Public Transit Training

 Public Transportation 

Public transportation is something all service dogs should be comfortable using. From regular bus rides to flights to other countries, service dogs are asked to ride in all sorts of vehicles. 

Nick resting in an ambulance. 

My own dog, Nick, has been on planes, trains, boats, cars, buses, golf carts, mobility scooters, and many other things, comfortably. Generally we use paratransit or travel with a friend in their car. Even if you drive, special events, vacations, and business trips can easily include an unexpected rides on a variety of vehicles. 

Earl on the bus. 

Teaching a dog to feel comfortable when traveling is extremely important, so is teaching proper manners. Tucking under a chair or seat is an important skill, yet not always possible. Pau, a Great Pyrenees, doesn’t fit under a bus seat. Several of the busses I ride regularly have seats that are impossible to get under. In that type of situation, I do my best to keep my dog out of the way of others. Fortunately, aircraft are designed to have luggage stowed under the seat. At 65 lbs, Nick tucks nicely in the footwell of most commercial aircraft. 

Adding in any type of mobility device can be a challenge! I routinely use a mobility scooter when I go out by myself. When I get on or off the bus, the challenge of managing Nick and the scooter is greater. Fortunately, a little practice has helped. 

Julie and Earl practicing using a small lift. 

When using the scooter, sometimes we use a ramp, sometimes we use a lift to get on the bus.  Fortunately Nick fits nicely on the deck of my scooter when we’re on the lift. The allows me to follow the rules of “no dogs touching the lift” while staying connected to Nick’s leash. To practice, I first taught Nick to ride on the scooter, between my legs, then added riding on a half story outside lift for a business before actually trying on the bus.  Because we took each step slowly, and made sure Nick was comfortable before moving on, he loves riding the lifts. 

Earl on the bus. 

Learning to stay calm and relaxed takes time.  Nick started riding the bus at an early age. This has made riding the bus a non event. Because we ride the bus many times a week, and Nick has solid public access manners, flying was not a big stretch. Riding the bus got him used to movement, people walking past, and new noises. General public access training prepared him for the airport. A solid stay to get through the TSA checkpoint, and being in crowds helped prepare him for crowded airports. 

Because we ride the bus so often, riding Amtrak and the Portland MAX trains an easy transition. Preparing for train rides is no different than for riding the bus. The guidelines are the same, keep your service dog out of the way of others. 

Toby on the train. 

Every service dog should learn to use public transportation. Because Nick has learned to ride the bus, he’s been able to fly, take Amtrak, take unexpected rides on a golf cart, ride my mobility scooter, and get on very tight seating on a bus at an air show. It’s easy to teach and will prepare the team for all sorts of great adventures!