Travelling on public transport with your canine friend

Sammy, 8 years old
Companion and sometime editorial assistant for East of the M60: Samuel H. Sausage La Trobe de Trafford Le Baptiste Vallantine.

For the purpose of this article, I shall introduce you to my nine year old Jack Russell Terrier, Sammy. He’s the archetypal short-legged JRT: hyperactive, jolly, devious, yet loving at the same time. He likes his home comforts, and loves travelling on public transport, though he shudders a little on the 409 (especially on the Waterloo/Limehurst section when we pass his V E T).

Since the ‘Go Cheapway…’ series began a year ago on East of the M60, I realised that most of the suggested outings can be enjoyed with a furry friend or two. I had originally tried to write a post on Dog Fares throughout Greater Manchester. Aboard a 343 into work (funny how most of my creative ideas begin life on that bus route), I had thought of combining a ‘Go Cheapway…’ with my canine fare fact-finding mission entry. Shortly after alighting my 343 today, whilst taking Sammy for his evening constitutional, it was where I thought ‘Ding! Dogs like to be walked around Hollingworth Lake or Tandle Hill Country Park too’. Therefore, a new entry was born.

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Avoiding a Ruff Ride

Before you set off, do the usual timetable/route map checks as you would for any journey, but please note that:

  • Dogs can travel by train with an accompanied passenger for free, so long as they don’t occupy a seat;
  • The Metrolink is a dog-free zone. The only tramway in Greater Manchester which permits the carriage of dogs is the preserved one at Heaton Park;
  • There is no Day Rover ticket for dogs in the Greater Manchester area (yet). If you live in Derbyshire, the county’s Adult Wayfarer ticket permits the carriage of one dog per full fare paying passenger – on all modes (though I doubt as if they’d let your pooch on the cable car at Heights of Abraham);
  • Fares may vary from bus operator to operator for the carriage of your furry friend. Some like Stagecoach Manchester and First Greater Manchester charge a flat fare (£1.00 or 50p). Others may charge the child fare;
  • Sometimes, drivers may allow your dog aboard free of charge (especially so if it’s anything smaller than an English Cocker Spaniel). Or, like unruly passengers, they can turn your dog away.

On boarding your bus, it used to be the accepted norm to sit with your dog on the back seat (on single decker buses), or upstairs with the smokers. That I recall was the case in The Good Old Days of Greater Manchester Transport and GM Buses, though I would assume this applied elsewhere.

With a dog (and I can speak through experience having taken dogs on buses for several years), I recommend sitting in the following positions:

  • Upstairs on a double decker bus: any front seat, owing to the proximity of the stairs. Or, on the back seat (some buses may have hard plastic back seats which are easy to clean if your dog wishes to occupy a seat (though they really shouldn’t));
  • Single decker buses: front seat near the entrance doors, or the back seat nearest the emergency exit. With the latter, your dog has plenty of space for manoeuvre;
  • Minibuses: back seat nearest the emergency exit;
  • Diesel/Electric Multiple Units (local services): longitudinal seat near the doors/cycle rack. Or, any seat facing one the opposite direction;
  • Diesel/Electric Multiple Units (Inter-City/Regional Express routes) and Inter-City carriages: anywhere near the doors.

With small dogs (for example, Jack Russell Terriers or Miniature Poodles), your companion may prefer to sit on your knee. He or she will be able to look through the window, and is likely to be more settled.

Before setting off, make sure you leave the house with the following:

  • An ample supply of dog dump bags;
  • Hand cleanser (especially if you’re far away from public toilets);
  • Bottled water, or bottle(s) of Chew Valley’s/Dovestones’ finest from your tap: enough to hydrate both yourself and your dog;
  • Wet wipes;
  • Waterproof clothing: also a good idea for your mutt, though not essential;
  • A towel: for use in case your dog has been in muddy puddles – you don’t want your dog to dirty the bus or train.

Choosing Your Route

Whilst planning your journey, take into account the fact your dog may need a dump or piddle en route. The last thing you want to see is your dog having a dump on the 409 or a piddle on a Pacer unit (the latter is daunting for some human passengers). To avoid such embarrassments:

  • Choose a bus or train route which is frequent enough to break your journey en route, should your dog need to ‘go’;
  • (For yourself) Purchase a Day Rover ticket of some description, or use your single/multi operator season ticket to avoid paying each time you need to board;
  • Carry enough spare change for your dog’s fare, if you need to make maximum use of the bus;
  • For longer journeys within Greater Manchester, it may be cheaper to travel by train outside the morning peaks;
  • Try to avoid morning and evening rush hours: your dog could be disorientated by the crowds;
  • If you need to travel in peak hours, consider an alternative route, possibly a less busy local route over a frequent alternative (i.e., the 218 between Manchester and Droylsden instead of the more frequent 216 or 231 between the same points).

Dinnertime With Your Dog

Given that dogs are excluded from most public places, it may be worth taking a packed lunch if you’re out for a long time. If you’re lucky, dogs are welcome in some public houses (well-behaved ones even more so). If, for example, you are wandering around an open market, buy your food from an outdoor kiosk or stall.

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Suitable Dog Friendly Places

From the East of the M60 archives, I have suggested the following Dog Friendly places, with links to the original ‘Go Cheapway…’ articles:

  • Healey Dell Nature Reserve: wooded scenery very good for nosy dogs. Scenic and covers a wide range of terrain;
  • Hollingworth Lake: the walk around the lake is most scenic, though the southern end ‘island’ bit is good for nosy dogs;
  • Tandle Hill Country Park: woodland galore, hills and ample open space;
  • Heaton Park: lots of open space for your mutt to have a run around;
  • New Mills: the Torrs Millennium Walkway and the Sett Valley Trail could provide a challenge for your dog;
  • Stalybridge: Cheethams’ Park and the town’s nearby hills make for pleasant dog-walking territory.

Above All…

Enjoy treating your dog to a change of scenery. He or she may be bored with the same streets, the same smells, or the same cats. Walking on your own may be enjoyable, but taking your dog out as well makes for a more enjoyable run. Why not take a human friend with you as well, ideally a dog loving one who doesn’t mind minding your dog if you nip to the shops or the loo?

S.V., 02 April 2013.

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