There will be times our dogs have to travel in the car, it should be a fun experience for us and our dog. Safe car travel for dogs is vital for the safety of the dog, driver, passengers, and other road users. Keeping our dogs safely restrained is especially important if the dog is not a not comfortable traveller. I am glad to say my dog Mac is a fantastic travel buddy, he is so laid back nothing fazes him. Unfortunately, not all dogs in cars are happy and comfortable.
Many owners drive with their dog on the front seat, in the footwell, or lying across the back seat. How many dog owners are aware it is illegal in the UK and other parts of the world to have an unrestrained dog in the car? There is information available on this matter on the Driving Standard Agency website. It seems not all dog owners are aware of this ruling.
UK law states dogs and other animals should be restrained while the car is in motion. An unrestrained dog is a violation of the Highway Code. Should you be caught while driving with an unrestrained dog in the car there may be a large penalty to pay. The charge could be driving without due care and attention and the fine could be as much as £5000! There is also a possibility of the case going to court and having up to 9 points on your license. Laws differ all over the globe but fundamentally it is the drivers’ responsibility to ensure there are no distractions while driving. Keeping our furbuddies safe is paramount.
Ensuring your dog is relaxed and comfortable is an important aspect to consider. Introducing your furbuddy to car journeys is best done as early as possible, preferably when they are a puppy. Getting into a car for the 1st time as a larger or older dog can be a tough experience for dog and owner. If mobility is an issue then a ramp or stairs may have to be used, making the experience even tougher. Practise to get in and out of the car a few times before driving anywhere. Rewarding positive behaviour such as settling in the car with a treat is helpful. Only when you feel he is comfortable in his space in the car should you turn on your engine. When he is comfortable with the engine running, drive a very short distance, as short as driving out the driveway and always reward positive behaviour.
Nervous dogs may link a car ride to a dreaded trip to the vet. Travelling a short distance to a fun place that your dog will enjoy is a good tip. Do this multiple times to let him know that a car journey doesn’t always equal a trip to the vet. 20 minutes of exercise before a car journey is also recommended for nervous travellers. This is said to help alleviate stress.
Restraining your dog safely in the car is important to prevent injury to all especially if the driver has to stop suddenly. An unrestrained dog could injure itself and others. It is advised dogs should not be restrained in the passenger seat, restrained dogs can still distract even the best of drivers. Guidelines state dogs should be on back seat wearing a harness attached to a seat belt or in a crate secured in the boot. Going in the car with your dog should be a fun experience for dog and owner. A relaxed and comfortable dog is an ideal travel companion. Anxiety can cause your dog to pant heavily, bark, whine, drool, or even have an upset tummy. Travelling with a nervous dog can be an anxiety-provoking situation for the driver. If travelling in the car continues to upset your beloved furbuddy, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your vet. A vet may offer some sound and practical solutions to ensure safety all round.
Harness, crate or booster seat
Deciding on which method of restraint is dependent on a few factors.
- Size of dog
- size of vehicle
- temperament of dog
- length of journey
There are wide arrays of harnesses to choose from, the most important factor is fit. The harness should be snug but have enough room for comfort, two fingers should easily fit between fur and harness. I remember struggling to work out the correct way to put the harness on Mac, poor wee furbuddy had to stand for ages until I worked it out!
Crates are said to be the safest form of restraint. A crate in the boot of the car also provides a space just for the dog and his favourite toy, helping him feel safe and secure. Ensure the crate is level to prevent any movement which could be frightening and unsettling. Some dogs will love the opportunity to have a nosey out the window while in the crate. If your dog does not enjoy this, a blanket over the crate may help.
Booster seats are suitable for smaller breeds. They offer a secure space for your furbuddy, the seat is secured to the seat belt and the dog is secured to the booster seat. These seats are good for dogs that don’t like to be separated from their owner, and they can see everything all around them.
My preferred restraint is a harness attached to the seat belt in the back seat. When Mac was younger he travelled in the boot of the car as there were no issues around his mobility, now he’s a bit older he’s not as sprightly. He is also beginning to struggle to get in and out of the car, I am considering some sort of ramp to assist him.
Keeping your furbuddy safe and secure in the car will ensure the safety of all passengers, and remember it is also the law. A secure comfortable dog will ensure the driver is not facing any distractions and will make the experience less stressful and more enjoyable for all. Dogs can be great travel companions if they are secure and comfortable, buckle up, be safe, and enjoy even the shortest journey with your furbuddy.