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Why dogs should wear seatbelts in cars

Two dogs looking upWhether it's a local trip or a lengthy drive, here's how to ensure that car journeys are comfortable - and safe - for your dog.

We all know that it's vital for drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts but this applies to human passengers but to canine ones as well.

“It's important to restrain dogs in the car both for their own safety and that of everyone else,” says Runa Hanaghan, deputy veterinary director of The Dogs Trust, the UK's largest dog welfare charity.

“If an accident happens, the dog can be thrown forward and injured, and it can also act like a missile within the vehicle and hit other occupants.”

Dog crates

If you have room in your estate car boot for a dog crate then this can be the best way to transport your dog.

But do make sure the crate is big enough and that the dog is able to stand up, sit down at full height and turn around, otherwise your pet will feel cramped.

But if your boot is full of junk then The Dogs Trust safety harness is an excellent alternative.

It comes in various sizes for different breeds of dog, attaches around the dog's chest and the lead attachment can be looped through the seat belt.

Long distance drives

If you're going on a long trip with your dog then exercise them well before you set off so they're tired and more likely to sleep on the journey.

Bring water, and you should stop every few hours when travelling with your dog as they'll need to stretch their legs, drink water and relieve themselves - don't forget the necessary bags.

Nervous dogs

If your dog hates going in the car or gets carsick then driving as smoothly as possible may improve matters.

Another useful tactic is to get your dog used to seeing the car as a place where good things happen.

Give him a food treat as a reward for getting into the car, or travel a short distance and then play his favourite game.

If the problem persists then see your vet to talk about possible options.

This might involve training techniques, calming supplements or a dog appeasing pheromone (D.A.P) collar, which releases synthetic hormones that can temporarily calm your dog.

Never leave your dog in a hot car

Most of us know that you shouldn't leave your dog in the car on a warm day.

But the RSPCA are still called out to help 6,000 dogs a year trapped in parked cars.

Many people don't realise how quickly temperatures can rocket inside a parked car.

Even in winter we can have days with unseasonally high temperatures which make the car stuffy and uncomfortable for your pet. 

Nipping into a motorway service station to use the loo and buy a sandwich can take longer than you think and cause huge discomfort and danger to your pet – dogs can die of heatstroke within 15 minutes.

If it's a cold day and you'll only be gone for a short time park in the shade, leave a non-spill travel bowl of water lowering the windows slightly, and use a sun windshield similar to the ones that are used for children.

But remember it's always best to be on the safe side and follow the RSPCA guidelines for travelling with dogs – that way you'll have many happy journeys together.

Pet Insurance

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

View more from Maria



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