While dogs and public transport is far from a match made in heaven, travelling by train with your dog doesn’t have to be stressful. The key is to make sure you’re sufficiently prepared for the journey — and that your furry friend is, too.
The first thing to consider is how your dog will be travelling: in a basket, or on a lead? If you have a lot of things to carry, you might find that a lead is more convenient. You might want to avoid using a carry-basket if your dog associates them with visits to the vet, as well — the idea here is to keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible.
Most train companies are happy with both leads and baskets, but if you do use an extendable leash, keep it on a short length so your dog can’t run around.
Keep in mind too that you can only bring two dogs with you at once, and that you will be charged for any dog taking up a seat. Consequently, you’re better off standing by the doors if the journey’s a short one, or booking a table seat so your dog can sit underneath.
Of course, you want to make sure the journey is as painless as possible — for you, your dog, and the other passengers. How is your dog with strangers? There’ll be plenty of those on a train — as well as young children and maybe even other pets. Bring treats and small toys to keep your dog entertained, and pay special attention to him for the duration of the journey. You want to make sure he feels calm and safe.
Being on a train can be an overwhelming experience for dogs unaccustomed to travel. You know how your dog reacts in stressful situations, so you should be able to adapt accordingly. If he has a favourite toy or blanket, bring it with you. For long journeys, a water bowl might be a good idea (and another reason to get a spacious table-seat).
Knowing your dog
There’s only so much preparation you can do, though. At the end of the day, there’s no telling how your dog will take to travelling. You don’t want your dog’s first train ride to be a long one, though. If you have to take your dog on a lengthy journey, it might pay to have a trial run beforehand — book a return to your closest station, and see how that goes.
Another thing to consider when taking a long journey is your dog’s toilet habits. If he can’t go two hours without a toilet break, you probably shouldn’t take him on a two-hour train ride — and if he isn’t house-trained yet, it might be worth investing in some dog nappies for the trip!
For the most part, travelling with your dog involves using your common sense: stay out of the food coach, keep him out of the aisle, and don’t try to stash him in the luggage rack. And, if you know your dog will play up, you might be better off with an alternative method of travel.
This article was written by Sam Wright, a freelance writer based in Norwich, Norfolk. He has two dogs – a Rottweiler-Collie cross (above) and a Staffy-Labrador, both of which love travelling by train.