Dog-Friendly Train Travel In Collaboration With Virgin Trains 

Basil boarded his first short commuter train and tube when he was three months old and took it in his stride. We made our first long-distance trip when he was six months on board Virgin Trains and that didn't seem to faze him either – click for cuteness! Now we probably do a couple of train trips per year to see my folks up North.

However, we’ve not done first class together so when Virgin Trains asked us review their service for dog friendliness, needless to say we were all over the opportunity for an upgrade. Better still, we were allowed to bring a couple of mates along for the ride - @winnythecorgi and his dog mum Rachel Oates. So this post is dedicated to dog-friendly travel with Virgin Trains, along with some handy dogs on trains wisdom of my own. 

Dogs on Virgin Trains 
The official policy is that you can travel with up to two dogs for free. Any more and you have to pay per animal just like you have to do with excess luggage. Their site states that there may be a charge for large pet carriers, so if in doubt call to double check before booking. 

Pets are not to be placed on any seats that could be used by other passengers. But sorry Virgin, I’ve always flouted this rule because if Basil lies in the gangway he just gets in the way of trollies, train staff, passengers etc. Plonking him by my feet is no good either as if we’re on a four table he gets under other people’s feet or just wants to sit next to me. Instead, I either pop him on my lap or if there’s is a space e.g. no human will go without a seat or whoever I’m sat with doesn't mind a dog in close proximity, I lay a blanket out on the seat next to me and he’s settles pronto. I've never been told off for doing it, so I'll leave it to your discretion. 

So this trip... we boarded at Euston, bound for Liverpool just after morning rush hour (on the 10:07) and were extremely fortunate to get a carriage pretty much all to ourselves. I laid out the bits I'd brought for the dog’s journey - Pawsecco, The Dog Treat Company snacks and personalised Canine Traveller Kits from PetsPyjamas - and we got the dogs comfy (post all the lovely attention from the train staff of course). Meanwhile we enjoyed complimentary bacon rolls and coffee. 

Arriving at Liverpool Lime Street is a breeze. You come into a platform right near two exits (one is a taxi rank) so it's great to get your dog out quickly for the toilet and you are right on top of the city. You’re also a 30 seconds walk to the escalators down to the Liverpool underground system to hop onto trains elsewhere in the city or further afield.

Our day out in Liverpool is coming up on the blog very shortly but after our action packed day, we caught the 18:47 train back to Euston. Shattered after a day’s walking, the boys passed straight out and only rose when the dinner cart came round. I had Wild Mushroom Risotto and Rachel had Confit of Chicken with Rosemary Roast potatoes and Braised Red Cabbage. We both had copious amounts of wine ‘cause we’re slummy dog mummies obvs, and the dogs had clearly made a friend in one of the Virgin hostesses because as she served us doorstoppers of gooey chocolate brownies, they got their own serving of cheese cubes.

Travelling with Virgin Trains First Class was definitely a paws up, thumbs up kind of experience and one we’d recommend, so from Liverpool to The Lakes, book your hound and human adventure with Virgintrains.co.uk.

Never rode the steel horse with your dog before? Here are some Barkarama Tips To Travelling On A Train With Your Dog (sub her for him where appropriate):

  1. Avoid rush hour. My top tip would be avoid booking a journey that will have you on the train (or tube) at rush hour, especially if you are a first timer. A packed train is stressful enough but throw in dog when it’s packed like sardines and your nerves/arms/their paws will be severely tested
    Prepare your pup! Feed within plenty of time of the journey so his food is settled. Give him a walk to burn off some energy and clear out his system. Ensure he’s clean and smelling fresh for the sake of fellow passengers. Pack for the journey – water, travel bowl, poo bags, blanket for the seat or floor, treats for good behaviour, wipes and tissues for any unexpected mishaps etc.
  2. Plan your route. If like me, you need to take a few trains to get to your intended mainline station, put a little thought into your overall journey. Travelling with a dog and extra baggage is not without its challenges. Avoid rush hour as per above, allow longer to get there as your dog will undoubtedly want to stop for sniffs and pees en route, and if you are booking a cab for part of your journey, ensure you have told them you have a dog so a driver with a dog allergy doesn't turn up at your house and refuse to take your like happened to me
  3. Make a last minute toilet pit stop. Before you enter the mainline station, give your dog some encouragement to toilet - let me tell you a dog pooping in the middle of a station is tres embarrassing, said the dog mum to 6mth old Basil!
  4. Get your dog comfy. Hopefully, because you have followed point one, your train is not overly crowded so your dog will have space to stretch out on the floor by your feet, or there’s a spare seat to lay out a blanket so they can snooze next to you. Give them a little drink of water but not so much they need to pee. Don't let them wander or infringe on people’s personal space.
  5. Make a friend. I always make a pal with someone so that if I need to pop to the loo myself, they watch Basil. In my standard neurotic dog mother fashion, I only leave my seat when we are absolutely nowhere near the next stop so he can't be dog-napped
  6. Hang back but be ready. If I’ve done a long journey with Basil I tend to hang back until most people have got off the train. I get my poo bags ready and then try to walk close to the inside of the platform so if Basil can't hold it until we get to the main concourse, his gift is not in the main thoroughfare. If nothing happens, I march him out of the station as quick as I can

One thing you can't account for, but can expect is that not everyone might be happy about your dog being on the train. People may have allergies, a genuine fear of dogs or maybe they are just joyless people who fail to understand the happiness our furry friends bring to the world. Dogs are ultimately not entitled as humans to travel on trains (although you know they have manners better than some chicken) so ignore any dirty looks, count to ten and deal with any frosty encounters with the ‘killing them with kindness’ approach, to avoid a future dogs-on-trains ban.

Featured credits and thanks go to:
Virgintrains.co.uk for a first class train experience
Lovemydog.co.uk for Basil’s collar and lead 
Woofandbrew.com for the day’s drop Pawsecco
Thedogtreatcompany.co.uk – train snacks!
PetsPyjamas.com for their awesome Canine Traveller Kits, filled with lots of essentials

All photos are courtesy of the awesome Racheloatespetphotography.com

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