Dog Training

Travelling with a dog in the car. How to keep everyone safe and happy.

Travelling with a dog in the car

Most of us need to travel in the car with our dogs at some point, whether we’re going on exciting adventures or just taking them to a check-up at the vet. So, it’s important to make sure this is safe for everyone concerned. There are also lots of things you can do to ensure it’s a pleasant experience. Bring on those road trips!

Why dogs should be restrained in the car

Keeping your furry friend well secured while in the car is essential. Here’s why:

Preventing accidents

A dog who can roam free in a moving car can easily cause an accident. Not only can they distract the driver, but they can even get in the way of the steering wheel or the brake pedal.

Their safety

In the event of an accident, a dog who is properly restrained has a much better chance of avoiding serious injury.

Your safety

An unrestrained dog isn’t just at risk themselves but can also cause serious injury to you or your passengers.

The law

You’re probably convinced by the importance of keeping your dog restrained by this point, but did you know it’s also the law? The Highway Code states drivers must “make sure dogs and other animals are suitably restrained” and if you don’t adhere to this and have an accident, you could be prosecuted for dangerous driving.

Options for restraining your dog in the car

There are a few different ways you can keep your furry friend safe and secure.

Crates and carriers

Some dogs feel safer travelling in their own little ‘den’. What’s more being in a crate or carrier may encourage your dog to lie down and nap for a lot of the journey. However, some dogs will get anxious if they can’t see you.

Pet seat belts and harnesses

A pet seat belt or harness is an effective method of restraint which allows your dog to still be ‘with’ you. A harness has to fit comfortably, and you should be able to fit two fingers between your dog’s body and the harness. If you have a puppy, bear in mind that they grow fast and so the harness will need regular adjustment and eventually replacement.

A boot gate

Depending on your type of car, a boot gate might be another option. These create a physical barrier between the boot and the rear passenger seats and allow your dog freedom of movement. It’s worth bearing in mind that your dog jumping about could still distract you from driving though. Also, if you have an accident, your dog won’t have much protection from injury.

Making car travel more comfortable for your dog

Some dogs have no problem travelling while other may dislike it. To a certain extent, this is down to them as individuals. That said, there are lots of things you can do to make car journeys relaxed and comfortable for your four-legged friend.

Get them used to travelling when they’re young

Dogs who get used to travelling in the car from a young age are more likely to be comfortable with the experience. Indeed, this is an important part of socialising a puppy. If you’ve recently adopted an adult dog and they’re nervous about car travel, don’t panic because, with patience and consistency, it’s possible to get them used to the idea. Just build up slowly, maybe even starting with them sitting in the car with you and not going anywhere. A few treats can help to persuade your dog that car journeys are a good idea! The PEDIGREE™ Tasty Mini range are low in fat and contain Omega 3, Vitamin E and calcium. They come in three great flavours: Beef & Cheese, Beef & Poultry and Chicken & Duck.

Take breaks

If you and your dog are going on a longer journey, everyone will benefit from breaking up the journey to stretch their legs, go to the toilet and have a drink.

Help to avoid motion sickness

If you have a dog who gets sick in the car, you can help by not feeding them to close to a journey. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it’s worth chatting to your vet who might prescribe travel medication.

Keep things cool

Cars get warm really quickly especially if you’re wearing a fur coat! Make sure your crank up the air-conditioning or open the windows (not so wide your dog could jump out).

Don’t let your dog stick their head out of the window

However nice a cool breeze can be, it’s dangerous to let your dog poke their head out of the window. They could hit their head on something or be injured by stones kicked up by tyres.

Dogs and hot cars

We’ve already mentioned the importance of keeping your furry friend cool and, when the mercury rises, it’s important to be extra careful. Could you travel early or late, for example, when it’s likely to be a bit cooler? Can you use sunshades or give your dog a cooling mat to lie on? It goes without saying that you should never leave your dog unattended in a hot car which is not only uncomfortable for them but can be very dangerous.

Can dogs travel in the front of a car?

Dogs can travel in the front of the car as long as they are restrained. It’s also vital you switch off the passenger-side airbag and move the seat back as far as possible.

What do I do if my dog hates the car?

If you have a dog who dislikes car travel, try to work out why. If it’s because they’re not used to it, slowly build up their experience, perhaps even just sitting in a stationery car with them at first. If the problem is motion sickness, try avoiding big meals before a journey and, if that doesn’t help, talking to your vet.

Looking for advice on training your furry friend? Check these out:

Reward-based dog training. What it is and why it works.

Dog recall training. Five steps to success.