It’s that time of year when we start thinking about days out, holidays and exploring the countryside with our dogs. For most of us, that means driving somewhere – so how can you make sure your dog enjoys the experience as much as you do – and how can you keep them (and you) safe while you’re taking trips out together?
When I’m not working with dogs, my other passion is driving. I’m a trustee of a local (Gloucester) IAM Roadsmart group – a road safety charity dedicated to improving driving standards in the UK. As part of that, I coach people through their advanced and master’s tests.
So with both my dog and driving heads on, I want to talk about dog car travel.
Dogs – safety and comfort
There’s no point heading out in the car with your dog unless they’re happy to travel and enjoy the whole experience. Otherwise the stress of the journey will ruin any pleasure your dog will have from the destination.
The secret to having a dog who enjoys being in the car and looks forward to road trips is preparation.
Where to start
- Think about where you want your dog to travel and how you’re going to restrain them in the car. In most cases, (with a hatchback or an estate (or larger), the safest place is in the back of the car, behind the seats, in a purpose built, secured crate, or behind a well-fitted dog guard. This gives them a dedicated space where they’re free to move around, get comfortable, and change position when they want. They’ll also be safe in the event of an accident. You can also use a dog seat with restraint, car seat cover with restraint, or dog seatbelt.
- If you choose to have your dog travel in the back, there are a couple of things to think about. The main one is ‘can I keep my dog cool there?’. Most people have air conditioning and so think they can control the temperature of the car, but don’t realise air conditioning is only designed to keep passengers cool, and often doesn’t reach the area behind the seats. In the back of a hatchback/estate, there’s also a lot of glass that will magnify the heat of the sun.
- Get someone to drive your car while you sit in the area your dog will travel. Is the air con reaching you? If not, you need a fan you can direct onto the crate, to shade the windows (without obscuring or affecting your driving vision), and travel with windows slightly open to allow air to get to your dog. The advantage of a crate is your dog doesn’t have access to the open windows. If they’re behind a dog guard, open the windows immediately in front of it. You don’t have to open them far to get air flow into the car.
- Make the space your dog is travelling in comfortable – so give them a soft surface to lie on. Veterinary bedding is ideal as it’s soft, doesn’t slide or bunch up, and is waterproof (just in case!). Or you can put your dog’s bed into that space.