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5 Tips for Attending School with Your Service Dog

by Devon MacPherson

It’s that time of year again… the school year has begun. As a student or teacher, you’re prepared to do well in school, right? Also take some time to make sure your service dog is ready too.

Here are 5 tips for attending school with your service dog:

1. Be considerate of those you sit beside.

Before you sit down beside anyone in class, it’s considerate to ask the person beside you if it is OK. Of course it should be okay, but the reason to ask is simply out of consideration for those that might be scared or timid of dogs or who might have severe dog allergies. Although you are welcome in the class no matter what, showing people you are respectful of their needs too will, in most cases, garner you and your service dog respect in return.

2. Get in touch with your school’s disability services office.

Most schools, no matter what level, have a disability services office or a person dedicated to ensuring the needs of students with disabilities are met. Make an appointment with them as they will assist you in helping to navigate the school environment and can provide you with resources to make your school year as smooth as possible. In my personal experience, every year I am given letters of accommodation from my schools disability services office which I provide to my teachers on the first day of class. These letters basically state that I will have a service dog accompanying me and also make the teacher aware of the other supports I will need to assist me with my disabilities. This is a tip I feel to be essential, as making the disability services office aware of the fact that you have a service dog will provide you with allies should any problems arise.

Help your therapy dog succeed in the classroom.
credit: Anything Pawsable

3. Show up early on the first day of class.

Try to show up early to the first day of class. This will allow you time to give your teacher your letter of accommodation and will also give you free-range in terms of places to sit. In my experience, where you sit on the first day of class is where you will be sitting for the remainder of the course, so showing up early will allow you to pick a seat that you and your service dog are comfortable with. I personally like to sit at the end of the row as it gives Barkley more space to lie down and also makes it easier for me to leave should I need to take Barkley outside or if I need to take a break.

4. Be well-equipped.

Just like a long day at school can be taxing on you, it can also be demanding for your service dog. Make sure that you are well prepared for the day ahead by having a bowl of water, some treats and poo-bags with you. And make sure that you double-check everyday before you leave for school that you have your service dog vest and a leash.

5. Make sure you take breaks.

To ensure the well-being of your service dog, it is essential that you take breaks. Often, the best time to do this is in between class or when there is a gap in the action. Use this time to give your dog some fresh air and to stretch his or her legs. A good rule of thumb is to take breaks every 2-3 hours. You may also find this beneficial for yourself as it allows you to clear your mind before you get back to work.

Here’s to the best for the year ahead!

Originally published by Anything Pawsable; reprinted with permission.

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