How can I keep my dog safe in the car?

Jack Evans, PA Motoring Reporter
·4-min read

Dog ownership has rocketed in recent months with more people choosing to get their own pet. But with dog ownership comes the need to, on occasions, transport them elsewhere – which is when you’ll need to take them in the car. Particularly with lockdown restrictions set to ease across the UK, it’s a situation that many dog owners will find themselves in soon.

There are many ways you can make the journey as smooth as possible for both dog and owner, too. We’ve spoken to dog welfare charity Dogs Trust to see what people can do to ensure that their four-legged friends are both safe and comfortable when out and about in the car.

A spokesperson for Dogs Trust said: “When lockdown restrictions lift, one of the things dog owners may be looking forward to is a road trip with their canine companion to go somewhere further afield for walkies.

“Not all dogs love travelling in the car, so please be aware of this before embarking on a trip. If you’re unsure, avoid journeys while you seek the guidance of an experienced behaviourist. If you know your four-legged friend enjoys a car ride, it’s important to make sure they are safe, comfortable and feel confident.”

Dogs Trust also advises that should you see a distressed dog in a vehicle, always call 999.

Keep things secure

Dog safety
A dedicated harness should be used if your dog is sitting in the back (Skoda)

The Highway Code stipulates that dogs need to be properly restrained in the vehicle. It means that dogs should be kept in a properly-fitting seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or in the boot behind a dog guard. They’ve got to be securely fitted, too, to ensure that your dog can’t get loose and interfere with whoever is behind the wheel.

Many car companies offer their own dedicated dog accessories, such as those for Land Rover’s Discovery Sport. It’s always worth checking to see if there’s a bespoke option for your car, as it could make elements such as installing and use a bit easier.

Don’t leave your dog alone in the car

Dog safety
Dedicated pet carriers can ensure your dog is safe and secure (Land Rover)

Though it might be tempting to leave your dog in the car if you’re quickly dashing in somewhere, it’s something that should definitely be avoided. Leaving your dog unattended in the vehicle increases the risk of them being stolen, so you should always take them with you if you can.

If you’re filling up with fuel, then ensure that you lock the vehicle when you pay or ask a passenger to take them on a quick walk in the meantime.

Keep them cool

Dog safety
Some cars can even be fitted with special ramps (Land Rover)

You should make sure that you keep your dog cool when travelling. Keeping non-spill water bowls to hand can help, as can factoring in short walks or exercise breaks during the journey.

Try to avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day and consider fitting window blinds to keep the car’s cabin as cool as can be. And remember, never leave your pet alone in the car on a hot day.

Stay calm

Dog safety
Remember to take a water bowl along on the journey (Land Rover)

Dogs Trust says that it’s important to keep your dog calm and ensure that it is paying attention to you before they get in or out of the car. Allowing your dog to exit the vehicle immediately after you stop could cause them to expect this each time you come to a halt, which could prove to be dangerous in the long run.

Dogs should ideally be taught to wait for you to attach their lead properly before being allowed to carefully exit the car.

Positive reinforcement

For many dogs, travelling in a car can prove challenging. After all, it’s a new and somewhat scary environment for many. It’s why drivers should try and help their dogs to become familiar with car rides by undertaking several shorter trips first before setting out on a longer one.

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By doing so, you’ll be able to reward them for being calm in the car, or even for just being near the vehicle.

Take supplies

It’s worthwhile keeping a supply of your dog’s usual food in the car. It means that, should you get stuck in traffic, you’re not left high and dry with a hungry hound.

Keep a lead close to hand

Ensure that you keep your dog’s harness and lead close to the hand when you’re driving, just in case you need to quickly exit the car in case of an emergency.