Over a third of people with our assistance dogs use public transport on a regular basis, so making sure our dogs are happy and relaxed around bus and train stations, as well as during the journey, is an important part of their socialisation and training.
Trainer Geraldine gives an insight into how we get our dogs ready for travel.
“Getting our dogs comfortable on public transport starts when they are puppies. It’s important not to underestimate what a daunting experience it may be for a puppy either getting on a rattly bus for the first time, or seeing the 11.35 express to London whizzing through the station.
As well as making their job more pleasant and easy for them, there is also an important safety aspect. If a dog is not comfortable jumping on to various transportation, they may try to run off, which could cause them and/or their owner harm and potentially risk the safety of others.
A gradual process
Introducing dogs to public transport is a gradual process:
- Arm yourself with higher value treats/chews, and gradually approach the station while supporting your dog with voice and treats.
- Continue to move further in to the station where it gets noisier and scarier as long as the dog is looking relaxed and happy and still taking their treats.
- Avoid ‘flooding’ them by taking them straight in and asking them to just cope with it, instead make sure they are happy at each incremental step. It might mean that they don’t travel on their first or even their second visit, but just jump on and off (if they’re comfortable enough), get used to how busy and noisy it will be, and learn that they got lots of good treats when they’re in such a place.
- Travel the first time on a shorter journey, either one way or with a nice gap in between journeys.
- Travelling with a dog who has travelled before and is confident and relaxed with travelling already can help. They can be given a nice filled kong or a chew during travel so they associate it with good things, and could be taken for a nice free run directly afterwards or be given a favourite toy.
After giving them this type of introduction, they should require less support and treats with each trip as they’ll hopefully already be feeling comfortable with the experience.”