How to Keep your Dog Safe in the Car


Are you a new dog owner who took advantage of lockdown to settle in a new puppy? Whether it’s for a short trip to the vet or a longer journey to a holiday home, most owners will take their dog in the car at some stage. Every dog is different, so it pays to think about how your dog will travel best and to plan in advance.

Firstly, think about how you are going to secure your dog. A regular seat belt won’t fit, and it isn’t safe to let the dog sit on the front seat. Options for securing your dog in the rear of the vehicle include a harness, zipline harness, crate, carry box, dog guard in the boot, back seat hammock, or a back-seat barrier. Which is best for your dog?

Well-behaved dogs of all sizes could be secured by wearing a standard dog harness used with the rear seat belt. For active dogs which don’t settle, consider purchasing a zipline that fits to the rear seat and allows the dog to roam a little. There are many on the market so do your research first or seek advice from your vet.

Some dogs prefer travelling in a crate. Ensure the crate is big enough for your dog to stand up and move around. You could cover it with a blanket if it helps your dog relax. The crate can go on the back seat or boot depending on size.

For small or anxious dogs, you can now buy a plush carry box which fits high on the seat and allows them to see out the window. Use it in conjunction with a dog harness. Another option is a dog guard fitted between the rear seat and the boot. It allows your dog to move around in the boot and see you through the guard. Follow manufacturer instructions when fitting it to the roof of the car and bolting to the rear seats.

Larger or older dogs might appreciate a quilted hammock which loops over the headrests of the front and rear seats and hangs between provides a spacious, comfortable solution.

During the journey

Once on the road, there are a few common-sense things you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy.

  • With a new dog, start with shorter journeys and build up. Schedule plenty of stops.
  • Never leave your dog unattended in your car on a warm day. Dogs can overheat within a matter of minutes, and heat stroke is a common cause of admissions to vet emergency clinics in the summer.
  • Don’t let your dog hang out of the window but do put the air conditioner on for ventilation or keep windows slightly open – never fully opened, in case they see something which tempts them to jump out.
  • Avoid choking hazards by not feeding your dog or giving it treats while the car is in motion.
  • Always carry water. Cars can get hot even when moving, and dogs may become dehydrated on long trips. You can buy travel water bowls that pack down flat when not in use.
  • Use window shades. Although designed for babies and young children, your dog may also benefit as they help keep cars cool and block out direct sunlight.
  • Drive to fun places. If your dog only ever goes in the car to visit the vet, he may associate the car with distress rather than enjoyment. Be sure to travel to places he loves visiting too.
  • Look out for signs of motion sickness. Most dogs will outgrow this car sickness, but if not, your vet may be able to prescribe medication. It’s also worth bearing in mind that dogs tend to suffer less if facing forward while you’re driving. Avoid feeding your dog just before you travel. It can cause an upset stomach and bring on motion sickness, even for a dog which doesn’t usually suffer motion sickness.
  • If there’s a special reason why your dog must be secured in the front seat (not recommended), be sure to move the seat as far back as possible and switch off the passenger-side airbag as it may injure your dog if you have an accident.

Finally, remember to bring a back-up supply of food. It’s worth taking some of your dog’s usual food on any long car journey, just in case you break down or get stuck in heavy traffic.

Dogs love to be outdoors and among their people, so with the right precautions, there’s no reason why your dog shouldn’t learn to love travelling by car.