Six tips for travelling with your dog in a car

Carlton Boyce / 11 March 2016

Tips to make driving with dogs in your car legal, safe and pleasurable.

Most dogs love travelling in the car (although some don’t…) but there are a few things you can do to make the whole experience even more pleasurable for you both.

1. Safety first

The Highway Code states:

When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you if you stop quickly’.

A dog that is left loose and free to roam in the car is a real safety risk; not only could he distract or jolt the driver, an unrestrained dog, even a small one, turns into a furry projectile that is capable of breaking bones and causing serious injury in the event of an accident.

So you owe it to both of you to restrain him. Some dogs love a crate in the boot; what we see as a miniature prison he sees as a safe cave to relax in. 

Others are happiest in the boot of your estate car or hatchback behind a rigid dog guard that separates them from the back seat.

Of course, if you’ve got a saloon car then he will need to travel on the back seat, restrained by a harness that clips onto one of the rear seat belts. 

In either case, you need to make sure the floor is covered with an anti-slip surface to help him stay in place while the car is braking, accelerating, and cornering.

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2. Heat kills

The temperature inside your car can rise to uncomfortable levels in seconds and lethal levels in minutes: on a warm summer day, with an ambient temperature of 25°C, the interior temperature of your car can easily reach 70°C – and cracking the window open a few inches isn’t going to make the slightest difference…

The only solution is to never, ever leave your dog in your car if it’s warm outside. It’s just not worth the risk.

3. Plenty of water

You can buy nifty little water bottles and collapsible bowls so you’re never caught short of a drink for your dog, although the fiscally prudent will just use an old plastic bottle and a spare metal bowl!

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4. Keeping it clean

Your dog will get wet and muddy in inclement weather, so a couple of old towels to dry him off with will come in handy and that bottle of water you keep for when she gets thirsty can be used to rinse the worst of it off.

5. Keep those windows closed

Most dogs like travelling with their head out of the window but this isn’t a good idea for a couple of reasons. The first is that a passing vehicle or piece of roadside furniture might strike her head.

The second is that any air-borne debris will be blasted at her and even the most innocent object, like a grass seed, can cause serious eye infections and damage when it is propelled at 70mph and you really don’t want to imagine what a piece of gravel could do.

If you want to provide a safe breeze for your dog, then either open the window for just an inch or so or buy a window guard that will prevent her sticking her whole head out.

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6. Keep ‘em distracted

If your dog gets bored on a long journey, then teeth-friendly chews are a good option, as is a favourite toy. (Although I imagine your tolerance of a squeaky toy would diminish very quickly...)

A favourite rug might help keep him quiet too and some dogs prefer having their cage covered with a blanket, although please do take care to leave some gaps at the bottom for air circulation.

It’s also important to give your dog plenty of rest breaks on a long journey. While many are happy to snooze throughout, dogs see the world primarily in terms of what it can smell, so frequent stops will stop him getting bored and restless.

Do you have any dog-friendly travel tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

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