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Driving with a dog in the car

| Health and Lifestyle

For many people, their dog is part of the family, so it’s no wonder people want to take their dogs with them wherever they go, from long walks and a paddle in the sea to coming along on holidays and visits to friends and family. In order to take a dog from place to place, they need to be able to travel comfortably and safely.

When taking a long journey, the easiest way to get from A to B with a dog is in the car, but there are some rules and regulations around driving with animals and securing them safely. Below, you can find out the laws around dogs in vehicles and how to strap them in safely.

Is it illegal to have a dog in the car?

No, it’s completely legal to have your dog in the car, so long as they’re properly strapped in and secured. This means you can take them with you on your travels, but they cannot be allowed to wander around the vehicle without a seatbelt or restraint of some kind.


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How to travel with a dog in the car

Every animal needs food and water, so before setting off, it’s a good idea to pack a bottle of water and a bowl so there’s a drink to hand should you stop for a break. This may be particularly handy should you get stuck in traffic or worse still should you breakdown. You may also want to take some treats to keep them happy and reward them when they are well behaved.

During colder weather spells, you might want to put a blanket in the car for them to sit on or cover them with. In particularly hot weather, you may wish to consider travelling early in the morning or later in the day to prevent overheating too. While window shades are designed for babies and young children, your dog may also benefit as they help keep cars cool and block out direct sunlight.

It can also be a good idea to park in the shade when you stop for a break and give the dogs plenty of water and fresh air.

You should never leave your dog in the car unattended, this goes for any time of the year, but it’s especially true in the summer months. It’s very dangerous and can have severe consequences, at the very least, they are likely to experience distress, discomfort and anxiety.

Just like we need to stretch our legs a bit on long drives, it's important to give your pet regular breaks too so they can go to the toilet, have something to drink, and get a little exercise.

We’ve already mentioned that you have to secure your dog when driving, but how can you restrain them safely? The most popular methods are with a crate, a seat belt harness or a boot gate. Your dog may prefer one method over the others and so it can take some time to find the one that makes them feel safest and most comfortable.

Seat belt harness

Seat belt harnesses are one of the most popular restraints, because they allow your dog to sit on the backseat free from a cage, providing them some freedom but still restricting their movements.

As the seat belt harness fits on your dog, it may be a good idea to get them used to the harness on walks first. Once in your vehicle, the harness has an attachment that fits into the seat belt buckle, preventing them from moving too much.

It’s likely that this is the most popular method because dogs are generally happiest lying on the seat during the journey.

Crate

Crates are ideal for dogs who are already crate trained (for example if they sleep in one at night), because they will likely feel most comfortable in one. It’s important that you get the sizing right – a crate that’s too big could allow too much movement for the dog should an incident occur, but they also need to be able to stand up, turn around, sit and lie down in it. For this reason, crates can take up a lot of space in the car and may not fit in a small vehicle.

If your dog isn’t already crate trained, being locked in one for a drive could be stressful for them, so it may be better to choose an alternative method to secure them.

Boot gate

Boot gates are popular for those who have multiple dogs or large breeds. They are fitted between the boot and the back seats so you can put them in the boot with no fear that they’ll jump onto the seats in front and distract the driver. They’re still able to move around freely and lie down.

It should be noted, however, that this method will protect you in an accident, but may not protect your dogs as much as a crate or seat belt harness.

Can a passenger hold a dog in the car?

Holding a dog is not an effective method of restraint. They can wriggle and get out of the passenger’s grasp or, because they’re not strapped in, could move around if there were to be an incident. For this reason, you shouldn’t simply hold a dog in the car, and should instead make sure they’re properly restrained with one of the methods above.

Can dogs travel in the front seat?

Dogs can travel in the front seat, as long as they’re restrained with a seat belt harness. However, you should be sure to push their seat right back, so that they won’t be injured by the airbags should a collision occur. Alternatively, you can turn the passenger side airbags off temporarily.

Traveling with dogs can be challenging at times, but it’s also a great opportunity for you to bond with your four-legged friend on a dog-friendly trip. So, take the necessary precautions to ensure you and your dog travel safely and have a good time.

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