Disney with Special Needs: Preparing Your Service Dog for Travel

Pluto and FilbertYou’ve made your plans to bring your furry sidekick along with you on your Disney vacation. You let the hotel know that you were coming and you printed out your copy of the ADA just in case you encounter someone who isn’t as well informed as you are. You might have even had a nice long conversation with your dog about the trip and what you were going to do together. Now it is time to actually get your service dog ready for this magical experience.

Like any good superhero sidekick, your pup is going to need a few preparations and some tools to help him make the most of his duties while on your vacation, so here is my field guide to…

Disney Super Sidekick Preparation.

Get shots in advance. Your dog should already have his basic shots, but it is important to remember that there are additional shots that he should get when preparing to go on a vacation. Even if you do not intend on him spending even a moment in a kennel (or “camp” as we like to call it), you really never know what might happen during your trip. An emergency situation could arise that might necessitate your furry friend heading into his own doggie resort for a few hours or even overnight. It is better to be fully prepared with all of the shots that he would need to spend time in a kennel so that if such an emergency does happen (and it has to us – but that is another whole situation), you are already ready. Each kennel is slightly different, but for the most part your dog should be prepared with rabies, Distemper, and kennel cough shots. Check with several kennels in the area ahead of time to make sure that he has all the shots he might need. He should also be on a good flea and tick preventative. Make sure you have these in place at least 2 weeks in advance so that they will be effective by the time you head out on your adventure. Remember that many kennels have a 14 day waiting period. Besides, Disney welcomes service dogs every day and some might not be as well protected, so you want to make sure that your sidekick doesn’t come down with something villainous while you are gone

Have supplies for the car. The best way to travel with a service dog is in your own car. It is not only the most comfortable option, but you will not have to deal with some of the red tape that can pop up when it comes to getting on other forms of transportation. You also do not want to be on a delayed plane or train with a dog that has not had a walk in several hours. While you are packing for your family, make sure that you are packing for your pup as well. Set up his own little place in the car so that the trip is as comfortable for him as possible. Filburt always had several layers of blankets, including his very favorite celestial bedspread, and a couple of pillows to let him burrow down and sleep during our 12-14 hour trek. Also bring along foldable water and food bowls so that he can have his meals and snacks on the go. Do not pack the leash and vest in your luggage. Remember that he will need to take walks during the trip

Consider sedatives. If your dog has been with you on long trips before, hopping in the car and heading to Disney is old hat. If your journeys have been limited to just short jaunts, however, even the best trained and most experienced of service dogs can get nervous and have a difficult time with the ride. Remember that he is a living creature, too, and has feelings and responses to what is going on around him. Be prepared that he might get anxious, restless, and possibly even carsick. If his services will not be necessary during the drive itself, consider asking his vet about sedatives. These can calm him down and help to make his trip much more comfortable

Pack his utility belt. Just like you would never go into the parks without your day bag, your pup should have his supplies as well. Bring along his foldable bowl and bottled water to keep him hydrated during your adventure. If you are going during the warmer months of the year, consider a cooling vest or neck wrap to keep him cool and comfortable. I always brought along a bag of treats and a package of antihistamine as well. If your dog wears booties or socks, make sure you bring those along as well. Mr. Fil would have none of it, but I have seen many dogs walking around the parks wearing them.

Now that you’re prepared for the journey, next time we’ll talk about what you can expect once you actually hit the parks.

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop Baby and Toto, Too.

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