If you’re taking a short trip or are driving on a long-distance journey, you may have found that your dog isn’t a great fan of travelling. Your dog’s distress may make it tempting to sit them in the footwell at the front of your vehicle, or loosely in the boot. But, the Highway Code has a set rule on travelling with your dog in the car.
The law on travelling in the car with your dog
According to The Highway Code with regards to Rules about Animals, it is the driver’s responsibility to:
“Make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly.”
With these regulations in place, if you were in an accident caused by your dog distracting you while driving, this could be considered as ‘dangerous driving’. Car insurance providers may also require you to restrain your pet, so it’s best to check your policy.
How should you transport your dog in the car?
There are several safety measures and products which can help you travel with your dog safely in the car. It’s important that you choose a solution that’s suitable and comfortable for your pet, and that the system is properly installed and attached to the vehicle.
- Crate: Crating your dog will help keep them safe and secure while travelling in the car. Using a crate to transport your pet has the added benefit if they’re already used to this environment from their training.
- Travel harness: Pet-friendly harnesses come in a variety of sizes and are available from most pet shops. Simply fit them onto your pet and clip into place, making it safe for your pet to sit on the front or back seat, or in the boot.
- Carrier: A pet carrier is a portable and light alternative to a metal crate and can be easier to pack if you’re staying away from home.
- Boot gate: If your dog prefers to sit in the boot, it is also recommended to fit a boot gate to prevent them from jumping through to the front of the vehicle. A boot gate also protects your dog and passengers from harm during an accident: your dog will still need to be secured using a harness or crate.
Can dogs travel in the front seat of a car?
Dogs can travel in the front of the car, however, you must ensure to switch off the passenger- side airbag and move the seat as far back as possible.
Making car travel more comfortable for your pet
Travelling in a vehicle can be distressing for your pet along with the motion causing them to be sick. To help your pet get used to being in the car, it’s best to introduce them to this as early as possible as part of their socialisation training. Exposing them at a young age to this environment will desensitise their uncertainty and get them used to the motion. It’s best for your dog to be able to see out of a window when travelling, or if your pet is prone to motion sickness, allow them to face forward.
Travel socialisation can be built up, starting with short distances and extending to longer distance car journeys. Treats can help make these new experiences positive and reinforce your pet that they have behaved well.
The dos and don’ts for travelling in the car with your dog
- Secure your pet using either a harness, crate or carrier.
- Pack plenty of water to help your pet stay cool. The temperature of a car can quickly heat up in the summer.
- It’s fine to have the air conditioning on as long as it’s not blowing directly in your pet’s face, or to open a window slightly ensuring it’s not wide enough for them to jump out.
- Take regular stops on long car trips so your pet can stretch their legs, rehydrate and go to the toilet.
- Ensure your dog has familiar surroundings with them, whether it’s their favourite toy or a blanket, this will help keep them relaxed throughout the journey.
- If your pet suffers from motion sickness, speak to your vet who may prescribe travel medication.
- Allow your dog to travel with their head out of an open window.
- Don’t leave the passenger airbag on if they’re travelling in the front seat.
- Don’t feed your pet before your travel. It’s best to leave at least two hours before you get on the road.
- Don’t ever leave your dog in a hot car – it doesn’t take long for a vehicle to warm up causing your pet to overheat, which can be fatal.
For more advice on how to travel with your dog in the car to discuss travel medication, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Animal Trust clinic.