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Service Animals in Training | Tips


Establishing confidence is absolutely dependent upon good experiences and so opportunities for practice trips are invaluable and should be regarded as such. Contact SEPTA at least a week before your journey so that you can obtain their assistance in planning your trip. Arranging short practice rides offpeak with SEPTA prior to an extended trip will minimize anxiety for you and your puppy during that long ride. Abiding by SEPTA policies and ensuring that your puppy does not interfere with other riders are important to make sure that these opportunities continue to be available.

The following tips for first-time trips are meant to help ensure that the first ride is the start of a confidence-building experience for your puppy while avoiding any annoyance for the riding public.

Please be sure to allow plenty of time before each ride to allow your puppy to empty its bowels and bladder in an appropriate area and carry with you appropriate supplies to clean up after them:

Plastic bags to dispose of feces

Paper towels (Windex is also a good idea) to mop up with

Plastic bags to contain this waste if outside trash cans are not readily available

Withholding food and water for at least an hour before a train, bus or subway ride is a good means of preventing accidents, as long as you carry water and a collapsible bowl with you so that your puppy can remain adequately hydrated during the day.

Don't forget a backpack or shoulder bag for supplies and personal items

Remember that young puppies will probably need to urinate and/or defecate quite soon after they leave the vehicle or rail car, so it is especially important to keep them occupied until you can get to an appropriate area.

Boarding and Exiting Subway and Rail Trains:

The station platform may be crowded with travelers so controlling your puppy by keeping him on a short leash is extremely important, not only while you wait but during boarding and getting off.

While waiting for the train, position yourself at the opposite end of the platform from where the trains arrive so that your puppy will have the opportunity to watch the train as it arrives and acclimate himself to the noise.

Wait to board until all the other passengers have exited or boarded the train unless directed otherwise.

If you are part of a large group, divide the group in half and board into two train cars to minimize confusion.

At some Regional Rail stations, the first step up onto the train can be a very high one and your puppy may need some assistance, so you need to be relatively hands-free (backpack!).

The same may be true as you exit. Holding on to the hand rail at the car door is a good idea in case your puppy attempts a brisk exit, or lands on the bumpy tactile platform edge and finds it strange.

While On the Train:

Please remember that all puppies MUST sit at your feet, and keep all body parts (paws, tails, noses, etc.) BEHIND the line (real or imaginary) which marks the aisle.

Do not allow your puppy to creep forward or back under the seats or allow him to annoy passengers in the seats in front of or behind you

Not all puppies love these first time adventures, so in case yours has some anxiety, it's important to reassure him and keep him quiet on the train. Bringing along a favorite toy on the first ride may aid in reassuring your puppy.

If the train is crowded, it's important to remember that lots of folks are frightened of puppies, so please keep your puppy on a very short leash to insure that they do NOT sniff, lick or bother other riders in any way.

Once you disembark, proceeding quickly to an appropriate location to allow your puppy to urinate or defecate BEFORE exploring the station or starting down a busy street will make the journey much more pleasant for you both.

Short practice rides: Repetition is key. SEPTA can arrange individual practice sessions during offpeak periods to give animals experience in repeatedly boarding/exiting trains, subways, trolleys, or buses and negotiating elevators.

SEPTA makes every effort to ensure that service animals in training and those working them have a positive and welcoming travel experience when riding the system. We strive to provide any assistance you may need and make this tip sheet, prepared by a veterinarian and longtime puppy raiser working with service animals in training, available for your use.