How to Travel with Your Dog on Public Transport

how to travel on train with dogs

Image: East Midland Trains

Most dog owners that live in big cities will have to take their pet on public transport at some point, and it’s an experience that needs some preparing for. Yes, there’s the chance to enjoy admiring glances from down the other end of the carriage, but there’s also the hassle of getting up and down escalators, in and out of stations, and making sure you’re not actually breaking any rules along the way. Read on for eight essential questions to ask yourself before you step on that bus, train, tram or tube.

ARE THEY READY?

The best time to get dogs used to being on public transport is when they’re still puppies. It can be an intimidating experience for a tiny dog, but doing this regularly when they’re small will help avoid issues when they’re older. Check out our post on 5 ways to successfully socialise your puppy including getting them used to public transport.

For grown up dogs that might be new to the whole thing, remember to take it slow. Don’t throw dogs in at the deep end by embarking on an epic bus, subway, train journey – instead, introduce them to the idea gradually to make sure they’re comfortable first. Take treats and distractions should you need them, and watch out for excessive panting, yawning or lip licking, which can all be signs of stress.

pitbull NY

A Pitbull in a bag on the New York Subway

ARE THEY DEFINITELY ALLOWED?

In 2016, the New York subway banned all dogs – unless they could fit in a bag. The decision has spawned countless ingenious solutions, with owners stuffing terriers in tote bags, beagles in backpacks and, in one much-shared image, a pitbull in an Ikea bag with holes cut out for the legs. In Dubai, where animals are banned from public transport, a pet taxi service has even sprung up to transport pooches. While cities that don’t accommodate dogs on trains and buses are unusual – although watch out for rules about rush-hour – there are always exceptions, so be sure to check before you travel.

DO THEY NEED A TICKET?

Most major cities allow dogs to travel for free, but there are occasions when that’s not the case. The UK’s National Rail lets passengers bring two dogs each, but charges a fee if they insist on taking up their own seat. In Amsterdam, some train services require dogs to have their own ticket, so check before you get onboard, and in Italy, the regional trains require dogs to have a second-class ticket if they travel during the morning rush hour. Rules often vary between services, so be sure to read up before you leave the house.

IS IT TOO HOT?

In 2018, temperatures across Europe rocketed and warm pooches were left pacing hot pavements and parks. But it’s not just the immediate environment that heats up in the summer weather, underground transport also suffers. This year, London’s underground reached roasting temperatures, peaking at 42C, which is enough to frazzle humans and pups alike. Dogs are much less able to regulate their body temperature than us, as they don’t sweat, so if it’s sizzling outside then chances are your city’s subway will be too. On hot days, skip the underground and opt for a window seat on the bus, where you can get some breeze.

HAVE YOU TIRED THEM OUT?

A dog that’s full of energy won’t make a fun travel companion, for you or your fellow passengers. If you don’t want your dog bounding down the bus, make sure you give them a good long walk beforehand to really tire them out. This also gives them a chance to empty their bladder, and avoid any potentially embarrassing accidents while you travel – no-one wants to be picking up a poop under the disapproving glares of a carriage full of onlookers.

ARE YOU GOING AT THE RIGHT TIME?

Sometimes, there’s just nothing for it and you have to brave a busy train or bus at the height of rush hour (although remember, some services charge extra or don’t allow dogs aboard during peak times). In these situations, it’s all about finding yourself and your dog the quietest spot possible and staying there. However, if you’ve got some flexibility, try and avoid the times when everyone’s either going to or coming home from work. Travelling a little earlier or later means you can find a corner seat that’s away from people – a chance to avoid overzealous petters as well as people that are scared of dogs – and has a window, for dogs that like to see where they’re going.

Dog tote travel bag

Dog Tote Travel Bag by Travel Wags

HAVE YOU GOT EVERYTHING YOU NEED?

It’s good to be prepared for all eventualities, which means packing water when it’s warm, snacks for when you need to distract pups with a wandering eye, and wet wipes just in case you’ve got a motion sick dog on your hands. Travel Wag’s Dog Tote Travel Bag is a good investment for trips on public transport and includes collapsible water bowls, a chiller bag for food, and room for toys to keep dogs occupied en route.

via dog carrier by miacara

Via Dog Carrier by MiaCara

CAN YOU CARRY THEM?

London’s tube requests that dogs be carried down the escalator – something to bear in mind if you’re a large breed owner – and some of the stress of busy public transport can be relieved by popping your dog in a bag, and out of trouble. We love this Via Dog Carrier by MiaCara.

Do you take your dog on public transport? Share your best tips in the comments below!

Emma Tucker is a London-based writer and editor, who's been covering all things design-related for the past six years. After studying English Literature she spent several years working at magazines including Dezeen and Creative Review, before going freelance. Emma's now a regular contributor to several magazines, including The Spaces and Pitch, and also works with design brands on copywriting and editorial projects. On a day-to-day basis she's assisted by puppy PA and cockapoo Bear.

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