Taking your dog on a long car journey

01 November 2019

We are travelling with our pets more frequently than ever these days. And the recent market explosion of dog-friendly pubs, holiday cottages, shops and restaurants means there’s no need for them to stay behind!

Heidi of travellingwithyourdog.com has shared her favourite tips on car journeys with your dog to ensure that you and your furry passenger arrive at your destination safe, happy and relaxed.

Prepare well

First things first. It goes without saying that pooch should be properly toileted before setting off. A light walk and some fresh air just beforehand is the perfect way to settle your furry friend.

Most dogs love going in the car, as it usually means they’re going somewhere exciting – and they love to feel included. But if your pooch isn’t the best of travellers, you might want to consider restricting food until the journey is over. Instead, try giving him some cooled ginger tea, sweetened with manuka honey, before you set off. Other dog owners swear by a ginger snap biscuit to settle the stomach.

Make sure you’re lawful!

It’s the law in the UK to ensure your dog is restrained while travelling. You have a couple of options, and the choice comes down to what works best for both you and your dog. If your dog is used to being crated, and your boot is large enough, you can transport him in a metal or soft fabric travel crate, lined with comfy blankets.

Alternatively, if your pooch likes to ride in comfort on the back seat, you can attach a special seatbelt to his harness, so that he can change position without moving too freely around the vehicle. The brilliant and car-safe Ruffwear Load Up Harness is super comfortable to wear and will secure him from sudden movements. A waterproof seat cover is a good idea to protect your upholstery: this hammock-style version by Kompanion is quilted and a universal fit.

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Help him feel relaxed

However you choose to transport him, help him to feel safe and relaxed in his doggy space for the duration of the journey, so he will be able to settle and make himself at home. Make sure that he isn’t too cramped, that the temperature and sound levels are comfortable and that he doesn’t have direct sunlight shining on him. Anxious doggie travellers often benefit from the fresh air and interesting smells coming through the crack of a slightly open window.

Build in some time for chill-out stops

Why not look at your route beforehand and build a couple of dog-friendly toilet/relaxation stops into your journey? Not all motorway services are ideal for pets and can be quite noisy and frightening for some. Instead, do a bit of Googling and find a park or grassy area close to your route, where you can stop and take a wander in the fresh air together. It doesn’t have to take too long – 15-20 minutes will do nicely – and you’re both likely to continue with your journey feeling relaxed and refreshed. (A quick word of caution: if your chosen chill-out location is new to you and your dog, unless he has perfect recall it might be a good idea to keep him on lead.)

Have a supply of drinking water available

There are a couple of practical options you could go for here. When we travel with our dogs in our camper van, we use a Road Refresher. It is a non-slip water bowl with a slotted floating device inside it, which keeps the water from spilling while the car is in motion.

You could also carry a bottle of water and pour it when required into a silicone collapsible bowls. They are great space savers and perfect for doggy refreshment on the move.

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Plan your arrival

Try and find out if there is somewhere to take your dog for toileting as soon as you arrive at your destination. If there isn’t, then that gives you the chance to stop somewhere suitable a few minutes before arrival. If your destination is somewhere new for your dog, if at all possible try and arrive in daylight so he can explore the environment and get used to the smells before night falls.

Find out about Saga Pet Insurance

…And just in case…

If you often travel with your furry friend, it might be worth keeping an emergency dog pack in the car in case of a breakdown or accident. This could include: some long-life dog food and extra water, a couple of blankets, a high-visibility dog vest and lead and a doggie first aid kit: this Pawly version is fantastic and contains everything from bandages to a tick remover. Hopefully you will never need it, but it may add to your peace of mind.

Have a great trip!

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.