Traveling with a Service Dog: Packing List

I love lists. I haven’t done a lot of them on this blog, but that appears to be changing. Here’s your second list in a row! Last week I shared helpful lists for planning your trip with a service dog. today I’ll share with you my packing list for overnight trips with a service dog.

I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to packing. I don’t like lugging around big bags, though I’m usually the one in the group with the “mom bag” despite my best efforts. Due to hunching over a lot and trying to see large print when I was little and my skeleton still trying to decide what shape it would grow into, I have upper spinal curvature that makes carrying bags and backpacks awkward and uncomfortable.

But sometimes it just can’t be helped. For all their usefulness, service dogs tend to have a lot of the same needs as toddlers, and toddlers don’t travel light.

As in the previous post I constructed this one based on a list of needs. Service dogs need to work, to eat and drink, to sleep, relieve themselves, release stress, and keep clean. These needs inform any packing list, whether you’re the type to bring everything and the kitchen sink, just in case, or like me who thinks about where I’m going and what that location might provide that I won’t have to carry. Both are valid ways to build a packing list, as are all the variations in between.

Puppy Packing List

Working gear
collar (should be on the dog at all times anyway)
booties, if weather and/or terrain require

food (unless it’s a long trip where you know you can buy food on site)
bowls (can sometimes double as the container food is carried in, and sometimes you don’t even need a separate bowl for food and water)
splash mat (if your dog is like Greta and tends to soak the floor when drinking. An absorption pad from a corner store like Wal green’s is pretty cheap, or just make a disposable one with layers of paper towels)
water bottle, if trip activities will take you away from sources of water for your dog. I’ve seen some cool bottle-bowl combinations come out lately that cut down on packing space.

Park Time
bags (at home I use old Wal mart bags, but buy the tightly rolled for-purpose ones when traveling because they take less space)

mat or blanket (bring one from home that hasn’t been washed recently so it smells familiar)
crate (unless your dog is equally comfortable in or out of it. You can buy collapsible crates for car travel, but they don’t travel easily on planes. Because of my frequent extended trips to Oregon, my parents keep a crate at their house for greta, who does NOT like sleepovers).
tie-downs (if not using a crate, to keep the dog from wandering during the night)

towel for muddy paws (if heading somewhere towels aren’t readily available)

Stress Relief
favorite toy (ideally not a throwing toy, unless you know you’ll have a safe, enclosed space for the dog to chase it in)
something to chew on (like humans, the jaw action of dogs is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system)

I have an extra category right now, Training. Because Greta is still working through her Post High School Stress Disorder I bring along tools to improve her chances at maintaining focus and enjoying the trip. If your service dog gets anxious or is going through a rough patch, these are some tools that might help you, as well, if you’ve already established their usage. NotE: travel is not a good time to start working on something new.

clicker (a small device that makes a clicking sound to mark a dog’s behavior)
treats for rewarding the marked behavior
pouch for carrying said treats
rag or handkerchief (dogs’ saliva gets stickier and stringier when they’re stressed. If you’re using treats to calm your dog, you’ll want to wipe off your hand a few times! This, like the towel, might be available at your destination).

Unless your dog really hates travel, or you have lots of space and weight to fill in your bags and mode of transportation, or are staying for more than a week, you don’t nee to replicate your home setup when traveling. Service dogs are often chosen for their adaptability, and dogs are migratory in nature. Bedding down in a new place shouldn’t be a big deal, and eating on the go is very natural for them.

If you’re interested in reading about what other guide dog users carry with them when they’re out and about, read This post by fellow blindfluencer Rhianna McGregor Hajzer.

Today your favorite blindfluencer asks you to reflect on something coming up that you’re excited about. Take a moment and savor the anticipation.

3 thoughts on “Traveling with a Service Dog: Packing List

    1. Glad you liked it. Has what you carry with you changed from one dog to the next? Are used to carry a lot more doggy accoutrements with me with my first dog… I’ve relaxed as a second dog parent lol


      1. I carry more with me for my current dog, actually; I didn’t want to take anything with me for my first but then I found that I was stressed because I wasn’t prepared. I keep it essential, but I do carry more with me this time.


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