Learn the ‘what’s what’ of doggy train travel before you book your ticket, because you may just get caught out by one or two of the stranger restrictions. The first thing to remember is that when you are out and about (whether at a train station or elsewhere) your dog needs to be well behaved. If you aren’t confident of either your dog’s ability to listen to your commands or her excitability around other people then you should reconsider your plans.
The dog should wear a muzzle and be on a lead. Control is everything. A dog that is out of control, whether it is being aggressive or just over-excited, is seen as a threat to people’s safety and for this you can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act. So if your dog is a nervous sort you may want to consider travelling at a quieter off-peak time to avoid being swamped by commuters and holiday goers.
When you're at the station
Get to the station in plenty of time. Trying to rush while you’re holding a dog and luggage is hard, and remember: the more stressed you get the more stressed your dog will get. Avoid using escalators (there is usually a sign warning of the dangers), and always think ahead when you approach ticket barriers. Use an extra-wide barrier (most stations have them) instead of trying to squeeze you and your dog through a single barrier.
When you're on the platform
You will not be allowed to take your dog on a train if the train inspector suspects you do not have control of your dog. Thus, when you are at the platform and waiting for the train to come you should exemplify good behaviour! Wait somewhere quiet and keep well back from the platform until the train has stopped.
Getting on and off the train
When the train arrives be ready to take your dog on board. If she is portable and there is a large gap between the train and the platform pick her up; don't let her try to jump the gap. Make sure you stand away from the doors to let other passengers off. Your dog will be scared at a crowd of people pouring down on top of her, and when you are disembarking, be ready to pick up a small dog to carry her off the train. As tempting as it is to let her try to jump down, neither you nor your dog know what the gap or the drop is like.
When you're on the train
Perhaps the most important part of your journey which requires ultimate obedience is your time inside the train carriage. Here are a few pointers to good dog behaviour while on board the train. Remember, if your dog causes a nuisance, a disturbance or is not properly controlled then the conductor will usher you off the train:
- Find a place to sit or stand that is not busy. The vestibule just inside the outer door is usually as quiet as anywhere but this too can be busy during a rush hour.
- Do not sit your dog on a seat. Instead have her sit beneath the table.
- Make sure her tail is not going to be trodden on.
- If a passenger is not happy about sitting near a dog the onus is on you to move.
- Do not let your dog approach other passengers unless she is invited to do so; even then you should be aware that the aisle is to be kept clear
- Do not feed your dog on the train. You should however have brought some means to water her.
- You will not be allowed to take your dog to the buffet car.
Break your journey up if it is long
The average journey time from Plymouth to Glasgow is currently 10 hours and 9 minutes. That is a long time for both of you to travel without a suitable break. But even when the train stops at a station it may only stay there for one or two minutes to let people off and on. So in order to let your dog stretch her legs and relieve herself you should aim to break up your journey.
National Rail guidelines
Here is an abridged rule book when taking a dog on a train. You are allowed to take up one or two dogs free of charge but any others will involve an extra charge. National Rail states that you are permitted to take the dogs on the train ‘provided they do not endanger or inconvenience passengers or staff’.
- Dogs are to be kept on a lead
- Dogs without leads must be in a contained basket or crate in which they can stand up and lie down
- Only dogs that assist the blind and deaf are allowed in the restaurant (buffet) carriage.
- Only dogs that assist the blind and deaf are allowed on most sleeper coaches.
- The railway company you travel with has the right to remove you and your dog from the train.
- If your dog sits on a train seat you will be charged a full fare for the privilege.
- If another passenger objects to your dog you are legally obliged to move elsewhere.
To summarise: yes, it is possible to take your dog on a train, but nothing is ever as straightforward as we would like. You must remember to take with you the usual trimmings of a doggy day out (poo bags, bottle of water, water bowl, wet wipes, travel sickness tablets, etc.) but you need to try to pack well to avoid carrying any more than one bag.
After all, your other hand should be tight around your dog’s lead. Public opinion about dogs is mixed. Most of us love dogs but not everyone is a fan of your four-legged angel, and the law that governs us outdoors reflects the opinions of the minority. That is why it would be best for you to travel off-peak, to keep a low profile, to avoid people as best as possible and to keep good control of your dog. Not doing so will land you in trouble.