I drive a lot with dogs in my car both personally and for business, so for me safety while driving is a priority. We all love our dogs like family so here are my top tips for keeping them safe during travel!
First let's look at what The Highway Code states:
57 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.
With that in mind here are our top tips for driving with your dog:
1. Use a suitable restraint for your dog
Your dog should not be free to roam in your car without restraint. This could invalidate your insurance in a claim, you could be fined up to a maximum of £5000 and in an accident your dog could turn into a projectile that could cause serious damage to other occupants of the car and they could get free from the car onto the road.
They should be restrained in a crate, pet carrier, seat belt harness or in the boot behind a dog guard. They should not be attached by a collar as this could be fatal in a crash.
This will help prevent your dog from distracting you by trying to climb in the front seat or getting in the way of any controls.
2. Your dog should not distract you or get in the way of normal driving
Your dog should be happy to settle down in the car. Moving or jumping about in the car, pawing and barking can be distracting so help your dog learn to settle in the car by doing some training. Take your dog out for short journeys to begin with and give them a chew or stuffed Kong toy to encourage them to lay down and settle. If your dog tries to lunge at, chase or bark at passing cars, people or dogs then you can put a blanket over their crate or put up sun shades to help block their view to prevent them getting agitated.
Your dog should not be able to interfere with controls so unless your dog is really settled in the car it is not advisable to have them in the front seat. If your dog does travel in the front seat it is vital that you turn off the airbag for the passenger seat.
Your dog should not be blocking any view of the front or back windscreen, your mirrors or your windows. You should be able to view all aspects of your car and the road just as if the dog wasn't in the car. You may need to restrict your dog using a crate or a short seatbelt attachment, or teach your dog to lie down on cue to stop them getting in the way.
3. Do not allow your dog to stick it's head out the window
Yes I know it looks cute to see a dog sniffing the passing air with their ears flapping in the wind but it is so so dangerous. There have been reports of dogs falling out of windows by accident and jumping out of the car to chase cats. Even if your dog is restrained there is the huge issue of being injured by debris kicked up from the road. Think of how many times a stone has hit your windscreen where you wince because of the impact - now imagine that hitting a dog's face - not pleasant you'll agree!
Last year my car was hit by a metal coil that fell off of a lorry, the coil nearly went through the windscreen as the impact was so hard and the inside of my car was sprayed with chips from the interior of the windscreen. It doesn't bear to think what that would've done to a living thing.
Also it is a distraction to other drivers. Something that is rarely thought about but many reactive dogs that don't do well with other dogs are walked on main road as most dogs will be under control on a lead. For these dogs a passing car with a dog hung out the window and barking could be a real stressful situation for this dog and their owner.
4. Carry essential supplies in your car
Be prepared and always carry a bowl, plenty of water and also a first aid kit in case of emergencies.
Other good supplies to keep in your car are:
Details of nearby vets in case of emergency
Slip lead in case your dog's lead or accessories break or you lose them
Towel to dry off your dog so they don't sit damp for long periods of time
If your dog takes medication some spare in case you are out longer than you thought
Some food or treats in case you are out longer than you thought
5. Take rest stops on long journeys
Ensure you take rest stops to give you and your dog a break. Let them have a drink, stretch their legs for a bit and use the loo.
6. Don't leave dogs unattended in cars
Avoid taking your dog to places where they have to stay in the car such as supermarkets. Instead leave them at home or have someone come with you that can look after your dog. While driving during warm weather ensure you have fans/ AC switched on or windows down (dog restrained so they can't hang out of them). You can also use cooling mats that help keep your dog cool while lying down on them. A spill proof travel bowl is useful so that your dog can drink during travel.
Do you have any tips to add or do you travel a lot with your dog?
If you are having issues with your dog getting in or out of the car, barking or lunging at passing traffic, or they are nervous of the car get in touch for help through 121 private dog training at your home. Contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07889556736.