Keeping Your Dog Safe In The Car

If you own a dog, you will no doubt at some point have cause to transport them in the car- whether that’s limited to once a year for their annual vet check and booster vaccinations, or if you take your dog everywhere with you and the daily car journey is simply part of their routine. It’s second nature when travelling in the car to put your seatbelt on and make sure that any children are strapped in and secure- but what about your pet? How can you keep your dog safe when driving and while getting in and out of your vehicle? Read on to learn all about keeping your dog secure in the car and the best ways to keep them safe when travelling by road.

The importance of restraining your dog when in the car

While many dogs will sit quietly on the back seat for the duration of their journey, others will leap about, move around and possibly cause a distraction to the driver of the vehicle- something that it is of course important to prevent. Even if your dog is well trained and impeccably well behaved in the car, it is still really important to provide some means of restraint for them in case of a bump or an accident. An unrestrained dog may become seriously injured in the event of an accident, and the force of an impact such as a collision or even the effects of braking suddenly could potentially cause your dog to be thrown forwards and get seriously hurt by the walls and seats within the car, or even potentially be thrown through the glass of the windows-accidents which sadly often prove fatal. Additionally, even if your dog comes through any bump or accident unharmed, they will understandably be upset and stressed and may further exacerbate any damage to the vehicle or injuries to other passengers, or display defensive aggression and even potentially run away in fear when you open the doors.

Different options for keeping your dog restrained

First of all, it is generally considered to be safer for the dog and less potentially distracting for the driver if your dog is transported in the back of the car as opposed to the front seat. You should never attempt to sit your dog on your lap while driving, or allow another passenger to travel with the dog on their lap, as not only does this not adequately restrain the dog and could potentially cause a distraction to the driver, but it is also more likely to cause injury to both the dog and the person in the case of an accident. There are a couple different options open to you in terms of how to best restrain your dog in the car, and your final decision will largely come down to the size and shape of your car or vehicle, the size and temperament of your dog, and what works best for you- there is no one size fits all solution.

Dog crates

If your dog is crate trained and happy to sit quietly in a crate or cage, then this is one potential option for restraining your dog in the car- providing that you have enough room for the crate, of course! The crate should be large enough to house your dog comfortably and allow them to sit up and stretch, but not so large that the dog would be thrown around dramatically in the case of an accident.

Dog guards

Dog guards can be fitted to your car (or van) between the back of the seats and the boot area, to provide a restricted area of space for your dog to be contained within. In effect, this works in a similar manner to having a crate within your car, although it provides slightly less protection as your dog will not be protected from impact with the side or rear windows.

Dog harnesses and booster seats

Dog harnesses are worn around the neck and chest of your dog, and fasten securely to your car’s existing seatbelt fittings. For smaller dogs, it is also possible to buy a special doggy booster seat to ensure a comfortable seating position and safe attachment to the car. Dog harnesses are available in shapes and sizes to fit all dogs, and ensuring a good snug but comfortable fit is vital to ensuring that the harness does its job when it is needed. Any dog car harness should be sufficiently padded to cushion the effects of restraint in the event of an accident or sudden stop. Providing your dog will wear a harness happily and is not unduly fidgety and likely to get tangled up, a harness is generally considered to be the best and safest choice of restraint.

Other considerations when transporting your dog in the car

  • As well as making sure your dog is safely and adequately restrained, it is important to make sure that your dog is not seated in front of an airbag. While impact-activated airbags are an important safety feature to protect the lives of adult passengers, small children and animals may become injured in the event of airbag deployment, and with the vast majority of airbags it is advised to deactivate them when used for children or animals. There are some exceptions- check the instructions carefully for your own specific vehicle or contact the manufacturer and ask for their advice.
  • When taking your dog in and out of the car, always open the door on the pavement side of the road and do not unload your dog on the side of the traffic.
  • Train your dog to wait to exit the car until told- do not encourage them to bound out of the car as soon as you are home and the door is opened, as they may do the same thing when parking in a busy area.
  • Make sure that you stop every couple of hours when travelling to allow your dog to stretch his legs and go to the toilet. Some dogs suffer from car sickness just as people do, so monitor your dog’s health regularly when travelling and be on the lookout for any signs of distress.
  • Most dogs love to poke their heads out of the window when travelling, and allowing adequate ventilation travelling is important to keep your dog happy and well in the car. However, make sure that they cannot get their whole head out of the window and potentially be injured by hitting it on something you drive past, and of course make sure that they cannot scramble out of the window too!
  • Use sun shades on the windows when it is hot or the sun is bright- sitting in a patch of blinding sun and being unable to move is no more comfortable for your dog than it is for you!
  • Finally, NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car in warm weather. Every year a significant number of dogs suffer from the effects of heatstroke, which can occur within just a few minutes in hot weather, and unfortunately may prove fatal.
  • Happy driving!


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