During the holiday season, even the best-laid plans can devolve into an improv routine. For assistance dog users, that routine can get a whole lot hairier — pun intended. Take a look at these tips help the season be about friends and family rather than focusing on the added stresses of traveling with a disability and an assistance dog.

1. Let your needs be known. Holiday gatherings are stressful, period. When considering whether or not to bring your assistance dog to a celebration, it’s a good idea to start the discussion ahead of time with the host and let them in on your needs. Whether it’s a portable ramp, quiet place for your child with a disability or an American Sign Language alphabet cheat sheet, think about how your loved ones can make these gatherings disability-friendly. Consider what is best for both you and your assistance dog.

2. Catching a plane? Make sure you plan ahead when traveling with your assistance dog. While you’re not required to call ahead about your service dog, it’s a good idea to give airlines at least 24 hours’ notice that you’ll be traveling with an assistance dog, for everyone’s benefit. Arrive early to catch your plane. There are special considerations during security screenings with an assistance dog. Make sure you are never separated, even when you head through a metal detector or pat down.

3. Keep your assistance dog’s schedule on your holiday radar. Just as we humans must plan ahead for the holidays, including packing medications and making time for self-care or rest breaks, your assistance dog’s needs require the same thoughtful consideration.

4. Set etiquette expectations. Assistance dogs are adorable. Even they know it. Chances are high that guests and holiday revelers will be drawn to them. Make sure everyone understands acceptable behavior when interacting with assistance dogs. Here are some pointers.

When in doubt, take a breath. The holidays are about seeing friends and family and sharing in the warmth of the season. Whether your assistance dog joins you for the festivities or not, you’re sure to want to remember them this year. To learn more about how to Give the Gift of Independence and Give a Dog a Job® click here.