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Dogs and Travelling Safely in a Vehicle

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 05 February 2015

If we want to travel safely with our dogs in our vehicles, doesn’t it make sense that they are properly ‘restrained’ or ‘contained’? They are part of the family and we want to protect them as we would any other passenger… don’t we?

Allowing your dog to remain loose in a vehicle while you travel could be considered irresponsible, if not downright dangerous. In fact the ‘authorities’ all say something to that effect; ours says: “Always put your dog in a crate or a seat belt harness when travelling.” The RSPCA recommends that dogs are both secure and comfortable during transport and of course, there are a number of different ways in which you can ‘restrain’ your dog comfortably during transport; the same rule 57 of the UK Highway Code states “a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

It is important not only that a dog can’t distract the driver or jump out while the vehicle is moving (we see lots of ‘fun’ films of dogs hanging out of car windows or sticking out of sun-​roofs)… can you be sure that your dog would not react if they saw an opportunity to chase a cat or squirrel or run off to say hello to another dog? Your dog could also be flung about and hurt while travelling; or worse, end up seriously injuring (or killing) the driver or other passenger(s) if the vehicle stops suddenly (see rule 57 of the UK Highway Code).

Car Harnesses

Please don’t consider putting them on their lead and securing the lead somewhere in the car, as this can cause serious injury to your dog’s neck in the event of a sudden stop. 

Instead consider using a car harness that secures your dog by linking in with the seat belt system. If you decide that this method is best for you and your dog, be sure to measure your dog carefully and buy a harness that is an appropriate size; then always follow the suppliers’ instructions to make sure you fit the harness properly.

Most pet shops sell a selection of harnesses and of course there are many on-​line suppliers. You can buy attachments to convert an ordinary harness or a whole purpose made car harness. The good news is they are not expensive.

It may not surprise you to find that the UK RSPCA also recommends and sells its very own car harness (see the RSPCA car travel harness).

Dog Crates

We often see multi-​purpose crates placed in the luggage area (boot or trunk) of a vehicle, but there is also the option of having a purpose built crate for most makes and model of car.

If you use a crate or container, you should make sure your dog has enough room to sit down or stand up at full height, turn around easily and lie down in a natural position. You should also ensure that your dog can see out of the container and that there is enough ventilation and airflow.

There are a number of different types of crate too, so choose one that best suits your lifestyle and dog. It is also best to use suitable padding or bedding on the floor of any crate or container, to prevent the dog from slipping around during the journey.

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The last picture shows a particularly strong type of purpose built car dog cage. There are many on the market at various prices, depending on what level of strength and which features you want. It’s easy to spend a lot of time searching the internet to find what suits!

We used to have two multi-​purpose folding dog crates side by side in the back of our estate car. These had doors on the front and side so had some versatility in use. We now have a ‘dog-​wagon’ (otherwise known as an MPV) with a purpose built crate that has a central divider, two front doors and two ‘escape’ hatches at the back (in case of an accident and inability to extract dogs from the rear). We still use additional multi-​purpose folding crates, depending on how many dogs we need to transport.

We’ve been all the way to the South of Spain via Eurotunnel more than once and found that our dogs are very safe and secure and settle quite nicely in their crates.

It may interest you to know that the folding indoor/​car kennel was first introduced into the UK in the early 1970s by the famous dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse. Barbara and her partner Joan Cudd they cajoined their names to call the business ‘BARJO’. The company now makes very good quality dog cages, tailgates and dog guards (here is the link: http://​www​.barjo​.co​.uk/)

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Be Safe With Your Dogs!