My dog got told off for being downstairs on a bus | TeamDogs
REAL LIFE

My dog got told off for being downstairs on a bus

But he was allowed to be there

(Credit: Getty Images)

Is it bad bus etiquette to keep your dog downstairs on a double-decker? The reason I ask is a recent embarrassing experience on the 250.

I went for a long walk with my Chihuahua and, as he has short legs, decided to take the bus back. The driver smiled as I beeped my payment card and we took our place in the area for pushchairs and wheelchairs, which was empty.

Then a loud voice rang out from among the downstairs passengers.

‘Dogs go upstairs,’ she announced.

‘Dogs go on the top deck.’

And then, ‘They go upstairs. It’s not a new thing – it’s always been the rule.’

I mumbled apologies as the bus lurched about the road, and looked from the steep stairs to my wriggly Chihuahua. What if I dropped him or lost my balance (I once had to go to A&E after a bus stopped suddenly)? 


(Credit: Getty Images)


I hesitated. I’d never heard of the dogs-upstairs rule. I looked at the woman who’d spoken but she looked straight ahead without acknowledging me.

‘They might bite a child or jump on a seat,’ she announced. ‘Dogs go upstairs. They’ve always gone upstairs. There are children and pushchairs downstairs.’

By this time, I’d decided to stay where I was rather than risk the precarious stairs to the top deck. And for the next seven stops, I stood stock still – mortified.

But I kept thinking that some people are scared of dogs, or allergic, or simply don’t like being near them. What right did I have to invade their space with my dog? 

And when I got home and looked it up on Google, I was even more embarrassed. There WAS a rule about dogs going upstairs on buses or, at least, there used to be a rule – I couldn’t work out if it still existed.

So, I decided to investigate.

According to Transport for London’s official rulebook for customers (its ‘conditions of carriage’) passengers can take any ‘dog or inoffensive animal’ on buses, Tube, tram or train unless there is a good reason to refuse it, for example, it seems dangerous or is not properly controlled. It is not allowed on a seat and must be kept on a lead or in a suitable container, and carried in its owner’s arms on escalators.


(Credit: Getty Images)

However, it doesn’t say anything about dogs having to be taken upstairs, so, I put the question to Transport for London. A spokesperson said: ‘All friendly and well-behaved dogs are welcome to accompany their owners on London’s buses.

‘While customers with dogs may sit anywhere on the bus, drivers may occasionally ask them to sit in a particular place if young children or other dogs are on board. All dogs must be either on a lead or in a carrier when travelling on a bus, but they can travel on either deck.’

So, there we have it. Dogs can go upstairs or downstairs but the driver has discretion to direct them to a particular place.

Transport for London also told me there used to be a policy that required passengers to take dogs to the upper deck on traditional Routemaster buses and their predecessors. This was to allow the conductor to move freely, with no obstacles, along the aisle of the lower deck. This policy ceased in 2005 with the end of standard operation of traditional Routemasters.

They also clarified there is no charge for taking a dog on a bus, and members of staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal on the network.

They also recommended: ‘Dogs and their owners may find it easier to travel on the bus network at quieter times and to avoid the busier bus stations and stops, which are detailed on our website.’

To check this, go to: https://tfl.gov.uk/status-updates/busiest-times-to-travel.

I also heard that National Express do not allow dogs on their buses – this is partly true.


(Credit: Getty Images)


National Express runs the local bus service in the West Midlands, covering Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and surrounding areas, as well as its National Express Coach service.

For the local service, assistance dogs for customers with disabilities, guide dogs and hearing dogs are allowed on all buses. Other dogs and inoffensive animals are allowed if permitted by the driver, ‘who has complete discretion in this matter’. Reasons for exclusion are if the dog appears dangerous or likely to upset other customers or animals already on the bus.

For its national and international coach service, however, only assistance dogs are allowed to travel and even then passengers are recommended to pre-book so National Express staff can ensure the dog has enough space to lie down for the journey. 

They will be asked to provide a safety harness for their dog, which will be attached to the seatbelt of a spare seat, as well as evidence the dog is highly trained, such as ‘a certificate, correspondence from the training organisation, ID book, owner training logs or an email from the owner confirming what training has taken place’.

For more information on this, prospective passengers can phone 03717 81 81 81 seven days a week, 9am - 5pm, or email addl@nationalexpress.com.

One word of caution, though, for anyone taking their dog on public transport during the summer months. It can get hot and stuffy, and there may be traffic jams or other delays, so remember to take enough water for your dog to stay cool and happy.