May issue

May issue
May issue

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

All aboard?


I was wondering if anyone had any experience of long train journeys with dogs in tow? I'm planning on taking my dog up north over Christmas to see friends, we'll have an hour journey into London, then go on the tube, then on a three hour trip to our destination.

I'll take her for a long walk beforehand to ensure she's totally tired and will try to give her toilet breaks wherever possible. My concern is that she is a Labrador-Collie cross so I can't exactly place her on my lap during the journey, how easy is it to take dogs on public transport like this?

Mary Scott, Kent

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Mary,

It might be worth calling ahead to make sure that you know dogs are welcome on the trains you plan to use. They will have a policy on what is permitted so I think it is a wise move. They may advise you on other aspects of travel too such as quieter times of day to travel particularly on the tube, as a crowd will probably be very difficult for you both to manage.

Take a comfortable blanket for your dog to lie on - this will not only help her to feel more secure with a homely smelling place, but it may also stop her rolling on the floor with the inevitable train movements.

Take something she loves to chew, and have a few of these ready as you have a long journey. It will help her to de-stress and enjoy herself a little more.

Trains are very noisy, and in the tube especially it can be hot with huge gusts of air down the tunnels. I'd start teaching a good sit stay as soon as possible, so that if there is anything likely to spook her you can replace this with a predictable and easy behaviour that will also help her to settle.
You may attract a lot of attention with a lovely dog in tow, so be prepared for polite ways to ask people not to disturb her. Even if she is very friendly, she will find the journey tiring so I would not ask my dog to put up with attention under these circumstances unless I was confident that she was still relaxed. Use a high-vis lead and jacket, perhaps, to make sure people see her and don't trip over her. My own dogs always wear these when out like this if they are on the ground (I am lucky that I can pick up my dogs!).

As with any new experience your dog needs to build up to it gradually, so practising your sit and down stay training around the local train station is something I would make a priority, even with short journeys to accustom her. Take plenty of high-value food rewards (chicken, or ham for example) with you and offer them whenever the train is nearby, to form a happy association.

There are so many aspects to this that it is hard to do it justice in an answer of this nature. The noise from the train, the bustle of the platform, the people moving about, the attention, the sway of the train and the unfamiliarity of the journey all have elements that need consideration and it might be worth making a huge list of these. At each point of the list, you know your dog best of all, so mark what you think needs doing against each point. You will be able to identify the things that can be solved and those that are unlikely to be a problem, and this will in turn build your confidence and sense of control. And a confident you means a happier travelling dog!

Have a terrific trip!



  1. She won't want to be totally tired! The journey will be quite interesting enough for her. You don't say how big she is - I travelled all over London by tube with my weimaraner when she was modelling - I certainly could not pick her up and carry her.
    Does she walk nicely on lead? 2 things I really recommend.
    1) make sure your dog is not scared witless by the trains - if she's jumpy at them coming into the platform, you need to desensitise this.
    2) Work on verbal positioning cues: To heal - walk closely beside me; behind - walk behind me; look at me - make sure your dog is watching you for your cues as to where you are going next rather than choosing a direction herself. You do not need to be dragged suddenly in the wrong direction and for either of you to end up under the train.
    Remember dogs aren't supposed to go on esculators. The station will close them down for you at off peak times, or point you in the direction of lifts or stairs - though I took Cindy on them because we did sometimes end up in the rush hour, I couldn't carry her and there wasn't any other option.

  2. I regularly travel with Rosie up to Liverpool from London.
    Without knowing which tube and train station I can't give specific advice on the stations. I use Euston to get to Liverpool.

    I have a separate bag with all the thing I need for her to hand, like poo bags, water/bowl and kitchen towels & wet wipes. I also have some treats for her. if you are travelling from Euston there is a garden area at the front where I break my journey and she can go to the toilet. I also sometimes pre-book and go first class as it can be quite good price if you book in advance and you get a lot more room. That part of the journey is the easiest.
    Travelling by tube if you get in touch with London Transport (TFL) you could find out which tubes have a lift to the platform as escalators are hard with a dog and you could always walk part way if your nearest tube has no lift.

    Leave a lot more time than you need to get to places. Also is there a Train you could get to your mainline station as you'll find the train easier than the tube in London.

    Avoid travelling peak times on the tube as there just wont be enough room for you and your dog.

    If you travel Standard class on the train there is less room however there is an area with drop down seats on the Pendolinos where there is a lot more room so you could sit there and have plenty of room.

    Is a good idea to walk beforehand but you could consider walking from one main line to the next which would avoid the tube and give him/her good exercise. For example Waterloo to Euston is not that bad a walk and would really break the journey.

    When I get on the train I always ask the people sitting near me if they have a problem with dogs and offer to move and so far everyone has been really nice and friendly and I've had no problems.

    I hope some of that helps. My experience is that it has always been much better than I think it is going to be.

  3. The problem with making sure she's tired is that the journey will be very stimulating for her, and over-tired dogs can be very grumpy, especially with the many well-meaning strangers you'll come across who are likely to want to interact with her.

    I'd start taking short journey on public transport now, making sure that they're very positive experiences for her; I'd also be tempted to call the train company who runs the three-hour service and ask if I may be able to crate my dog while on the train (assuming you're not travelling at rush hour!), both for her safety and to enable you to relax a little, rather than watch her the entire time. Assuming she's crate training already, simply take a fabric crate, put it up somewhere safe, close to you, and out of the way of other passengers, and pop her in it with a stuffed food-carrier toy and/or a safe chew item or two.

  4. I regularly took two jack russells on public transport - around London on buses and the tube and several times up and down to Glasgow on the train and then a further 3 hour train journey on from Glasgow. (There was a chance of a brief walk between stations) Both my dogs were well used to public transport and I never had problems with them. They tucked in under the seats or my legs and I found train staff (Virgin and Scotrail) very helpful in that they advised us of longer stops for staff changes where we could get them out onto the platform if need be. (We never needed to take this opportunity). My dad has also taken his medium sized cairn cross up from Rochester to Glasgow (two trains with a walk inbetween). This dog is not a great car traveller - but again no problems. Finally, I recently rescued a 1 year old jack and took her up to Glasgow from Bolton - absolutely no problems and she had never been in a train before. In all cases the dogs have had a shortish walk - but enough to do what they need to do, as we have been travelling very early in the morning. I take a bowl and water on board and some dried kibble. I have found that dogs travel better on a train than by car. I assume you will book your seat in advance because that is essential.

  5. Hi,
    I have travelled from Kent to Devon a number of times with Buddy my English Bull Terrier and it has always gone well. I would suggest not travelling on a Friday if you don't have to as the last time we went we did go on the Friday and had to sit in the corridor for most of the journey.
    He certainly does attract a lot of positive attention whenever we travel.
    I hope you have a good trip.
    Janet & Buddy