It’s true that a dog is a mans best friend (and women!). My two definitely are for me. It is therefore really important to me that I ensure they are safe, and well looked after at all times. Taking them out in the car is no exception.
We all ensure our dogs are on leads when we take them out, have food and water at home, and go on regular walks, but what happens when we take them out in our cars? Whether its a short or long journey we should still ensure they are well looked after.
The legal bit!
Did you know that if your dog isn’t secured in the car you could face a fine of up to £2,500, as well a getting 9 points on your licence? Well you can. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle 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.’ A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.
If it is felt the dog caused or contributed to an accident, you car insurance can also refuse to pay out.
How to make travelling with your dog easier and safer?
Firstly, take them for good walk before you start their journey. Make sure they have been to the toilet. Which reminds me, keep plenty of poo bags in your car too!
Don’t have your dog on your lap or loose on the passenger seat. You may think your dog is well behaved, but what if something distracts them? What about if you have to do an emergency stop? You could cause them significant injury or death as well as to yourself.
I have 2 dogs. If I am going a short journey then they are both happy to be in the boot. Fido is happy to lie down and just chill, but Lola likes to see what is going on around her. She will spend the journey looking over the back seat or out of the window. Whilst she is in the boot she is safe and can’t distract us. If I break the back of the boot will stop her going too far.
For longer journeys though, I put Fido in the boot and Lola on the back seat. To comply with the law and to make sure she and us are safe I use a dog seat belt.
These are relatively cheap to buy. This is mine and only cost £4.95 from Amazon. If using one of these, I would suggest you use it with a harness as it allows the dog to turn around more easily. You attach the lead part to the harness which is usually in the centre of the back. If you have to break the harness will give greater support. Putting it on the collar not only restricts the dogs movement, there is more likely hood of them becoming tangled, which will distract you as they will no doubt get distressed. I also feel it would damage their necks if I braked heavily so don’t like the idea.
By separating the two dogs, I feel helps them to be more comfortable. Fido just wants to lie down and sleep, which makes the boot perfect, and Lola likes to be nosy, so can look out of the windows.
Some owners like to use crates. This is also a good way of transporting your dogs, but please make sure they can stand up and move around in it. They also should be able to see out so they don’t feel frightened.
I always cover my back seat with a travel rug, with the underside upwards. This way the dog hair won’t stick to it, and I can use it if we want to have a picnic to lie on. I then cover this with a towel or blanket for more comfort for the dogs.
As with us, dogs need food and drink. I would suggest you don’t feed them for a couple of hours before the journey, especially if they get travel sick. Thankfully both my dogs are fine, but my previous dog was terrible. He loved the car, it just didn’t love him. The vets gave me some great tablets that prevented travel sickness. They are not cheap, but worth it for my dogs happiness.
I always make sure I have plenty of water in the car. Stop regularly to give them the opportunity to stretch their legs, just like you will need to. You don’t need any fancy water bottles, old squash bottles will do just the job. I do have travel bowls though. They fold up nicely in the car when not in use, but I can also put them into my bag if we go walking.
Again you can get these quite cheaply from Amazon for around £5.00. If you don’t want to buy one, an old takeaway pot works just as well.
Take a small pot of food with you. Just a little treat to keep them going will help them. There is nothing worse than your dog starving when you are sat in the front munching on your travel snacks. Just limit it to avoid car sickness!
Never leave a dog in the car. Many people think that if they park in the shade or leave a window open, then it’s ok to leave the dog. It is absolutely not. The car can warm up faster than you think. A dog can die in the car in less than 20 minutes. If you wouldn’t leave a child in the car why would you think its ok to leave your dog?
If you need to pop somewhere such as the toilets at a service station, and you are on your own, securely tie it up outside, in the shade! Maybe ask someone to keep an eye on them for you. Pop a bowl of water down for them too. If you can, take them with you. I have taken my dog into a public toilet with me before now.
It’s always good to plan your journey in advance if you are taking your dogs. Find places on the map you can stop safely. Is there somewhere you can walk them?
Keep cleaning clothes and black bags in the car too! Your dog might not have shown signs of car sickness before but you never know! On one journey one of my dogs got a little sick. I was able to pull into a parking spot, clean her bed up and put her bedding into the black bag, tie it up so it didn’t smell the car out for the rest of the journey!
Dogs are such a joy to have around. Don’t be afraid to take them away with you or for days out, but as you do with young children, plan what you need to take. This can make your life and theirs more enjoyable and relaxing.