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Helping Your Dog to Travel Safely

Sep 19, 2014

If you are like me, you treat your pet as part of the family and try to include them into as much of your life as possible. The thought of leaving your companion at home when they could be with you is a sobering thought. When I first got a dog I thought, like most people, that removing the parcel shelf and allowing my dog to sit in the boot was the one and only way it could travel. However after experiencing a rather fraught car journey in which my friend’s dog scaled the back seat and ended up practically on her knee in the driving seat I knew there must be a better way.

So here are a few little tips and tricks you can use to get your dog safely from A to B.

General travel considerations

rsz_dog_travel_1.jpgThe first thing you must consider is: “does my dog like travelling?” Just because it is something you enjoy doesn’t mean it is something your pet is going to as well. It is a good idea to get your puppy or dog as used to the car as possible at a young age - don’t wait until it is an emergency to see if your dog enjoys life on the road. If the first trips you make involve vets and vaccinations it is no wonder your pet may feel insecure about setting foot in your car again. Try to make the first trips short, be reassuring and pick your destination carefully such as a friend’s house or dog park.

Some dogs can suffer from sickness brought on by motion or anxiety; most dogs feel safer in the car if they travel in a crate. If you do not already use a crate you will need to prepare your pet for going in one. Leave the crate around the house for a few days so the dog gets used to it. Associate the dog’s crate with nice things such as treats or toys. Never shut your dog in the crate when s/he is getting used to it. Make sure your pet is wearing its collar and identification tags in case it manages to escape you during the trip. If you haven’t got your dog micro-chipped we strongly advise getting it done. This will be compulsory by law in 2016 and is an essential part of responsible pet ownership.

The best way for your dog to travel?

Do you pack a toiletry kit for yourself when you travel? Why not pack one for your pet as well? If you are travelling a great distance put your name, vet’s name, destination address and cell phone number on your pet's crate in case of emergency. Also, don't forget small first-aid items like bandages and tweezers. Don’t forget to take a portable water bowl and bottled water with you. Your pet is going to need a break and drink, especially on a long journey.

There are several stylish ways in which to chauffer your dog. There are many products on the market at the moment depending on your car and your dog type. I recommend you do the research to figure out what is best for you and your dog.

The crate

You can buy crates that fit either into your boot or back seat. These ensure your dog has safety and comfort whilst limiting his mobility, ensuring he stays safely where he is meant to rather than clambering onto your knee. If you have a small dog and want to use his carrying case you can now buy a carrier keeper - this wraps around your carrier and plugs into your back seat belt holders. I would advise covering the top of your crate in the boot as your dog is more likely to settle and feel more secure. Pros: your dog is safe and secure and the crate can be used on arrival at your destination or in your home. Cons: crates for large dogs can be extremely heavy.

The harness


There are many different types of travel harnesses. The one I would recommend is a padded full chested harness that secures your dog safely with a short strap that plugs into your seatbelt.

Pros: your dog is less restrained and can enjoy the journey.
Cons: my dog once silently ate his way through the belt (and seatbelt) mid-journey, this option is certainly not for chewers!

In addition to the harness you can now get a great invention for larger dogs called the zip line this is a line fitted across your back seat onto which your dog’s harness is attached this allows back and forth movements as well as standing and sitting it also secures your dog in the case of sudden breaks.

Skybox or booster seat


This is an elevated plush box where your dog can see the view but also be safe and comfy. I know several people who have one of these and swear by them (only recommended for smaller dogs). The skybox must always be used in conjunction with a harness.

Pros: dogs who suffer anxiety often take to these better as they have a good view of their owner and their surroundings.
Cons: harness must be fitted correctly to avoid the dog trying to jump out. It can be a distraction to the driver having your dog on view

Car grid


This can be fitted to most brands of car, meaning your dog can travel in the boot but not jump over the back seat.

Pros: your dog can see you and move around, when you don’t have your dog with you your boot is still fully functional.
Cons: once you open your boot the dog is loose!

Back seat  hammock


A great choice for old dogs! This loops over the front and back seat, creating a hammock-like area for your dog to sit. Not only does it protect your car from getting dogged but it also folds neatly away when not in use.

Pros: protects the dog and the car.
Cons: if young/agile, your dog could still get into the front or be thrown in an accident.

Back seat barrier


This is a great invention for those owners who don’t want to crate their dogs - how many times to do return to your car to find your dog sheepishly sitting in the passenger seat? This canvas and mesh frame attaches to your front car seats confining your dog to the back seat area.

Pros: If you should break suddenly your dog will not be thrown forward, and your dog can also see you if he chooses to.
Cons: really more suited to larger dogs and the dog is not completely protected in case of an accident.

Important tips

Many pets sleep on a car journey, but just as many of them end up getting restless. It might seem funny at first to let your dog hang its head out the window, but this practice is extremely dangerous. Your dog could be hit by flying objects, and the wind and cold air can cause inner-ear damage and lung infections. Excitable canines can also unexpectedly leap out an open window, leading to serious injury or death. Never be tempted to do this! If you want to let some fresh air into your car buy a safe window grid that allows air in without letting your dog out.

Some people entertain their dog with toys and treats in the car however this can prove dangerous too. How many times have you had to pull a raw hide out of your dog’s mouth when he eats it so fast he practically inhales it? Do you really want to be panicked with choking noises while driving?

During any trip, it's important to stop often so your pet can stretch its legs, relieve itself and burn off some excess energy.

Although water is fine, don't feed your pet in a moving vehicle. It's actually best to feed it no less than three to four hours before your trip begins, to minimize motion sickness. If your pet needs to eat during the duration of the trip, feed it at a rest stop an­d give it some time to digest.

Dogs die in hot cars! When travelling always have the air con on for your dog to regulate the temperature. Always park in the shade and never leave an animal unattended in a parked vehicle. On a warm day, the temperature in your car can rise to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) in minutes, even with the window open.


Tags: Dog, travel, car, safety

Lucy Bell

Animal Care Manager

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