When traveling with your service dog, especially on airplanes, you’re going to come across a dog hater. It’s inevitable, and sometimes, a person who normally loves puppers is just stressed from travel. If you have a service dog and completed the DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form, you have a right to travel with them. 

Arguing or “snapping back” isn’t going to help anyone, so here are 6 common situations and how you can try to de-escalate the complaint before it becomes a problem.

“Your dog isn’t a real service dog”

Some people are unaware that service dogs can board flights. Or, they may think your service dog is an emotional support animal, which is not allowed on planes. 

Gently educate these passengers that you have the right to be at the airport and fly with your service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. These federal laws protect service dog owners on all flights to and from the U.S. 

You can also direct the passenger to speak with airline staff, who can confirm that their airline indeed has a policy that accepts service dogs. 

You never need to show any documentation to a third party (other than the DOT Form) to get service dog rights. However, if you own a psychiatric service dog, you can choose to share documents like your PSD letter with nonbelievers if you feel it will help defuse the situation. 

“Your dog doesn’t look like a service dog”

Many people imagine a service dog as a large dog, like a Golden Retriever, wearing a vest and tags. However, service dog owners know that service dogs can come in various breeds and sizes. In fact, sometimes, small service dogs are better suited for the job they were trained to perform than larger dogs. 

Service dog owners also know you don’t need accessories like special vests, collars, or ID cards. However, it can be helpful to have these since so much of the public anticipates that a service dog will have them. In addition, they do serve the purpose of warning people that your dog is not a pet and is on duty. 

So, the next time you fly with your service dog, consider outfitting it with service dog accessories. 

6 Ways to Handle Dog Haters on Airplanes
Your service dog may not look as expected by other passengers. Good behavior and service dog accessories may help to de-escalate complaints.

“I have allergies”

Allergies are a valid complaint, and even if your dog is a hypoallergenic dog breed, stress can make the person not listen. Instead, pack two bottles of the most common allergy pills, ensuring one is kid-friendly.  

Go for the non-drowsy allergy medications because the person could say they have to work or want to be alert. And if the flight is under 6 or 8 hours, they may not wake up on time.  If they’re already anxious, you don’t want to add a groggy level of crankiness on top of it.

Ultimately, however, it’s up to the airline to ensure all passengers are comfortable. They can take reasonable steps, such as ensuring the passenger with an allergy is in a separate part of the cabin away from the service dog.  

Bring Treats or Toys to Show They’re Friendly

Some people are afraid of dogs. They may have past trauma related to dogs or did not engage with them growing up. In these situations, it can be helpful to demonstrate or explain that your dog is calm, friendly, and well-trained. 

Consider bringing your dog’s favorite treats, a chew toy, or something comforting to keep them in good spirits. You may even allow the person to give your dog a pet and see that they are kind and loving.

“That dog got fur all over me”

In case your dog sheds a lot and can accidentally get fur all over the other person or their seat, bring mini lint rollers with you. They’re small enough to pack in a backpack or purse and can let the person remove any fluff that decides to take a flight of their own.

Best of all, many are safe for delicate fabrics like silk or tough exteriors like leather.  Read the product description before buying to make sure. 

“That dog is too big, or it needs a seat”

Service dogs must fit into the floor space of the handler’s footwell. It cannot block the aisle or encroach on the other passenger’s space. If your service dog is violating their personal space, they actually have a valid complaint.

In these instances, notify a flight attendant, and they can help move you to a different location or next to a person who doesn’t mind as much. Most people are happy to have a well-trained and friendly service dog next to them on their flight.