How to keep your dog safe when travelling in the car

6th Feb 2019

Sometimes we want to pack up the walks in the local park and venture out to the coast with our dogs. Driving with your dog doesn't have to be a stressful experience for either of you. In this article we cover how to introduce your dog to the car for the first time and how to keep them safe whilst they are in the car. It is advised that you introduce your dog to the car in advance of your planned vacation as leaving it till the day you leave may not allow enough time for your dog to get use to it.

Where should my dog sit when in the car?

If your dog could get their own way, they would sit on your lap the entire journey but in the interest of their safety and your own it's probably best not to let them have their own way. Dogs should not be sat at the front of the car (the passenger seat) as air bags can be dangerous for dogs. An activated airbag can cause injuries to your dog as they explode with such a high intensity. For this reason, dogs should be kept at the back of the car, the back of the car can include the back seats or storage. Whilst a fresh supply of air into the car may put your dog at ease you should ensure the window is not wide enough for your dog to put their head out, it is highly dangerous as they risk being hit by something or could have their respiratory system damaged by the heavy airflow.

Introducing your dog to the car

When you first put you dog in the car you want them to see it as a happy place and what better way to do this than rewarding them with treats and affection! Put one of your dog's favourite treats in the car, pet them and tell them that they are a good boy or girl. It is also a good idea to put one of their favourite toys in the car to make them feel comfortable. Your dog may be frighten the first time they get in the car so ensure they are able to get out at any time by leaving the doors open. Closing your dog in the car and not allowing a clear escape route could traumatise your dog. Repeat this process a couple of times until your dog doesn't fear sitting in the car.

Once your dog has got use to sitting in a stationed car, it's time to get them use to sitting in the car when the engine is running. The first time you put the engine on allow your dog to inspect the car from a distance (keep them out of the car). Stand outside of the car and encourage them to come close to it using treats to lure them. Once they are comfortable with being next to the car, you can then try and put them in it. Again, have your treats on hand at this point.

When they have completed the process of getting use to the sound of the engine its time for them to experience the car in motion. At this stage you need to introduce them to a dog seat belt, these can be attached to either their collar or harness. Seat belts are important as they stop your dog from freely moving around the car and potentially distracting the driver, it also keeps them safe in the event of an accident. If you do not want to use a seat belt you can put your dog in a car crate as an alternative.

Once your dog is positioned safely in the car your first few journeys should be short to allow them to get use to it. You can then gradually increase these as your dog gets more comfortable.

Dogs like people can get motion sickness, so it's best that you feed them well in advance of travelling. You should ensure your dog gets regular breaks on longer journeys to allow them to empty their bladder and rehydrate.