Travelling Safely With Your Dog In The CarCompact Cars, Bridgend
June 18, 2019 at 9:55 AM
One of the best parts about dog ownership is being able to take them to run around in different parks and fields as well as having them join family holidays. Quite often, the best locations are too far away for a walk, so you need to jump in the car.
According to research conducting by Confused.com, one in five dog owners regularly travel with their dog unrestrained in the passenger seat of their car while 10% admitted having their four-legged companion on their lap behind the wheel.
Travelling safely with your dog in the car requires a little bit of planning and a small investment in a restraint to avoid breaking the law. With the right measures in place, you and your pooch can have a fun and stress-free car journey.
The Law On Driving With Dogs In The Car
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."
Although failure to comply with this rule is not legally binding, if a driver is pulled over by a police officer, they could be fined £1,000 for driving without proper control of their vehicle.
In more serious breaches, motorists could be penalised for driving without due care and attention. This offence carries a fine up to £5,000 and the potential for nine penalty points if the case was taken to court. Prosecuted drivers could also face a driving ban and be forced to retake their practical test.
If an unrestrained dog is judged to have caused a car accident, or impaired your ability to react, insurers are unlikely to pay out if you make a claim. As a result, you might have to personally pay out for repairs on top of a fine.
Similarly, your pet insurance may also be invalidated if they're injured from being unrestrained in a car accident, leaving you to foot the entire bill for any treatment.
Why Do Dogs Need To Be Restrained In The Car?
Aside from the legal and financial implications listed above, dogs need to be restrained in the car for their safety, your safety and the safety of anyone else in the vehicle.
If your dog is loose in the car, they could seriously hurt you and your passengers in an accident. At 30mph, an unrestrained Border Collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to the weight of a polar bear.
The protection of a harness, carrier or cage will keep the dog away from the steering wheel to help stop the driver from being distracted. In the event of a car accident, keeping your dog restrained will prevent serious injuries all around.
How To Introduce The Car
If you're going to be taking regular trips in the car with your dog, it's a good idea to get them used to the environment shortly after you take them home.
Introduce the car gradually by allowing them to spend time in the car without actually going anywhere at first. Get them used to wearing the harness, being in the boot, carrier or cage, as well as getting in and out safely. Make it a positive experience with praise and treats for good behaviour.
After a few days, take some varied trips that involve going to the park or for a walk so that your dog has a positive association with the journey. It's important to not just take them to the vets, otherwise they could develop negative associations with the car.
How To Prevent Motion Sickness
Most dogs outgrow motion sickness; however, it's a condition that you can help to prevent by allowing your dog to face forward and trying to restrict their view - some animals become more travel sick if they can see out of a window.
Don't give your dog a heavy meal before you're planning to take them in the car. Travelling on a full stomach can make motion sickness worse, so try to feed them with a light meal around two hours before going in the car, giving them time to digest their food.
If they still get car sick, even on an empty stomach, you can speak to your vet to see if they have medication that will help with travel sickness.
Top Tips For Travelling With Your Dog In The Car
To make every trip as safe and enjoyable as possible, follow these tips, including things to do before you set off and while you're on the move.
GO FOR A SHORT WALK
If you're going on a longer journey, you might want to let your dog have a quick run around the garden or take them for a short walk. Encourage them to go to the toilet and burn some energy off - a tired dog is less likely to be a distraction while you're driving.
THINK ABOUT POSITIONING
If you keep your dog restrained in the car using a seat belt harness, it's advisable to position them behind the front passenger seat. If they're directly behind the driver, or in the passenger seat, they have easier access to the driver and present a bigger distraction.
PACK SOMETHING FAMILIAR
Help your dog to feel secure and relaxed by taking their blanket, bed or one of their favourite toys. The smell can provide comfort and reassurance when their usual routine is disrupted.
MAKE REGULAR STOPS ON LONG JOURNEYS
Drivers are recommended to take a 15-minute break every two hours which should be observed if you've got your dog in the car. Plan to stop at a motorway services - a lot of which now have dog walking areas - or a nearby park to allow your dog to stretch its legs, have some water and go to the toilet.
Ensure that you pack plenty of water for your dog to drink so they don't become dehydrated. You can buy travel water bowls or give it to them during regular stops if you're making a longer journey.
FIT SUNSHADES & KEEP THEM COOL
Although technically designed for babies and young children, window shades can be beneficial for your dog too. They help to keep the car cooler and block out direct sunlight.
On sunny days, cars can warm up really quickly and dogs are stuck wearing a fur coat all the time. If it starts to get hot, turn on the air conditioning or open the window furthest away from them to help reduce the temperature.
DON'T LET THEM HANG OUT THE WINDOW
It may look cute and will help to keep them cool, but it's actually quite dangerous. They could get grit or other debris from the road in their eyes or injure themselves if unrestrained.
One driver confessed to losing their excitable dog out of the car window when stopped at traffic lights after seeing children playing outside. Similarly, they could easily fall out of an open window at high speeds.
DON'T LEAVE THEM ALONE
Dogs Trust state that less than 20 minutes in a hot car is enough to prove fatal to a dog if its body temperature exceeds 41°C. It's not enough to simply park in the shade and leave the windows slightly open.
In addition, dogs can, and do, freeze to death when left alone in cars in winter - you need to take them with you whenever you leave the car for any period of time in any weather conditions.