How to Drive and Safely Travel with your Dog

How to Drive and Safely Travel with your Dog

Most dogs can travel safely and calmly in cars. Many even come to enjoy it. It is, however, important to take the right approach to driving with dogs. This keeps everyone in the car safe and comfortable. It also protects other road users.

So to ensure your furry friend is safe and comfortable whilst travelling, Car Mats UK, specialists in dog travel accessories, have put together a handy guide of how to drive and travel safely with your canine partner.

Fasten your dog securely in place

Seatbelts became mandatory for drivers and front-seat passengers in 1983. In 1991, they became mandatory for all humans in vehicles. Child seats have been mandatory since 2006. Seatbelts and child seats have saved countless lives. Restraints could save your dog’s life. It could also save you and your passengers from being injured by them in an accident.

Restraining your dog in the car also keeps you on the right side of the Highway Code (specifically Rule 57) and your insurers (car and pet). If there is an accident, you are less likely to find yourself under potential scrutiny for ‘driving without due care and attention’.

There are three main ways to restrain dogs in cars. These are dog barriers, crates and car harnesses. Dog barriers stop dogs from becoming a distraction but do not provide any real protection. They are therefore best used either when the car is stationary or with a dog crate. 

13 tips on how to stop dog from bei...
13 tips on how to stop dog from being stolen

Crates can be safe cocoons for dogs who aren’t big on travelling. Using a crate in the boot can also clear space for human passengers, especially children needing special seats. Car harnesses are great if dogs like to travel and see what’s going on. It is, however, advisable to have a crate as well in case you need the space.

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Put together a canine first aid kit

In principle, a lot of the items in your human first aid kit can be used on your dog. For example, bandages, tweezers and round-ended scissors can all be used to patch up your pooch. In practice, it’s probably more comfortable for everyone if you each have your own medical items. You can buy everything you need individually or just buy a ready-made canine first aid kit.

Be a considerate driver

Like children (and many adults) most dogs hate sudden changes in speed or direction. You, therefore, want to aim for smooth changes, for example decelerating rather than braking. This means keeping your eyes and mind on the road, preparing and responding in good time. As a bonus, this style of driving saves both fuel and wear-and-tear on your vehicle.

How else can you keep your pet safe and comfortable while travelling? An incredibly important factor to always consider is temperature.

Keep the temperature in your vehicle on the cooler side. Dogs can overheat in moving vehicles as well as parked ones. Make regular stops to check on them and look for any sign of this. Use at least some of these stops to let your dog out of the car to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. 

Ideally, your dog should have access to water for the whole trip. You can buy special travel bowls that stop water from spilling. Some dogs also like snacks and toys. Bones can be particularly good because gnawing on them is very relaxing as well as good for your dog’s teeth.

If your dog suffers from travel sickness or anxiety in spite of this, try bringing a favourite blanket and/or adding shades to your windows to restrict their vision. If this doesn’t work, then speak to a vet. They may be able to recommend or prescribe medication.

Be careful with windows

If your dog is properly restrained, they won’t be able to poke their head out of the window. If you take the restraint off when you’re parked, don’t let your dog stick their head out of the window then either. Even stationary, it’s a major hazard.

It’s preferable to open a window that’s slightly away from your dog. For example, if they’re in the back, open a front window. This will cool the car and get some fresh air in (both are important). It will, however, minimize your dog’s exposure to debris and insects.

Also, keep in mind that the sun can still do a lot of damage through windows. In addition to the effects of overheating, dogs can get sunburned. Their risk of this depends on their breed and physical characteristics. If your dog has exposed skin, however, then you might want to put suncream on them even with a car.

Park with care

There are two main dangers to dogs in parked cars. The first is heat and the second is theft. In principle, you can mitigate both of these by parking carefully. In practice, you may not have a great choice of parking spaces, especially if you’re driving in a city. This means you need to be prepared.

Firstly, think about what you’ll need for your trip. Pack what you’ll need (and want) to eliminate or at least minimize stocking-up stops. Resist the temptation to make stops just to get stuff done. Leave it for another time, when your dog isn’t with you.

Secondly, have a way to keep your car really cool. Having a window slightly open is good but nowhere near enough, particularly not in peak summer. You want sunshades and some form of cooling system such as AC and/or a solar-powered fan. You also need to make sure that your dog has plenty of water.

Thirdly, use regular security measures such as immobilizers to protect your dog against being stolen either on its own or with your car. You may also want to look at using a security camera to monitor the inside of your car. Fourthly, go back to your car as quickly as possible. The less time you leave your car unattended, the less time there is for anything to happen. 

Consider a GPS dog tracker 

GPS dog trackers vary widely in price. Most dog owners, however, will be fine with just a basic (and affordable one). That way if your dog ends up getting lost in a strange place, you will give yourself a head start on finding them. On a similar note, make sure that the details on their chip are up-to-date and that they have a tag on their collar.

Wrapping up

Travelling with your dog is a great way to bond with them and create some amazing memories. It does, however, require some preparation to make sure that both you and your dog have a safe and enjoyable time. With a bit of care, you can make sure that driving with your dog is a breeze!

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