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How to travel with your dog on a British train

Want to know how to travel with your dog on a British train? We’ve asked the experts – from a canine behaviour expert at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to dog owner Lysanne Currie

Lysanne and Alf’s story

Alf passed with flying colours on his very first train journey

Euston to Manchester. A train journey I loved as it held so many hazy, crazy memories of girls’ weekends away in the late Nineties. However this time the 2 hour eight minute journey was making me really nervous. Because this was the first time I was doing it with a dog, my six month old Jack Russell puppy Alf.

I’d chosen the fastest service and planned his eating times (and subsequent, er, ablutions) with military precision. We’d had a long walk beforehand. And my chic handbag was replaced by a huge tote and filled with a blanket, chew bone, treats, disposable water bowl, favourite soft toy (for comfort) and poo bags. Of course I was obviously praying to every deity there was that we wouldn’t need them.

He was totally fine. So fine that he decided he wanted a window seat and so hopped over the aisle to sit opposite a very nice, but a little surprised, surgeon from Belfast. We had no barking and no accidents. And when he got bored of his new friend, he moseyed back to me and curled up for a snooze.

Since then we’ve been regular train travellers and the only problems I have really had are on short journeys: the brake noise and vibrations of St Pancras to St Albans really spook him and so, on those journeys, I rub a little calming gel into his gums to take the edge off. When Lockdown is over, we’ll be travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper. I’ll report back.

Lysanne is CEO of Meet The Leader

Expert advice from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Help your dog get used to a station environment before you travel

‘To help your dog get used to travelling on trains, it’s important for them to get used to the new environment before you start going on any long journeys,’ advises Chloe Jackson, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’ Canine Behaviour and Training Manager.

‘Ideally, it would be better to start training them at a young age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Older dogs may take a bit longer, but it can also be a great bonding exercise between dog and owner. 

‘Just like humans, dogs have their likes and dislikes, and there will be cases where a dog will never be comfortable with travelling on a train. It’s important to look out for signs that your dog isn’t comfortable on the train too.’

Here’s Chloe’s expert tips:

  • Introduce your dog to trains ​in stages; slowly and gradually. Checking in at each stage to see whether your dog is comfortable before moving on to the next step. 
  • Start by taking them to a train station so they can get used to the environment. They can get a sense of all the smells, sounds, people and ticket machines. 
  • Battersea use reward-based training, which means giving your dog something they like when they do something you want them to do again. For example, reward them when they look at you. Or if ​they listen to a ‘sit’ command when you ask them to. This may also encourage them to focus on you when it might be a busy time. 
  • Once they are comfortable around the station, take them for a very short journey. Do this in off peak hours ​and in a less busy part of the train. Monitor how your dog copes during this short journey.

The rules for travelling with dogs on trains in Britain

Read the rules about dogs on trains before you book a trip in Britain
  • Maximum of two dogs are allowed per passenger
  • Dogs can travel for free as long as they don’t occupy a seat. If they do, the train company can charge you for the occupied seat.
  • Dogs must be kept on lead at all times
  • Animals aren’t allowed in restaurant cars except for assistance dogs
  • There is a law that allows British train companies to refuse to take a dog onboard the train. This also applies if your dog is causing inconvenience to other passengers.
  • For full details of dog & pet regulations on British trains see www.nationalrail.co.uk/passenger services/luggage animals.html

7 ways to help your dog enjoy a train trip

Help make a train journey fun for your furrie friends
  • Take them for a good walk before getting on public transport so they are less likely to have any toilet accidents on the train
  • Make sure the journey isn’t too long for them
  • Use the accessibility and mobility access gate when entering the station with your dog
  • Make sure you have plenty of water for your dog on long train journeys
  • Ask your fellow passengers not to stroke your dog unless you know they are comfortable with this
  • If you have an elderly dog, use lifts instead of stairs to lessen the strain on your dog and to avoid causing any obstruction on the stairways
  • Avoid travelling during the rush hour

Dogs on sleeper trains in Great Britain

The Caledonian Sleeper allows dogs on board but your dog must stay with you in your sleeper compartment and there will be a £30 charge for your dog (to cover special cleaning afterwards). To book your dog on a trip, call the Caledonian Sleeper Guest Services Centre on 0330 060 0500. Guide dogs travel free.

The Night Riviera Sleeper train lets guide dogs travel free. Other dogs are not allowed in sleepers but they can travel in a pet carrier in the guard’s van.

The Belmond Royal Scotsman – dogs are not generally allowed on this train. However, if you have an assistance dog you may be able to travel with it. You will need to contact Belmond directly to discuss the issue.