Did you know that here in the UK, dogs are allowed on trains? I did’t! Up until the beginning of 2015 I had no idea that dogs were able to travel by train. Imagine having owned a small dog, the perfect size for travel, for almost four years and not knowing they could have been accompanying you on train journeys all along. Better yet, you can take up to two animals per passenger, free of charge. ‘Animals’ include dogs, cats and other small animals. I decided not to inform Amber of this as I don’t think she would be best pleased getting onto a train that could also be accommodating a cat.
Amber’s first train experience was back in October 2015 when we journeyed up to Kent, via London to visit out friends Becca and Mika (@huskymika on instagram). This was by far the worst traveling experience I have had with Amber in general – by train or otherwise. I stupidly booked the train to London at peek time on a Friday evening. It was absolutely packed. I had Amber on my knee as the foot space was tiny and with no spare seats (& it being her first train journey) I wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible. 9kg of dog on your knee for two and a half hours is not fun!
Since this small disaster of a journey Amber and I have become train experts. We have been on many a train journey – most of them being pleasant. Here are our 5 tips for traveling via train with your dog:
1 – Book the trip in advance
If possible, book advance, off peak train tickets. These are not only cheaper tickets but the train is not as busy. The only problem with these tickets is that you may not be traveling at a time that is as convenient as an on peak ticket. It is also a good idea to select your seats when booking your ticket, which can be done when booking via the national rail website. If you’re like me and don’t fancy getting numb legs from having a dog sat on you for hours, I would definitely recommend selecting a seat at a table. This way there is plenty of room for your pooch to curl up at your feet. This is probably my top tip for if you are having to travel at peak time as I find that the foot space on normal seats is nowhere near big enough to have your dog and your feet comfortably positioned.
2 – Prepare for the journey
Before setting off on any long journey whether that be by train or car, I try to take Amber on a long walk beforehand. This ensures that she isn’t going to have any accidents along the way and tires her out so she’ll sleep for the majority of the trip (not that she wouldn’t anyway – world’s laziest dog). I find this incredibly handy as when she’s tired she will sleep just about anywhere and doesn’t have to stress about where she is going.
3 – Pack a train bag
When I am traveling by train with Amber I always take a little bag with her essentials in. I usually store any other bags I have on the shelf overhead so having a little one that I can keep on my lap makes it much easier to access Amber’s things. The most important items I keep in this bag are a bowl and a bottle of water. It can often get hot on the train, especially if it’s busy so having water to hand is my number one priority. I also pack her treats and depending on the time we are traveling, a little package of food.
4 – Get around the ‘no dogs on seats’ rule
It states on the National Rail website that dogs are not to sit on the seats, however, I have been told by the ticket collectors on several trains that I can sit Amber on a seat as long as I cover it (This isn’t always the case but happens more often than not). I now always have a little towel packed in my ‘essentials bag’ incase we are fortunate enough to get an empty seat next to us. It’s also comfier for Amber when sitting at my feet to be on a towel so it never goes to waste.
5 – Know where to cool down
I find that the temperature seems to vary depending on the train but in the winter especially, they seem to have the heating on full blast for prolonged periods of time. This can cause dogs to become very uncomfortable when sitting on the floor next to the vents. Whenever Amber and I are in this situation I like to take her out by the doors every half an hour or so. It is much cooler out there as there’s no heating vents on the floor & the doors have been open at the stops along the way. We usually stand out next to the doors for around 5 minites then return to our seats. I have found that this has helped to avoid Amber drinking excessive amounts of water on hot trains. This puts me at ease as I do worry that she’ll have an accident if she drinks too much. She never has but it’s always a good idea to reduce the risk!
Fortunately for me, Amber has always been extremely well behaved in public and will sit quietly or curl up and have a nap. This means that sadly I have no tips on how to keep other pooches calm when on a train. Mine is simply too lazy to care about what is going on around her! So I suppose the only advice I can give is get a lazy dog. Even if they are rather boring.
I think the only thing to do now is book a nice holiday for yourself and your pup(s) and try out our train traveling tips!