Should I Take My Guide Dog or Service Animal?

Exchange group with one person holding a white cane smiles for the camera.
How a person chooses to deal with the challenges presented by their disability is an extremely personal decision that can vary from situation to situation.

When trying to decide how best to meet your needs in a new environment, consider:

  • How long have you and your current guide dog/service animal been partnered? Those with a new service animal or a partner getting close to retirement may want to discuss feasibility of upcoming travel with the training organization.
  • Does your guide dog/service animal have experience with all the elements of travel? Traveling presents a lot of situations your guide dog/service animal may find new, confusing, overwhelming or frightening.
  • Will you be permitted to use your guide dog/service animal in the country you plan to visit? Service animals, particularly dogs, can evoke strong cultural reactions. Just because you may be allowed to travel with your guide dog/service animal, does not mean you will be allowed to keep him or her in the place you are planning to stay or take him or her in public with you.
  • Are you prepared for the added challenge of traveling with your guide dog/service animal? Traveling with a guide dog/service animal is a lot like traveling with a small child. They have off days. They need a lot of extra care and attention to deal with the stress of traveling. They attract attention - and it’s not always good attention.
  • How common are feral dogs in the destination country? Also consider other health related risks that may be present for your guide dog/service animal in the location.

Is your service animal the best way of meeting your needs in a new country?

As capable as you and your guide dog/service animal may be together, many people with disabilities find the amount of assistance they need when traveling goes up simply because some of the things they count on at home do not exist in this new environment.

Consider the architectural and infrastructure differences of the country you will be visiting and be realistic about the situations your guide dog/service animal and you will and won’t be able to tackle together.

You may want to consider a local person as a guide, revert to using your long white cane, or finding a personal assistant for some overseas journeys and let your guide dog/service animal have a much deserved vacation or night off.

Share with us how you made your decision and how travel with or without your guide dog/service animal overseas worked out for you.