As the Covid-19 restrictions loosened through summer 2021, people started returning to the office full time or part time. We wanted to find out what this means for their pets.
We conducted a survey of 2,000 dog owners in August 2021 and found that almost one in five (19%) planned to take their dogs to work with them. Of these people, 37% said they would take their pet on public transport.
That means over 800,000 dogs across the UK could be joining the commute on trains, trams, Tubes and buses.
Although it's fantastic so many pet parents want to include their dog in their lives rather than leave them home alone, 77% of owners in our survey told us public transport doesn't have the right facilities for pets and many say they're worried about their canine companion feeling anxious, or annoying other passengers.
To help these owners have an enjoyable commute we asked dog behavioural expert Oli Juste and ManyPets Sarah Dawson, who is a qualified Vet Nurse, for some tips on travelling with a dog.
And we also believe owners shouldn't have to settle for trains that don't work for pets so we've teamed up with a transport design company to come up with a concept for a dog-friendly train. Scroll down to see it.
How to safely commute on public transport with your pet
Follow our top tips for a safe and comfortable commute for you and your dog.
Check their body language
Look at your dog’s body language to assess how they are feeling: nervous, confident etc. this can help you decide the best approach in helping your dog on the train.
If you feel your dog needs extra space, give them access to a calmer place away from other commuters. Ideally, you want to create a safe space for your dog. Try not to restrict them – if they find a space they are comfortable to sit in, allow them to if the area is safe for them to do so.
Reassure your dog and stay calm
Contrary to popular belief, it is fine to reassure your dog and it will not reinforce the feeling of fear. It's vital that you reassure them to help them settle down.
A big part of socialisation on commutes and public transport is acting in a calm and polite manner throughout the journey – ultimately this has to start with you.
Stay relaxed and try not to get your dog excited. If you're calm, it will be easier for your dog to mirror you. Try to stay away from high pitch voices and noises where possible as dogs can be sensitive to these.
Give your dog and other dogs space
Puppies and dogs can be playful, but the commute is not a time to play. Some other dogs (and owners!) may be nervous about the journey too and will appreciate you giving them extra space to help adjust.
Reward any positive or relaxed behaviour with treats or attention, use your normal tone of voice as you would in any other circumstance and judge the situation as to whether it is an immediate reward, or one that potentially comes when the journey is complete.
Sounds can be scary to dogs, especially loud, strange noises that may only be encountered on a train for the first time. Distracting them with their favourite toy and getting them to focus on you can help ease this fear.
Don't try to feed them treats if they're stressed, anxious or fearful. Doing so could get them to associate treats with being scared and spoil their relationship with food.
It’s OK to carry your dog
If you have a small dog, being at floor level could be overwhelming and it’s OK for you to carry them and have them sit on your lap during the train ride. If you have a Great Dane, then perhaps not.
Try to encourage your dog to go to the toilet before a train journey, especially if it is going to be a long trip. Dogs may choose to hold their bladder when in a strange environment or sometimes they may decide to 'go' with nerves, so giving them the opportunity to go in advance will help with both situations.
Keep them hydrated
Hydration is important and long trips or a warm environment will mean your pet will need access to water.
Some dogs can be wary of where they drink especially in new surroundings, so providing a familiar bowl can help encourage them to drink. I recommend getting your dog used to a pop-up bowl in advance if it’s not something you currently use. They can be compacted and easily stored for days out.
Pick your travelling time
Avoid travelling during peak and busy times, especially during your first few commutes together. It will give your dog a chance to get used to the sounds and smell without too many humans crowding the space.
Another way to help your dog is by giving yourself some extra time to travel as you don’t want to be rushing and having to run with your dog in tow.
Preparing for the trip
If you know you're going to be returning to work, make it a priority to get your dog used to small journeys now ahead of the big day. It may also be easier to avoid too many changes and busy roads when bringing in your pup to work to limit anxiety and sensory overload.
If you're planning to drive your dog to work or take it on a trip in the car, check out our guide to training your dog for stress-free car rides.
Dog-friendly train carriage
In our survey, 72% of dog owners said public transport could be adapted to accommodate their four-legged co-workers. So we've taken on the challenge of designing a dog-friendly zone in a train that offers a positive commuting experience.
We worked with travel design firm PriestmanGoode to come up with our concept. It includes:
Safe covered space – Dogs can sit between the seats and we used acoustic material to shield them from the noise of the commute (this space can also be used for luggage when not occupied by dogs)
Further safe space under passenger seating – The seats can be lowered for smaller dogs to sit underneath or flipped up for larger breeds to have more space
Signage - To show owners and other passengers where the dog-friendly carriages are
Cooling mat – To cool dogs on hot days
Water refill and treat area – A recessed area for water top-ups for thirsty dogs and a treat dispenser to reward good behaviour
Amenity area – There's a space to hold emergency poo bags and a hook to hang a lead
Water bowl area – So you can put your bowl down with it moving around for a quick refreshment