Regardless of the time of year, our dogs will at some point have a need to travel with us in the car. Some dogs may travel more frequently than others and all will have different destinations. Walks on the beach, training classes, competitions or the vets!
(Jelli getting looking sad we are off to work and not off to Agility!)
For the majority of pet owners, dogs are considered part of the family, yet driving around I see dogs that their owners have put at risk whilst travelling and in some cases, dogs that are putting their owners at risk.
Jelli and Isla come to work with me nearly every night and, on our days off with Bracken and Matt adding to the chaos we jump in the car and head to Exmoor or other dog friendly destinations! With these frequent dog friendly journeys occurring, it made sense to ensure the dogs could travel safely for their benefit and ours.
So how does your dog travel with you? In the boot occasionally jumping over the back seats to give you wet kisses? On the back seat loose or attached to a harness? Perhaps they sit on the front seat with their head out the window, ears flapping in the breeze? Or maybe they are sleeping soundly in a crate or transport box.
i have started counting and making notes of how dogs are travelling when I’m out and about. I’ve seen dogs (not just small ones either) sat on the drivers lap, dogs hanging out of windows on front or back seats and dogs gazing out of the boot window with dog guards separating them from the rest of the family.
i genuinely believe no body sets out with the intention of putting their dog at risk on car journeys but perhaps this blog may highlight potential problems and give ideas on how to ensure your dog remains safe in the car.
The Highway Code
Rule 57 of the highway code clearly 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.’
You may actually invalidate your insurance and be susceptible to a fine or points if you do not adhere to this rule.
Dogs on the front seat is actually very, very dangerous. Although you may feel comforted that you can see and talk to your pooch, have you thought about how many times you take your eyes off the road to look at them, take your hands off the steering wheel to give them a quick fuss? Although it may be just seconds, that’s long enough for someone to walk out in front of your vehicle or for the car in front to brake suddenly and you to cause an accident.
(Photo obtained from google images)
The front seats of cars are designed to protect people, not dogs. If you were to be involved in a collision and the airbag was deployed, the force of the impact would actually be enough to fatally injury a dog. Accidents can also happen if your dog decides it would rather move from the passenger seat onto your lap. Loosing the ability to see the road ahead, change gear and steer, again potentially poses a greater risk of having an accident.
Having your dog on the back seats is a much safer option than travelling in the front. It is however advised to use a correctly fitting harness that would be capable of a) stopping your dog roaming around the vehicle and potentially trying to get to you and b) restrain your dog in the event of an accident. If the harness doesn’t stop this, in a high impact collision your dog may be thrown forward and injure those in the front and could potentially hit the windscreen causing further injury to themselves.
(This Orvis harness is a great example of the type of harness to buy)
A 32kg dog will be thrown forward with the same amount of force as a 100kg weight when emergency stopping at 30mph! So avoid using your dog’s collar as a method of restraint as this can cause severe neck or spinal injuries if their is a sudden impact on the tension. Regular checks should be made to ensure the harness and seatbelt is not being chewed resulting in it being not fit for purpose.
In my opinion the boot is looking like a safer option all round at the moment! It’s still vital your dog is restrained properly and is also comfortable travelling in the space.
A dog guard stopping any escape efforts over the back seats is essential. Most car manufacturers offer tailor made guards which fit snugly or universal guards can be cheaper and easier to obtain. It would be advisable to make sure your dog again has a harness and is tethered in the boot to stop him or her jumping out when the boot is opened as this area may not be safe for a loose dog – the motorway services are a prime example!
A tailor made dog guard with emergency exits for a Landrover – Image from Landrover
My personal preference when the dogs are in the car is using a proper dog transport box. I know they are safe and comfortable, my car stays clean (always a bonus!) and the transport box I purchased is actually crash tested! So if we were to be hit from behind I know I can’t make the dogs any safer than they are. Crates are another alternative but by no means designed for that job and would just crumple in the event of an accident.
The box I use is made by a company called TransK9, their boxes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so perfect for maximising the space in the boot without compromising on safety. We have the boxes in both my Landrover and Matt’s L200, so we can travel knowing the dogs are safe. There are additional features too which you wouldn’t get with a crate or other boxes, and a very important one is the rear safety door. So if we are involved in an accident and the boot was unable to be opened, the back seats can be folded forward and the safety door opened to allow a safe route out of the car.
(Isla and Jelli in the L200 (left) and Freelander (right) Bracken was too busy to pose!)
Although the boxes are not cheap, they are a great investment for the safety of your pup! My box is a B20ss (the ss stands for space-saver) and will comfortably fit both Jelli and Isla in and allow them to stretch out, Bracken fits in too but makes it a bit more snug so we use the L200 for longer journeys as the box in there is bigger and better suited for three dogs.
My box cost £365 new but essentially that’s less than £40 a year over 10 years which is a bargain when it means my dogs are as safe as possible when we are ‘out and about’. Plus I know it will last longer than that anyway!
i also love the fact it can be locked with a key, has ventilation panels in the top and there are additional extras you can buy to go with it! I would strongly recommend one and I saw the company is now able to offer a payment plan to help spread the cost of a new box!
Other things to consider!
A few other things to consider when travelling with your dog is make sure you have plenty of water, a non spill bowl is a great investment too to avoid wet seats or flooring, plan pit stops every 3-4 hours for your dog to have a stretch and relieve itself and finally PLEASE do not forget to use a sunscreen on the rear window if your dog is in the boot. The sun may be glaring directly onto your dog causing great discomfort even with the Air Conditioning on. Stick on children’s sunscreens can be bought very cheaply and your dog will be grateful!
So enjoy your travels, stay safe please feel free to leave a comment or let us know how you travel with your dogs and if you have any plans for destinations in the future!
(All views in this blog are our own and no financial incentive or product gifting has occurred in order to write this piece – I’m just passionate about safety!)