Now that the lockdown rules are relaxing a little, you’re likely to have more freedom to roam a few miles further away from home. That means more fabulous walks in different places with your furry best friend.
Some of these walks might even feel pretty exotic now, as it’s probably been a long while since you’ve been able to visit your favourite woods or beaches. You and your pooch will be able to explore them with fresh eyes, as you rediscover the places you love together.
All this new-found freedom could mean more car journeys for you and your pooch. But for some pet owners, this can be a cause for concern.
Do you ever worry whether your dog is safe when they’re travelling in your car? Is a dog car crate a must for you? Have you looked into buying a dog seat belt? Or perhaps you’re at the other end of the scale, and consider that if all the car doors are shut, then you’re fine and you’re ready to go.
Feeling the wind in their fur
In adverts, the image of a dog leaning out of a car window, ears flapping in the wind, the breeze rippling through their fur, has become a symbol of fun and freedom. To enhance this carefree feeling, the dogs are often wearing sunglasses, a straw hat and possibly a Hawaiian shirt.
They look like they’re having the best time. According to scientists, dogs enjoy having their heads out of the car window so they can sniff out all sorts of fascinating smells with their highly-attuned nostrils as you drive along.
A dangerous breach of the Highway Code
However, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s unwise to let your dog poke their head out of the window. In fact, it’s not just unwise, it’s dangerous. A dog that’s roaming free in a car could easily distract the driver. What’s worse, if you have to come to a sudden stop, your dog will be propelled forward with great force and could seriously injure itself, you or other passengers.
It’s also worth considering that failing to restrain your dog in the car is against the Highway Code, which says:
“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 your dog is free in your car and distracts you while you’re driving, this could be considered dangerous driving, and might invalidate your insurance.
How to keep your dog safe in your car
Taking all this into account, here are a few ways you can help make sure that your pooch travels safely in your car.
1. Buckle up with a dog seat belt / harness
Dog seat belts or harnesses are a safe, convenient way to ensure that your pup can travel comfortably and securely in your car. Simply strap your dog’s body into the harness, feed your car’s seat belt through the webbing handles on top of the harness, clip in the seat belt and you’re ready to go.
Using a dog harness, your dog can safely travel in either the back of your car or in the boot. Even better, when you get to your destination, you can simply clip their lead into the harness and head off for your walk.
If your pooch tends to travel in the car's front seat, make sure to move the seat as far back as possible and switch off the passenger-side airbag. Wherever your dog sits in the car, it's also worth paying a little extra to have a dog seat belt / harness that has been crash-tested for safety purposes.
2. Keep your hound safe in a dog car crate
Take things up a level by making sure your dog is safe in transit with a dog car crate. These are usually made to fit in the boot of your car and come in a variety of durable metal finishes. Some, like TransK9, even have antimicrobial powder coatings to help cut down on fungal infections.
You can have car crates specially fitted to suit your make and model of car or you can opt for a collapsible model that you can fold up and keep in your car when you’re not using it.
Dogs often feel at home travelling in a crate, especially if they’ve been crate trained as a puppy.
3. Treat your dog to a car carrier
Unlike a dog car crate, which is made of metal, dog car carriers are usually made of canvas or plastic, making them lighter and more portable. One good option is a dog carrier that has a steel frame with a fabric shell, as that will be both strong and lightweight.
Dog car carriers usually have mesh ‘windows’ so that your pooch can survey the world as it passes by, and you can secure them in place by passing your car seat belt through the carry straps.
4. Keep your dog behind a metal barrier
If you have a metal or mesh barrier that separates your dog in the boot from the rest of the car, you’ll be reducing the chances of your dog distracting you while you’re driving. But you won’t be helping to keep your dog safe in the event of a sudden stop or an accident.
By all means, have a metal or mesh barrier in your car. But if your dog’s in the boot, they should also have their own dog car crate or car carrier as protection.
Happy holidays for pets and people
For more tips on how to enjoy your travels with your dog, check out our blog on travelling with pets in the UK and beyond.