Good luck with this. The first flight is always nervewracking, and then you'll be fine. 
« Last Edit: December 05, 2017, 10:17:29 AM by SandyStern »

Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2017, 10:15:16 AM »
Thank you for clarifying, does it have to be a leash or would a piece of rope work? He doesn't pull or anything so I'm not really worried I just want to make sure legally we are doing this right. Okay guess we will just have to figure it out when we're on the plane. By the way here is the down stay 5 minute challenge with a cookie out of sight for you @Summertime.and.Azkaban  , the beginning and the end are the most exciting parts  :score: . I wish I would have taken a video when he was a little guy, we didn't realize it was so rare! He is 10 months now  :smile:. Apparently he moved his paw and the cookie fell off his paw but he still didn't eat it LOL! I try not to practice this with him too often... I think it's a little mean to make him wait.. we just used to do it when he was tiny and we wanted him to go to bed and wait while we brushed our teeth. I posted another video of an in sight down stay challenge but the phone ran out of space at the 4:08 minute mark. He is amazing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LDmydGec0Q


Offline GandalfTheShepherd

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Re: First time flying
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2017, 10:35:49 AM »
Thank you everyone for your helpful advice. Yes like most shepherds some morning if I'm not fast enough to feed him he will have a little yellow bile :sad: ( i didn't know that was a shepherd thing!) , I usually give him a treat before breakfast. We like to go hiking and I throw the ball to him a lot and kick around pine cones, he runs a ton and we do this for an hour most mornings. Would that be too much exercise before the flight? Would a small handful of kibble in the morning be okay then so he has strength to run and won't have bile? I hope after the first time it will get easier, I get nervous myself every time it is just me going on the plane. But hey, that is why I have him  :smile: , he always makes me feel better! So regular dinner, no breakfast but a small handful of kibble when he first wakes up (long hike and play around 7am), and a little bit of water around 8 am and then nothing until 2:50 when the flight ends?