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21 Aug 2018
Maria McCarthy Maria McCarthy

Keeping your dog safe in the car


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

dog in passenger seat

We all know that it's vital for drivers and passengers to wear seat-belts. But did you know that dogs also have to be restrained when in a car?

The law recommends using either a seat belt harness, a crate, a pet carrier or a guard.

“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. It can also act like a missile within the vehicle and hit other occupants.”

Driving with an unrestrained pet could potentially lead to offences punishable by fines of up to £2,500.

Dog crates

beagle in a cage

If you have room in your car boot for a dog crate, 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.

If your boot is full of junk then investing in a safety harness is an excellent alternative. You should be able to find these at your local pet shop.

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

Long-distance drives

full boot of car

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

Bring plenty of water, and you should stop every few hours when travelling with your dog. They'll need to stretch their legs, drink water and relieve themselves. Don't forget the necessary bags to tidy up after them.

Driver distraction

Many drivers have found themselves in tricky situations if they haven't properly restrained their pets. research shows several drivers telling stories of dogs jumping out of windows or climbing to the front of the car. This car be a huge distraction for the driver and can lead to accidents. 

Not buckling up your pet correctly is a breach of the Highway Code. This states that drivers should suitably restrain any animal while driving, to keep both the pet and the driver safe. 

Nervous dogs

Nervous dog

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 them a food treat as a reward for getting into the car, or travel a short distance and then play their 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 (DAP) collar, which releases synthetic hormones that can temporarily calm your dog.

Never leave your dog in a hot car

dog in 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 thousands of dogs a year that are trapped in parked cars.

Many people dogs-in-hot-cars. According to the RSPCA, if it's 22 degrees outside it can reach up to 47 degrees in a car within the hour. 

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

Nipping into a motorway service station 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 prepare well if you're travelling with your dog.

First published on the 25th of January 2012 


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