Happy Trails

People always ask us when we travel on trains, ferries, long car journeys or even on planes – where do my dogs pee? Where do they sit? How do we board the train? So we thought to share a few tips about travelling with dogs on trains, ferries, cars and planes:

TRAIN TRAVEL in the UKimg_6805-580x580-2

Dogs are allowed in trains (except Ireland and Northern Ireland where it is down to the decision of the train station manager)

When is your dog ready for travel?

  • When your dogs are house-trained, can hold all night and not have an accident, they are ready for travelling long distances.
  • If your dogs have been house-trained, they will not mess up in the trains, planes, nor ferries.
  • If your dogs do not have motion sickness, they will not have a problem.

Because I am not comfortable driving long distances, I have planned most of our travels across the UK as well as Europe by train and ferries.

Here are some of the things to be aware of, to consider when travelling with your dogs on trains whether in the UK or Abroad. When you’ve done it once, it becomes a lot easier. And it will also help with your confidence of travelling with them. Soon you will only want to travel with them – or maybe its just me. I always enjoy our travels together.

So here goes:

Travel light, minimise your luggage. Remember you will need at least one free hand to hold the leash. When I was travelling with just Darcy, I used a roller bag and put my handbag on top of it.img_8314-580x773-2Since I started travelling with Darcy and George, I have switched to using a backpack. And if I needed to have a handbag, I use one that is cross-body. That way I have two free hands. But when I go for longer periods and need to bring a roller bag, I use an adjustable leash that I can hook onto my belt.

That way, George is hooked onto me and I still have two hands – one for the roller bag and the other for Darcy. I bought these from Cetacea adjustable leashes in the U.S. – very useful when travelling and also at restaurants when you want to attach them to the chair, etc.

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Timing your dog for their relief just before you get on the means of transport. That way you know they don’t have to go for at least another four hours. Darcy and George can easily hold for ten hours and there are a lot of trips at least around the UK that you can do within that time frame. When we travelled on the overnight sleeper train to Scotland – this point is particularly essential as they won’t be allowed out of the cabin once inside. Again, remember that if they can hold all night at home, they should be able to do the same on the overnight train.

Time your own bathroom visits as well! Especially if you are travelling on your own, it is quite cumbersome to have to take your dog with you to the toilets on the platforms (there’s usually one) plus it’s not exactly easily accessible and sometimes they do not allow pets in them. If you need to go to the WC while on the train, you can take your dog along – though a little tight in space, and cannot imagine how filthy it must be on the floor. With two, I definitely don’t any more, so I hook their leads onto the arm rest and push it up to “lock” them in to ensure they don’t wander off looking for me. If there are other dog-friendly passengers near you, you can always ask them to keep an eye on your dog. They are always only too pleased to help.img_7111-2-2But if they are trained, tell them to “STAY”. It helps to make sure there’s not a queue so you don’t have to leave them longer than necessary. When I return to my seat I always see two furry faces peering out from the seat looking at me.img_0849-580x773But I would NEVER leave them to go to the WC or the food & beverage coach if the train is stopped or about to stop at a station. You just never know. Someone could take them and get off the train. But whilst the train is moving, there’s little danger of someone taking your dog away.

Take advantage of train changes to let your dogs relief themselves. When on a long journey with train changes, and you have time till the next train, take your dogs to some grassy or gravel patch to relief themselves.img_7142-1Don’t rush. Get to the train station in plenty of time before departure so you are not rushing. This allows you time to familiarise yourself with the station and know where the platforms are. In big cities like London where it is very busy, you will standing alongside a lot of other passengers waiting for the platform to be announced. And when it does, there’s always a big rush. Go with the crowd and hold your dogs on a short leash close to you. Try to go through the gate for families with children, strollers or wheelchairs rather than the turnstiles. It will be easier and if there are any problems, there’s usually an attendant to help.img_0031Use the lifts whenever available. If you need to go up and down escalators or stairs to the platforms, look for lifts – it will be easier to manage with luggage and dog(s) on leash. You are supposed to carry them when on escalators as their long hair might get caught in the grooves of the moving steps. So you can imagine with two dogs and luggage, I look for lifts! But whenever I have to, I carry them both – yes, quite a feat. Crazy dog lady in the making but it never fails to put a smile on people’s faces. 🙂

Make seat reservations. Reserve seats whenever possible especially during peak hours of travelling. I always opt to get a table seat closest to the door. That way there’s room for the doggies to stay under. Look for good bargains to travel First Class.img_8324-580x773-2It is not always more expensive – sometimes they have very good deals. It’s a bit of luxury but worth the extra costs as there’s more leg room, less crowded and quieter.

Why near the door? It’s easier to get to and from seat to door. It’s a bit difficult to manoeuvre as the aisles are narrow – you either lead with your dog behind you or let the dogs go in front of you while carrying your luggage – and they don’t know where they’re going so they stop and wait and so the shorter the distance from seat to door, the better.img_0847-580x435Aisle or window? It doesn’t matter – it’s what makes you comfortable? I just don’t like climbing over people to get out so I prefer the aisle. But I tend to always end up with a seat next to me and that way I keep the dogs inside, away from the aisle so they don’t venture out and get in the way of passengers coming and going.

Where do the dogs sit? They can sit on the floor by your feet or on your lap. Make sure they don’t block the aisle.

Are dogs allowed to sit on the seats?  Probably not but it also depends on the train staff.  When they object it is because they think the dog’s hair left on the seat is not good for the next passenger.  Or that they consider dogs to be dirty.  It’s likened to putting your shoes on the seat. So while I know my dogs are usually very clean and that both Darcy and George do not shed there’s no point trying to explain when asked to take them off the seat because they are probably unaware that some dogs don’t shed and they have to always be right.

Darcy prefers to sit on the floor anyway by my feet or under the seat.  But usually on a long ride, she gets bored sitting in one position and looks for an alternative place to sit. She either asks to sit on my lap or takes to sitting on the seat next to me when available. I always put my coat on the seat for her to sit on it. That way if anyone should say anything which relates to their being dirty or moulting – I can say she’s sitting on my coat.img_8332-580x435-2George usually sits on my lap. On a long train ride, they will after a while decide on a change of scene and will go down on the floor. That’s why choosing table seats or First Class makes it more comfortable as it has more leg room.img_7095-2Travelling overnight – we’ve been on the Caledonian Sleeper travelling to Scotland. There are reserved cabins for passengers with pets. Once inside, they are not allowed out, so in this instance – definitely make sure they have relieved themselves before boarding. Again, if your dogs have been trained, they would not need to go again till they get off at the other end. The cabins are tight – no kidding, Darcy!img_1929-1024x768-580x435Stand way back on the platform – especially as the train approaches for obvious reasons, but also when there’s a train that’s just passing through the station – that is going very fast and very loud. Especially if your dog is nervous, just put your hand on their collar and reassure them it’s ok, and you’re there.img_8013Getting on and off trains. Your dog may hesitate the first time boarding a train. If he puts on the brakes, lift him on board but in no time they will get used to it. Then get yourself on with your luggage. More importantly is getting off the train as there’s usually a gap and steps. Don’t try to do everything at once. Make sure your dogs get off the train safely first. img_7006Once their four paws are on the ground, then lift your luggage off the train.img_0845-580x773Water for the dogs and yourself. Carry a small bottle of water – for yourself and for your dog(s). Have one of those light collapsible water bowls for long journeys. But don’t fill up the bowl – just some for them to slurp up and fill them up again if required or you will then have to throw out the water. And you also don’t have to trouble yourself if you needed a drink of something.

We recently found this squeeze bottle.  img_6854When you squeeze the bottle, water comes out at the top and when they’re done drinking, you release the bottle and all the water goes back into the bottle.  No need to worry about discarding extra water left in the bowl.

Feed the dogs? Not necessary. Feed them before going on board. None of the journeys are that long for them to starve. But when I had been on an overnight train to Scotland, I did have Darcy’s breakfast.

Other dog passengers. Every now and then there may be other dogs in the same cabin. Either dog may become territorial and start barking. If it’s your dog barking, stop him/her immediately as this is annoying to those who are not in favour of dogs on trains.img_4204-580x435-2Unfriendly passengers. It has occurred maybe twice in all our travels. They usually give nasty looks or make some comment under their breath but making sure you and others around hear their displeasure. They may move away in disgust. Don’t take it personally. They are entitled to their feelings but be rest assured the majority of passengers in the UK are sympathetic and enjoy seeing dogs on trains – when well-behaved. One time, a gentleman complained to the train conductor that dogs should not be allowed in First Class cabins. The train conductor said nothing and other passengers rolled their eyes and smiled at us. One of them said – pay no attention to him! That said, please remember to keep your dogs under control and be considerate – so we can all continue to travel freely in England, Scotland and Wales with our fur babies. We are very lucky to be able to do so.

On arrival. One final thing – on arrival at the other end, if there’s no one meeting you there, always call ahead for a taxi – and let them know you have dogs! Some drivers are “allergic” to dogs, some do not like their cars messed up. So just so you don’t end up stranded – book a taxi that takes dogs.

Mimimise fear.  If they start to tremble with fear, pick them up, hold them tight. I know from George being afraid of fireworks, there’s nothing you can do to stop their trembles. But let them know you’re there and keep telling them it’s ok. And over time, they will get used to the situation – if they realise that it comes to nothing and they trust you to protect them. That worked for Darcy.  But not for George – at the beginning, he would be so tensed, he stood all the way and his hind legs ended up on my chest. After awhile he became completely curious and went to greet everyone who would give him attention.img_6657-2But something happened recently and now he’s back to anxious panting on entire journeys. So I am trying a few things, as suggested by others who have anxious dogs – thunder shirt and Pet Calm remedy. Have yet to try them and see if they work.

Also hurried feet and crowds can be frightening at that level. Try and avoid rush hours, carry them if it gets too crowded – obviously for medium to small size dogs only!!! 🙂

This has been written from the perspective of travelling on trains from busy London stations but should generally apply to all train travels. Pretty much the same applies to travelling on trains on the continent except for border crossing issues.

TRAVELLING to, from and on the Continent requires a lot more planning …fullsizerender-3

Mandatory: To go abroad to Europe, the US and other countries that are recognised under the DEFRA scheme, you must have an up-to-date Pet Passport – annual check-up, de-wormed and rabies vaccination must be up to date. If not it can delay your travel by at least three weeks. And before returning to the UK, all pets must have visited the local vet for de-worming (e.g. Milbemax) and a check-up before returning to the UK.  The administration of the deworming tablet must not be less than 24 hours at time of entry and not more than 5 days.  So if you have only been out of the UK for less than five days, your visit to the vet before leaving the country should suffice.img_7532And you get hugs too!

Means of crossing:

  • via Eurotunnel by car – To cross the Channel, pets are not allowed on Eurostar. But you can cross over in the Eurotunnel by car from Folkestone. Or if you’re not driving, Folkestone Taxis provide a service.  They can pick you up from Folkestone to go over to Calais or Lille or Brugge, Paris – anywhere – they charge by distance.  And they also pick-up from the Continent.  In addition to the service fee, you have to pay for the channel crossing and pet crossing fee.  They provide a quote and take payment before travel.
    • After the crossing, the usual next step is to board a train at Calais Frethun or Calais Ville.  Unlike the UK, you have a pay a fare for dogs. The differences depends on the countries, they vary a little – dogs in carriers go for free. Dogs on leashes – you have to pay usually a child 2nd class fare or half price child’s second class fare – and they are required to be “muzzled”. img_7983I have one of those for Darcy but have never used it to be honest.
  • via Stenaline ferry crosses between Harwich to Hoek van Holland and then onto a train.  The ferries on both sides are connected to the train stations for easy transition.img_6810 Boarding is straightforward:
    • On leaving the UK, check-in, go straight to Guest Services on Deck 9 and you’re given the code for the kennel on Deck 8. Dogs are not allowed in the cabins or public areas.
    • On the way back to the UK, there’s a Pet Reception/Control area where you must have their chip scanned and passport checked before checking in yourself.

Pets can be left in the cars if you’re driving but it is a long crossing – about 7 hours and you won’t have access to the cars.  It is advisable to leave them in the kennels and they are absolutely acceptable – clean and locked but you can visit any time you wish.  They provide clean duvets for the kennels and water bowls. I always bring my own water bowl.img_6812  And there’s also a small deck for walking the dogs.img_6811 Problem is my dogs are so well trained that they consider that area as indoors and I have never succeeded in getting them to relief themselves there. But on a nice day, it is nice for some fresh air!img_6807

  • In-cabin plane travel: Of course the other way to leave the British Isles for the continent is flying – but restricted to certain airlines. The ones we have used to fly in-cabin out of the UK are: Lufthansa, SwissAir, SAS.  But once within Europe, we have flown Air Berlin, Air France and Alitalia between countries. In-cabin travel is usually limited to dogs under 8kg, rarely 10kg.  I’ve flown with George (weighing in at 6kg) and it is not so easy. It’s cumbersome. I had to carry his Sleepy Pod Air and my hand luggage – img_6727of course you can choose to check- in your luggage but I don’t.  I feel like I am losing time whenever waiting at the luggage belt.

Every airport is different. In most of the European countries, they can be walked on the leash until boarding. With the exception of UK airports and Paris Charles de Gaulle – they have to be carried in a bag – doesn’t have to be in the flying bag, just in any bag. I have a tote bag for George until he needs to get into his Sleepy Pod Air. But once you start to board, that’s where the line is drawn and they have to be in the bag – same in every country and on every airline.  This is precautionary in case they poo, bite someone or if someone is allergic to dogs.  The last point to me is rather mute – for unless the person who is allergic to dogs are in contact it shouldn’t be a problem. If they are highly allergic, then even if the dog is in the bag the plane’s air circulation would be a problem for them. And if they are seriously allergic to dogs, then the problem is beyond flying with dogs in planes.

Every plane and every airline seems to differ in rules and regulations but the most basic is the dogs have to stay inside the bag at all times, and the bag is under the seat by your feet.  They are not allowed out of the bag and not on your lap. But sometimes they do not seem to mind when you do. Best to be prepared for the extreme. I have learnt that with George, he maybe anxious but if I left him alone, he eventually settled down and went to sleep. If I worried and put the bag on my lap, he continued to be anxious. And because he was anxious, all the treats in the world did not interest him.

Be prepared that they need to go through airport security. Sometimes the security will lead them through the side of the scanner. Sometimes they are to follow you through the scanner – but without the lead and collar with metal bits – so try and use collars without metal parts to allow you to lead them through the scanner. Or in some cases they have to walk across by themselves. img_7481Also, be prepared to carry them when going up escalators or look for lifts.  And avoid using the moving walk-ways.

In other words, make sure you can manage carrying them or that they are ok to sit on a trolley being pushed.

Watch out for passengers in a hurry running through the airport with their roller bags and lots of children wanting to stroke doggies. Not a good idea. Avoid them if possible because if there should be an incident – that’s it!

And of course there could be security dogs on the other side of the scanner! Usually German Shepherds and always seems to scare most dogs.

Now, that’s just getting out of the UK but you can never fly into the UK in-cabin. And since I choose never to fly Darcy again in cargo – I did that once taking her to New York City – you have to figure out how best to get not exorbitant one way tickets!  Of course you can return with them in cargo if you choose to.

The other option is to get over to the next closest airport on the continent, e.g.. Amsterdam or Paris and do return flights in and out of those airports.

And the ultimate way to travel – via private jets.  While you can basically take them anywhere you want to go with a lot less hassle just don’t think if you can afford to fly privately you are exempt from rules and regulations of each country – as we have seen in a recent case when someone tried to sneak their dogs into Australia! 🙂

  • Crossing the Pacific – of course there’s the Queen Mary! That is luxury in terms of time and expense – and take it for what it is.  It took us eight days to sail back from New York City to Southampton. 13416887_954926711286747_5737688186248170236_oThey stay in the kennels and are looked after by a kennel master – tip him at the end of the journey as he had spent the last eight days cleaning up the poo and pee and feeding the dogs. Maximum ten dogs per journey so need to book in advance to secure space. Bring your own food for feeding or they have various options if you tell them ahead of time.  There are several kennel visiting hours during the day and most owners would choose to spend that time with their pets. We soon became the Kennel Club!

We haven’t gone further than the US and unless I am moving continents I wouldn’t take them to Asia nor the Middle East. The climate changes and distance are not really beneficial for them.

Happy travels! Once you’ve done it, it gets easier. And once you know you can, you will want to travel with them. I do. I enjoy my trips more when they are with me.