Car Travel with a Dog – Is Your Dog Safe in the Car

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Dogs are like people – some love to travel and some don’t. If you are contemplating regular car travel with a dog, their adaptability is probably something you need to consider.

If you plan to travel with a dog in a car, you need a plan first. Don’t just throw your dog in the car and hope for the best.

Do All Dogs Like to Travel?

It is easy to think that all dogs like to travel. After all, why wouldn’t they? But that is not really the case.

Small adaptable, curious dogs make great travelling companions. Small terriers and toys such as Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, and Pugs make excellent globe-trotters. My terrier Poppy loves to travel. Whether it is just in the car to the local park, or a 6-hour trip when we go on holiday.

Larger dogs, however, prefer to guard the house and give you a big welcome when you return. But there are always exceptions in both cases due to their personalities.

Car Travel with a Dog Can be a Necessity

Depending on where you live, you may find that you need your dog to travel in a car. If I want to take my dog for the off-lead walks that she loves, we have to drive there. If she wasn’t good in the car it would be a nightmare.

I looked after a dog for a week (Buddy) who was a greyhound cross. He hated going in the car. Would howl and howl and howl. So it meant for the week that we had him, either I had to walk them both separately (and who has time for that) or Poppy didn’t get her fun walks. So she had a week of pavement walks. I think she was glad to see the back of him!

So even if you are not going to pop your pup in the car on a regular basis, it is worth doing the work and training your dog for car travel so they can go in the car when required.

Train Your Puppy for Car Travel

The simplest thing is to start your dog off when they are a puppy. All dogs should be car-trained as puppies since this is the most common form of travel for them. Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world. You may not have had your dog as a puppy, or even had a car then! So possibly you have an adult dog who has never been in a car.

Car Travel with Older Dogs

If you are dealing with an adult dog who is unaccustomed to or afraid of car travel, you will have to make a regular training project out of it. Train them the same way that you would train a puppy, but you will need more patience and understanding of any little foibles.

  • Let you dog become comfortable in a stationary car.
  • Give your dog praise and the best treats when you take them out again.
  • Repeat until they are comfortable in the car.
  • Let your dog become comfortable in a stationary car where they are going to travel for example the boot.
  • Give your dog praise and the best treats when you take them out again.
  • Repeat until they are comfortable in their place in the car.
  • Drive a very short trip like to the end of the road.
  • Give your dog praise and the best treats when you take them out again.
  • Repeat until they are comfortable with a very short trip in the car.
  • Slowly increase the duration of the journeys making sure to treat them when you take them out of the car.
  • Make sure that the first trip to a place where they get out of the car is super fun like the park or the beach.

Start out with short drives and graduate to longer trips over time. Depending on the age of your dog, they may need help getting in and out of the car.

The Safest Way to Travel with Dogs in the Car

The best way for your dog to travel with you in your car is in a pet carrier. An unsecured pet can distract you while driving. Too many unsecured pets have jumped from a moving vehicle to be fatally injured when a carrier or tether could have saved them.

The most important thing that will help your dog to travel in the car is that they are comfortable. You will be most worried that they are safe. These are the best options to keep your dog safe in the car, you need to decide which one is best for you and your dog (and the car!).

Here in the UK, the Highway Code actually states that an animal should be restrained in the car:

Rule 57

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, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

Dog Harness for Car Travel

You can restrain your dog by use of a quality dog harness. They need to be strong and durable and work with your car seat belt. Some models double up as a harness for walks.

This looks like a good choice. When I first got Poppy, I used a car safety harness. The main problem we had is that she is between sizes in all harnesses. She is at the very top of XS and the very bottom of S which means they are either too tight or too loose. As I couldn’t find one that fit perfectly, I ended up crate training her and she now travels in the car in a dog crate.

Try Your Dog in a Dog Cage

This is our preferred means of travel for Poppy. She goes in her crate for a 5-minute drive to the park or a 5-hour drive to the beach. She does like to be able to see where she is going so the cage has to be perfectly positioned!

Make sure that any cage you buy fits safely and securely in your car. I have put the rear seat belt through the cage, so the cage can’t slide about.

Final Tips for Car Travel with Dogs

During a long trip your pet will need access to fresh water regularly, exercise, and breaks to stretch and relieve himself.

Never leave a pet alone in a vehicle, especially in hot weather. When exposed to high temperatures, dogs can suffer from heat stroke.

Lastly, just like people, some dogs can get motion sickness. Signs of motion sickness include whining, barking, pacing, salivation, panting, and vomiting. To overcome these conditions, limit their view out of windows, stop frequently, and again, don’t let them become overheated.