Travelling in the car with your dog

Lorna Cowan / 29 September 2015

Ensure a safe and happy trip with these top tips for travelling by car with your dog.



Some dogs jump for joy when they see you grab the car keys. Others run and hide in the nearest corner. But regardless of whether you have an enthusiastic or reluctant four-legged passenger, it’s important to have a safe and pleasant journey. So follow our top tips.

Get your dog used to the car

Before setting off on a long journey, get your dog used to going on short trips in the car. Drive somewhere nice - perhaps the park (not to see the vet!) - and your dog will soon associate the car with fun times. Talk to them while you’re driving, and say their name, so they hear your voice and feel comfortable. Or if you usually have music on in the house, turn up the radio and sing along.

Related: how to plan a dog-friendly holiday

Decide where to put your dog

Dogs should be kept under control at all times in the car, for their own safety, yours and other road users. If you want to travel with your dog in the boot, if space allows, consider a crate. It may already use an indoor kennel, but if not, put a favourite blanket and small treat inside, and familiarise your dog with the crate before going on a journey.

A dog guard, or wire grill, is another option. If you own a large or elderly dog that can't leap into the boot and and you are unable to lift it, it's worth investing in a lightweight folding ramp.

If you don't have a car with a suitable boot, buy a safety harness to allow your dog to sit on one of the seats without risk of being flung forward if you have to brake suddenly.

Related: 10 tips for a happy, healthy dog

Coping with travel sickness

Some dogs, despite you doing your best to get them used to car journeys, will suffer from travel sickness. Vomiting, trembling and panting excessively are all signs. If your dog seems anxious being in the boot, let them sit in a passenger seat, but strap them in using a car safety harness. 

Fresh air can help, but don’t allow your dog to put its head out of the window. Not only is it dangerous, it can cause eye infections too. Ideally, don’t feed your dog before a journey, and pack cloths just in case you need to clean up a mess. If none of this helps, seek advice from your vet.

Take regular breaks

Contented sleepy dogs makes the best passengers, so exercise them well before starting your journey, and make sure you stop plenty of times on the way to your destination so they can stretch their legs, have a drink and go to the toilet. Many motorway service stations are dog-friendly and have water bowls available and areas where your dog can play. 

On other roads, find a safe grassy spot away from traffic. Keep your dog on its lead. 

A good website to consult is www.drivingwithdogs.co.uk/walks.

Related: top 10 dog walks in the UK

Never leave your dog in a hot car

The RSPCA warns dog owners that cars become very hot very quickly, even if it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees outside, it can reach a dangerous 47 degrees inside a car within an hour. Even within a few minutes, in the shade and with windows open, temperatures can soar. 

If you’re driving on a sunny day, provide your dog with some shade and put on air-conditioning if the car has it. Stop frequently so you can give your dog water.

Planning on taking your dog abroad? Read all about the pet passport.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.