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? Can we board the train? So, we thought Mummy should share a few tips about travelling with us on trains, ferries, cars and planes.
May’s comment: When is your dog ready for travel?
When your dogs 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, so it’s possible for you to do the same. Sometimes people will need their cars when they arrive at the final destination but having travelled by train/ferry, they won’t have it. For those people, I recommend you learn more about car transport and relocation. Getting your car shipped to your location means you and your pooches can travel there in peace (if you stick to the following tips) but can still have the luxury of your own vehicle when you arrive. 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. Since 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.
- Time taking 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). If you need to go to the WC while on the train, you can take your dog along – though a little crowded. 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.But 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. 🙂But 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 in between train changes, take your dogs to some grassy or gravel patch to relief themselves.
- Don’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.When you get a seat on the train, it’s one of the best feelings. Only because it gives me time to catch up with any work I need to or TV shows that I want to catch up on. I can’t do this standing up, with people peering over my shoulder. Don’t you find that annoying though? Sometimes you can’t seen someone looking at your screen, but you can feel them staring. I know someone who travels to and from work everyday and to pass the time, he just watches shows on Netflix on his phone. One time, the person sitting next to him was a huge fan of the show he was watching ( I don’t remember the name of it) and before he got to the end, this guy had already spoilt the ending. He was so annoyed. I would be too. So since then, he opted to buy iPhone privacy filter to help protect his screen from anyone who may be ready to drop anymore spoilers on him. Despite this, train journeys can be quite relaxing.
In big cities like London where it is very busy, you will waiting in the station along with a lot of other passengers waiting for the platform to be announced. And when it does, there’s 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.
- Use 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 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. Try and reserve seats especially during busy hours. I always opt to reserve 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. It 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 form seat to door the better. Aisle or window? It doesn’t matter – it’s what makes you comfortable? I don’t like climbing over people to get out so I prefer the aisle.
- Where do the dogs sit? Make sure they don’t block the aisle. They can sit on the floor by your feet or on your lap. Are dogs allowed to sit on the seats? I don’t know the answer but Darcy has taken 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. George 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.
- Travelling overnight – we’ve been on the Caledonian Sleeper travelling to Scotland. There are reserved cabins for 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!
- Stand 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 them and reassure them it’s ok, and you’re there.
- Getting 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 first. Once their four paws are on the ground, then lift your luggage off the train.
- Water 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. But usually there should be a food & beverage trolley that goes through the coaches anyway. There are also bottle with a roller ball at the end. Just that my dogs don’t like them – they prefer to slurp! 🙂
- Feed the dogs? Not necessary. Feed them before going on board. They won’t starve. 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 the barking immediately as this is annoying to those who are not in favour of dogs on trains.
- Unfriendly 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 tai 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. George used to be nervous at the beginning – he would be so tensed, he stood all the way and his hind legs ended up on my chest. But now, he’s completely curious and goes to greet everyone who would give him attention.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!!! 🙂
That was 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.
Note: Pets are not allowed on Eurostar. But you can cross over in the Eurotunnel by car from Folkestone and then board a train in Calais. The differences are, depending 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 – and they are required to be “muzzled”. I have one of those for Darcy but have never used it to be honest. I have a tote bag for George so in this instance he’s in the tote bag and I put him on my roller and Darcy is on the leash. Or there’s the option of travelling with Stenaline from Harwich to Hoek van Holland and then onto a train. Pets have to be the kennels but they are absolutely acceptable – clean and locked but you can visit any time you wish. Boarding is straightforward.
Flying with them is a whole different experience and will need a separate topic.
Of course, there’s the necessity of Pet Passports when travelling abroad and planning much more ahead in terms of getting them de-wormed and planning for vet visits before returning to the UK.
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.