Travelling by car with a dog needs some thought and planning. Cars aren’t designed with our four-legged friends in mind. Some owners understandably start to worry how their dogs are feeling during long journeys. Thankfully, there are some steps and equipment available that make travelling as stress-free as possible for you and your dog. Check out our advice for car travel with your dog.

Before getting in the car

Ahead of travelling, one of the best things owners can do is to ensure their dog has been well exercised with a walk. If a dog has burned off most of its energy beforehand, they are more likely to rest in the car. It’s also important to make sure that they’ve had an opportunity to do their business, just to avoid any messy accidents. Owners should also check their car for any objects and food that could be hazardous to dogs. If you're going on a long journey, do your research to have an idea where you might stop for comfort breaks.

Travelling equipment

Although most people don't like putting their dogs in crates, if there is space in the car, it’s one of the safest ways to travel with dogs. A crate will keep your dog safe and secure whilst travelling in the car. If you already use a crate at home with your dog, then using one in the car won't be alien to them.

Alternatively, you can use a pet seat belt and harness. Simply fit the harness and secure your dog using the seat belt handle provided. If your dog is happier travelling in the boot of the car, you can use a boot guard but your dog must still be secured in the boot. You will still need to use a crate or harness and handle. It’s much safer for dogs to travel using the back seats of a car, rather than the front. Travelling in the back seats provides more space and reduces the risk of distracting the driver. If your dog must travel in the front seat, make sure he is well secured and that the airbag is switched off.

Legally?

According to The Highway Code, it is the driver's responsibility to "make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars."

If you have an accident and your dog is found to have caused or contributed to an accident, your car insurance and pet insurance could be invalid. You could also face a fine of up to £5,000 if it goes to court, and points on your licence.

New to car travel?

If your dog is new to car travel, it's a good idea to build up his confidence over time. Ideally you want to start his exposure to car travel as part of his socialisation when he is a puppy. This will get him used to the environment of the car and everything else that comes with it, like the motion, smells and sounds. Start with short journeys before embarking on any long road trips. Using treats at the end of a journey to reward with reinforce a car journey as a positive experience.

Whilst on the road

Ideally, position your dog so he can see out the window. This should help with any motion sickness. Stopping for regular breaks whilst on the road is a good idea, giving your dog some fresh air and the chance to exercise and stretch his legs. Make sure you have water with you to keep him hydrated. To help with comfortable car travel with your dog, make sure there is good air circulation. Either from gentle air-conditioning or from a window slightly open.

What not to do on the road

Never let your dog travel with his head out of the window. This may look cute to a passing motorist but could result in injury if anything outside of the car hits/catches your dog. Ideally, don't feed your dog whilst you're travelling. And also, try to leave a good period of time after his meal before starting your journey. Remember to switch the airbag off if he is in the front seat. And never, ever leave him on his own in a car on a hot day.

Travelling with your dog can be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. Especially if the end result is a wonderful destination where he can explore new walks and meet new friends! And earn treats for his back seat driving!