Training your dog to use public transport
Travelling on public transport is often troublesome enough without the company of your dog. Strikes, delays, and overcrowding take their toll of our nerves on a daily basis. To travel with your dog can add to your woes, especially if your dog is easily agitated by strangers. But that does not need to be the case.
Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:32
There are ways and means to train your dog in the art of rush hour travelling, and here we look at just some of them. Fear not when you travel that your dog will let you down on the way; your canine companion just needs to be trained to understand the rigours of public transport, and to know what is expected of him.
Where can your dog sit when he is on a train or a bus? Are there special carriages for animals? Do some transport links forbid pets aboard their rolling stock? Should you be concerned about a fellow traveller’s fear of dogs? All these questions and more are answered here.
Are dogs allowed on the UK’s public transport?
Travelling with your dog around the UK is possible despite the fact that the laws governing pets on public transport are stricter than they are in Europe.
Dogs are allowed on most forms of public transport with the exception of aircraft. At the moment no British-based airline allows dogs to travel in the cabin of the plane; pets and animals are consigned to the hold.
On land, dogs can travel on buses and trains for free, although if you have more than two dogs you may have to pay an extra fare on the rail network. There are also fees to be paid if you take your dog on the Caledonian sleeper service which runs between London Euston and the Highlands of Scotland.
Some regional transport networks may have specific regulations in respect of passengers and their pets. The National Rail website has more details of fees applicable for the nationwide rail service.
Are dogs allowed on London’s public transport?
Dogs can travel free of charge in London on both the underground and buses, although large dogs may be refused boarding of buses at the driver’s discretion. When travelling on the underground, there are some local bylaws to take account of: You must take the stairs or lift to and from the platforms, and, if using the escalator, you must carry your dog (regardless of its size!)
Mode of transport
If you plan to travel with your dog (or other pet) you should check the local transport service for its published regulations. The “conditions of carriage” of a local tram, train or bus service will provide you with all of the detail you need.
In general, the UK rules of pet carriage are as follows:
- Travel by train: Usually two dogs may accompany a passenger for free
- Travel by coach: Check with provider; often no pets allowed
- Travel by bus: Pets boarded at driver’s discretion
- Travel by tram/metro: Check with provider; often no pets allowed
- Travel by taxi: Check with provider; often no pets allowed
- Travel by London Underground: May accompany a passenger for free
How to safely take your dog on public transport
Although some breeds of dog are more laid back than others, an animal’s ability to travel well varies between individuals. Some dogs may suffer with motion sickness and others may become agitated if surrounded by lots of people, especially during the rush hour.
Before you travel you should take into account the alternatives of the route. You should also give some thought to whether your dog needs to accompany you. That being said, if you have decided that your dog must travel with you take heed of a few simple tips when travelling:
Safe dog travel: Other people
As well as ensuring your dog is happy and relaxed you should be aware of his proximity to other people. We forget sometimes that many people do not like dogs and are scared of them; they sometimes react in surprising ways. Be vigilant of your dog’s behaviour; the last thing you need is to be sued for damages because your dog bites someone!
Remember: Always keep your dog on a lead in a public place. By law you are responsible for keeping your dog controlled in public. Failure to do so may land you in the clink.
Safe dog travel: Loud noises
Unless you travel with your dog a lot on public transport you should be mindful of how your dog feels about loud and sudden noises. Public transport, especially in big cities, is noisy, busy, fast-paced and sometimes brutal. You must be certain your dog will cope with these environmental forces before you opt to travel.
Safe dog travel: Escalators
Escalators and travelators are dangerous places for dogs. The ridges on the steps may injure your dog’s paws, and the gaps at the sides and end of the machinery can pose serious hazards. If you are able, always carry your dog on a moving walkway.
Safe dog travel: Ticket barriers
Very often ticket barriers are where the majority of people congregate. Most of us know that when it is our turn to walk through the barrier we must do so quickly and cleanly otherwise we risk incurring the wrath of other travellers! Always try to find the disabled or large barrier in order to calmly walk through; in doing so you will avoid hurrying your dog through the barrier and injuring him.
Safe dog travel: Time of day
Perhaps most importantly you should consider the time of day you will travel. London’s rush hour is no longer just one hour. Between about 4pm and 7pm the city is hectic, and even after that the Underground will be busy with tourists and theatregoers.
Best tips for taking your dog on public transport
It may not be possible to train your dog thoroughly before you travel, especially if your journey is last minute. Furthermore, unless you are a professional animal trainer who specialises in training animals to withstand crowds, noise and the odd push and shove, you may just have to settle with ensuring that your dog is well-behaved.
Let’s have a look at the things you can do to make your journey (and that of your dog) more enjoyable and less stressful:
Things to take with you on your journey
Remember to take everything your dog needs, especially if the journey is long:
- Water and a water bowl
- Food and food bowl (or use the water bowl)
- Poo bags, tissues and wet wipes
- Treats and toys (including something that will keep your dog occupied for a while)
Basic training for your dog
It would not be advisable to take an untrained or poorly behaved dog on public transport. To do so is asking for trouble. If your dog has been trained reasonably well to “sit”, “stay” (wait), “lie down” and “leave”, your journey will be far easier. Perhaps most important is your ability to hold the dog’s attention.
If you know your dog well you should also be able to tell when he is feeling stressed, sick, tired or angry. To know these signs will also stand you in good stead for the journey, since you can take action to avoid an unpleasant scene. You may even need to alight at a stop so that he can relieve himself.
Ignoring your dog, or seeing him as an inconvenience, will not only heighten the animal’s stress but will lead you both to trouble. If your dog soils a train carriage between stations you will not only be ostracised by your fellow passengers but also likely to be asked to leave the train altogether.
If you must take your dog on public transport, be prepared for a journey with a dog. That may sound basic but being accompanied by an animal, especially one that is not used to travel, is not as fun or as exciting as travelling with other human beings.
Vigilance is called for, and a great deal of care. The more you travel, of course, the more used to new experiences, smells and sounds the dog will become. First and foremost, take care of your dog’s wellbeing, and respond to his demands and complaints.