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03 Jan 2019
Maria McCarthy Maria McCarthy

Keeping your dog safe in the car

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Most dogs will need to travel in the car at some point, here’s how to keep them comfortable and safe.

Keeping your dog safe in the car

It's vital for drivers and passengers to wear seat belts, but did you know 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 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 and harnesses

Keeping your dog safe in the car

If you have room in your boot, a dog crate could be the best way to transport your dog.

As a guide, your dog should be able to stand up, sit down at full height and turn around - otherwise your pet will feel cramped. 

A safety harness is an excellent alternative though if space is an issue. You should be able to find these at your local pet shop. 

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

Read More: What to do if you see a dog in a hot car

Long-distance drives

Exercise your dog well before taking them on a long trip. If they're tired, they're more likely to sleep on the journey.

Bring plenty of water and stop regularly. They'll need to stretch their legs, have a drink and relieve themselves.

Don't forget the necessary bags to tidy up after them.

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Keeping your dog safe in the car

Driver distraction

Many drivers have found themselves in tricky situations if they haven't properly restrained their pets.

Confused.com 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. 

Read more: Safe driving: Animals on the road

Keeping your dog safe in the car

What if my dog gets car sick? 

If your dog gets car sick then driving as smoothly as possible may improve matters.

Also it’s best not to feed them just before you set off. Give them plenty of time to digest the food or feed them after the journey.

Sometimes stomach settlers can help if they get sick on an empty stomach. Speak to your vet about these.  

Advice for nervous dogs

If your dog is nervous, try to get him or her to see the car as a place where good things happen.

For example, 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 you have a puppy, start this process as soon as you can so it becomes part of their routine or ‘socialisation’. 

If problems with the car persist 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.

Keeping your dog safe in the car

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 thousands of dogs a year that are trapped in parked 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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