Friday, October 31, 2008

Trainings Offer Insight into Service Dog Teams Accessing Public Transit

Many people partnered with service dogs depend on public transportation to participate in the activities of daily life; however, taking buses, door-to-door transit, taxis, subways, and trains requires careful and deliberate training of both the human and canine portions of the team. Easter Seals Project Action training Service Animals and Transit: How to Develop a Working Relationship includes great insights for service dog teams looking to develop a good relationship with their local transportation.

Even if it is not part of a person's regular routine, a service dog should be exposed to as many forms of transportation possible, since it is impossible to know what situations people will encounter while partnered with their service dog. Cars break down, unexpected trips, and changes in schedules can create the need to take a train, plan, bus or other form of transport;therefore it is only fair to prepare your service dog for these eventualities through training of proper behavior for these situation and prior exposure. During my eight year partnership with Bastien we traveled by local bus, long distance bus, subways, commuter trains, Amtrak, ferries, taxi, shuttle buses, rental cars, friends cars, my personal van and airplanes.

Though many of the experiences and behaviors your service dog needs to function during travel are a standard part of a well trained service dog's education there are some circumstances in travel that may require specific behaviors and experiences that generally fall outside this training.

  • Metal detectors
  • Being hand searched
  • Travelling for long distances on the floor in sometimes very small spaces
  • Following a person (not the handler)
  • Obeying basic obedience commands from the person who has their leash
  • Relieving themselves in strange places and surfaces on cue
  • Calm in the presence of unusual/high pitched noises such as the hiss of hydraulics, train whistles, and airplane engines
  • Ramps and wheelchair lifts
  • Feet resting on and/or near them
  • Ability to go under a variety of seats and chairs
  • Ability to follow handlers cues to a specific location
  • Ability to work (on a least basic cues ) on either the left or right side
  • Ability to work in extremely tight spaces

Easter Seals Project Action will host Traveling with Service Animals on November 5, 2008. While the event itself has reached its maximum participants, interested visitors will find some interesting resources on the training page including:

I encourage people unfamiliar with taking public transportation or who need to introduce their service dogs to public transportation to take advantage of the travel training programs offered by many transit authorities.

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