Car journeys are an inevitable part of life for dog owners. Whether its a trip to the vets, weekends away or visiting relatives
However, you must take the appropriate precautions when transporting your pet in the car. There are plenty of dangers lurking behind the wheel – from dangerous road conditions to distracted drivers – so here are our top tips on keeping dogs safe in cars!
Pet Safety: Look to keep everyone safe
You need to keep your dog safe when they are in a vehicle just the same as you do with your children, which is why it’s essential to use a car guard, harness or seat belt tether.
It’s surprising how many pet owners travel with their pet not secured in any way, not realising they are breaking the highway code.
The Dangers of an Unrestrained Dog
From not being able to see over the steering wheel to getting in the way of the gear stick, dogs can be extremely distracting if they aren’t secured in the back seat of a car.
Not only that, they could be killed if you have an accident and potentially become a lethal projectile in a crash.
They may run off once the car door is open or even lash out at rescuers if they are scared and panicked, so it’s not hard to see why you need to use restraints if you have a dog in the car, even on a short trip.
Not only that, if your dog is not securely fastened in the back seat or in a crate, your car insurance could be invalid. It’s vitally important that you know what the laws on travelling with a dog in the car are and what they can and can’t do.
What are pet restraints?
There are several ways of restraining animals in a vehicle, from a car seat belt harness or pet carrier to dog guards and crates; each has its own benefits, so let’s take a look.
Why pets must be restrained in the car?
Like any other family member, dogs need to be protected on a car journey; not only does this protect them if you have to slam on the brakes or stop quickly, it could save their life if you are involved in an accident.
Some dogs in a panicked state have been known to run off when the doors are opened after an accident straight into oncoming traffic. Even if you are just loading up shopping or picking up the kids from school, your best friend could jump out and get lost.
Rule 57 of the highway code states that any animals travelling in the car must be suitably restrained; if you are involved in an accident, you could be prosecuted for dangerous driving, which could result in a fine of up to £2500 and up to 9 points on your licence.
If your pet is not secure and buckled in, you may also find any claims on your car insurance will be invalid and pet insurance may not pay out as well if Fido is not secure in a harness or other option.
1. Get a harness seat belt.
A harness is generally considered the best form of restraint for safe car travel; they are designed to prevent your dog from moving about during a car ride and keep your pet safe if you have to make a sudden stop.
They work by attaching the harness to the seat belt and can be used in either the front seat or back. We would recommend using one that has been crash-tested like the Kurgo Tru Fit car harness.
Always make sure the harness fits correctly; you should be able to place two fingers between it and your pets skin. Be sure to check out our article on do dogs have to wear seat belts, this gives you all the necessary information on rules and regulations.
2. Buy a zipline harness.
A zipline allows your dog more movement but keeps them out of the front seats. A line is attached to either side of the back seats and one end of the leash is attached to this, while the other is connected to their harness (don’t use a collar). They are suitable for most sizes of dogs.
3. Try your dog in a crate.
If you have an SUV or large 4 x 4, you might want to consider a crate. This can be secured behind the back seat and are great for larger dogs. When you look for a dog cage for your car, make sure it is solidly built and crush-proof ones that can be bolted or secured to the floor are best.
When using a crate, your pooch can snuggle up and enjoy car rides safely.
4. Get your dog a plush pet carrier.
Some dogs are not keen on car journeys and may feel more secure in a carrier or seat; these can be secured to the seat belts and are best for smaller dogs as they provide a safe refuge where your dog can relax cuddled in their favourite blanket.
One drawback of this type of restraint is that Fido may not be able to see out of the window. When people invest in these, they often ask what’s the best dog car seat? Luckily we have a comprehensive guide that will show you which is the best fit for your canine companion.
5. Invest in a dog guard.
Guards are a useful accessory if you want to travel safely with your dog. They separate your pet from the human occupants, meaning they do not distract the driver preventing accidents. It is still a good idea to combine these with either a zipline harness or some kind of tether to avoid your dog being thrown around should the worst happen. We reviewed the best car guards for dogs here.
How to Make Car Journeys More Comfortable for Your Pet
1. Stop regularly.
If your dog is properly restrained, it won’t be able to move around much, so it’s important to stop regularly to let them stretch their legs and go to the toilet. Especially small dogs who only have little bladders.
Most vets recommend a 15-30 minutes break for your pet every 2-4 hours of travelling. Park up in a shady spot, give them a small snack and some water and take Fido for a brisk walk; this will make them more relaxed for the next part of the journey.
2. Begin with little trips
You should get your dog used to travelling in the car from a young age; this way, car trips won’t seem so stressful. Begin with short trips before moving on to longer journeys.
Make sure dogs don’t just go in the car for trips to the groomers or vets; if pets don’t like these places, they may begin to associate car travel with negative things, so make sure to go fun places too, like the beach or a family picnic.
3. No feeding.
Dogs can get car sick, especially if they are not used to travelling in a car, so it’s a good idea not to feed them for at least two hours before you set off. This ensures your furry friend doesn’t suffer from motion sickness on the journey, which is something nobody wants!
4. No window hanging.
Never let your dog hang their head out of the window; not only could this result in serious eye injuries for your dog from flying debris or loose stones, but they may also see something of interest like other animals and jump out into oncoming traffic. This could have disastrous results for both the dog and other drivers if they cause a car accident.
5. Cool cars: keep the blowers on.
Cars can become very hot very quickly, causing your dog to overheat, which can have tragic consequences, so it’s essential to keep the interior cool. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, open the windows or put the air conditioning on.
Consider using a sun shade or even an old towel to cover the window and if you need to stop, park up in the shade. Take plenty of water with you and perhaps even a cooling jacket to help your pet stay cool. Most importantly, never leave your dog in the car alone on a hot day, not even for a few minutes. Hot cars are responsible for numerous dog deaths every year in the UK.
The tips above should help you keep your pets safe in the car. Always keep your pets restrained when in a vehicle, give your dog plenty of breaks on a long journey and never ever leave them alone in a hot car.
We hope this blog post has been helpful and informative on creating a safer environment for your dog while driving.
For more advice and if you have any questions or thoughts on dog safety, please catch us on our social media platforms.