We're used to strapping ourselves in to stay safe and it's important to do the same for our dogs. Keeping your dog properly restrained will also keep you and your passengers safe, too.
How to keep everyone safe
A dog seatbelt or carrier can stop your dog from moving around in the car and distracting you whilst you drive. There are lots of different products out there:
Crates and carriers
Boot/luggage guards (be aware that these protect your passengers in an accident but won't protect your dog).
Why do dogs need to be restrained in the car?
There are lots of important reasons to keep your dog well secured while you are driving:
Their safety. A dog seatbelt or carrier will help keep your dog safer from serious injuries if you are in a car accident.
Your safety. If your dog is loose in the car, they could seriously hurt you and your passengers in an accident. At just 30mph an unrestrained Border Collie would be hurled forward with a force equivalent to the weight of a polar bear.
Preventing accidents. A loose dog could distract the driver from the road and cause an accident. They could even get in the way of the steering wheel or the brake pedal.
The law. The Highway Code says that drivers must ‘make sure dogs and other animals are suitably restrained’ in your car. If you do not follow the Highway Code, you could be driving without due care and attention. If you are in an accident because you were distracted by your dog this could be counted as dangerous driving.
Your insurance. A lot of car insurance policies require you to restrain your dog’s properly. A loose dog in the car could break the terms of your insurance and leave you with a huge bill to pay if you are in an accident. It may also invalidate your dog insurance if they are injured and need treatment.
Making car travel more comfortable for your dog
Some dogs have no problem travelling in the car and others will hate it! Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to make the journey more relaxed and comfortable for your dog:
Start young. Dogs who are used to travelling in the car from a young age are much more likely to be relaxed and happy during car trips. This is part of ‘socialisation’. Introduce them to the car as early as you can. Start out with introducing them to the parked car and getting them used to sitting in it with you, then start making short trips. Build up to longer journeys, but make sure they usually end in something fun like getting a treat or a walk. Make these experiences as positive as possible, with lots of treats and fun days out.
Give them time to digest. If your dog gets car sick, it is best not to feed them right before a trip in the car. Give them plenty of time to digest their meal or do not feed them until after the car journey. You can also talk to the vet to see if they can have medication to settle their stomach if they get car sick even on an empty tummy.
Take a break. If you are taking your dog on a longer journey, make sure they have a chance to stretch their legs and have a drink. A lot of service stations have dog walking areas, or you could break up your journey with a trip to a park or dog-friendly attraction.
Keep them cool. Cars can warm up quickly and our dogs are wearing a warm fur coat all the time! Be aware of your dog’s temperature and pop the air conditioning on or open a window a little to keep them cool while you are on the go.
Do not leave dogs in the car. Dogs cannot cool themselves down in the same way humans can. They can overheat very quickly if they are left in a car and get into a critical condition. Winding the window down or parking the car in the shade is not enough to keep them cool.
Do not let dogs stick their head out the window. They could knock their head on something, fall out of the window or distract other drivers.