Since I have taking one too many train in the past 6 months, I thought it would be nice to write a few basic tips about long train journeys with a dog. Of course, every dog is different, but I have been traveling for around 10 hours each way with Dorian since he was a few months old and have picked up a few do`s and don`ts along the way.
Every country will have different rules for taking your dog traveling with you. On the train here in Norway dogs under 40 cm travel for free in the assigned coach at the back of the train. Night trains are my preferred way of traveling as Dorian is supposed to sleep anyways, and in general it's a bit more silent around us. However, even if I take trains during odd times, there has always been a good amount of people. A calm dog is essential, but also hard when there are a few (or a lot, throwback to christmas travelling) other dogs, cats and people. Ever tried traveling with a whining dog behind you and a curious dog that can't ignore it, for 6 hours? Not fun. Lots of treats and patience and we survived, but even when Dorians batteries were empty after a decent amount of exercised he wasn't able to sleep much. We have lived and learned over these past few months, and here are some of my tips.
Dog coaches are not fun. Unless you have a bomb-proof dog that can sleep through anything, prepare for the worst. From there, it can only be good, right? Distractions, noise, reactive dogs, anxious dogs, that one person who decides to travel with 8 cats… It's a challenge. Have treats at the ready, try to shield your dog as much as possible and stay calm. People will usually try to interact with Dorian, but I try to make it clear that any attention is unwanted because it hypes him up. The train means rest. When we are waiting on the station for a train or a bus I will allow people to greet him and cuddle him, but once our travels have begun we are in our own zone. This way, Dorian doesn't build up the expectation that all people on our form of transport will wanna play with him. This also goes for dogs, no playtime between them. Which reminds me, if you are assigned a seat next to another person with a dog, there really is no shame in asking if there are any other available seats. It happened to me once with another small dog, and the owner and I quickly decided this would be horrible for all involved. You share a very small space and I would prefer not to have to hold Dorian away from another dog that he really wants to say hello to the entire night. Why make it hard on myself when I can avoid situations like that?
Be prepared and bring things you need, and things you don't think you will need. Wet wipes saved my life when Dorian threw up, and can be handy in many situations. Water and a collapsable bowl are a must, treats, and maybe some chew snacks. Blankets are great. Waiting on the station? Place one down so your dog doesn't have to lie down on the freezing cold floor. Don't want to have your dog on your lap (or on the filthy floor, if your dog is big) for 6+ hours? Cover the seats with a few blanket and most people won't mind if your dog sleeps there. Make sure to cover the back of the seat too and the armrests, and your dog is comfortable without leaving a trail of hair and dirt behind. Win win.
This brings me onto the next topic. If your dog is crate trained and is comfortable in a travel crate, great. Dorian isn't yet but I have gotten him a bigger one so fingers crossed, but it might be a life-saver. It's a shield for distractions, and when you are desperate to close your eyes for just a few minutes it might come in handy. I know I have been there, wanting to sleep at 4am but Dorian kept trying to climb into the seat behind me to say hello to a dog. It's a break for you and your dog, if your dog is comfortable. It might be a pain to carry around, but it might be worth it.
If the train journey is long, especially with younger dogs, there is no shame in asking the conductor if there will be any longer stops for you to let your dog out. A 3-5 minute stop is all you need, and sometimes I just go out to get some air.
Last but not least, have patience. Everything probably isn't going to go smoothly, some things are bound to go wrong. Breathe, remember that it's still okay, and don't let the low moments ruin your travels. Training, practice and getting the hang if it, and soon your dog will be an experienced traveler.
Published by Quelly And Dorian