How to Travel Safely With a Dog in the Car

Your pooch is part of the family, and just like the human members of your crew, you want to keep them safe at all times. However, not everybody is aware of just how dangerous it can be to improperly secure your pet when on your travels, or that it is actually illegal! Scrap Car Comparison is here to explain how to keep your schnauzers safe and prevent your poodles from landing you in prison.

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A happy dog hangs its head out of a car window

How To Travel With A Dog In The Car

When you head out on the road with a dog in your car, it’s important to ensure that they’re safely secured in almost exactly the same way that a human passenger would be. Typically, these animals will need to be buckled in using a seat belt, although we hope it goes without saying that you can’t just sit them in the seat and clip them in like a person.

If you want to safely transport your dog (and let’s be honest, you should) then you’ll have to invest in the proper equipment. It’s generally not too expensive to buy the right stuff, but it’s just another expense that drivers need to consider when bringing a dog into their lives.

Typically, you can expect to find different gadgets or wearables to keep your dog in place safely, but they’re ultimately going to do the same kind of thing: keep the dog from bouncing around the car, whether that’s out of pure excitement from a trip to the park… or a collision.

How To Secure A Dog In The Boot Of Your Car

Keeping your canine companion in the boot alongside your shopping may seem a bit heartless, and you’d probably prefer to see their fluffy face every time you glance in your rear-view mirror, but it’s actually extremely common to keep your dog in your vehicle’s storage area when travelling. There are two ways to do this safely:

Dog Guard

These devices are fairly simple, acting as a barrier that prevents any animal in the boot from hopping over the back seats and interfering with the human occupants of the car – including the driver.

Dog guards are good for larger dogs as they leave your pets with the freedom of the boot, allowing them to move around as they wish relatively unrestricted. However, the downside to dog guards is that their purpose is simply to keep the animal from causing havoc and hindering your driving ability.


Dog owners who have done any kind of training at home with their pooch should be well-versed in the use of crates, and the same principles are applied when using one in a car.

A crate (perhaps a more pet-friendly name for a cage) is a device that can be installed securely into the boot of your car that your dog can be locked inside. It serves the same purpose as a dog guard, preventing the animal from accessing the ‘human area’ of the car, but is of course much more restrictive.

There are pros and cons to this extra restriction, though and it’s essential that you pick a cage that’s the right size for your dog. It might seem kind and caring to choose a huge crate for your chihuahua, but in the event of an accident, this just gives them more space to be thrown around in. A more compact crate will prevent any major impact injuries, similar to how a seat belt stops you from being launched into the windscreen.

Despite the crate’s purpose being one of practicality over comfort, it’s still important that you don’t choose one that’s too small for your dog. Your pet still needs to have full range of motion when locked inside, including the ability to stand up, lie down and turn around. Don’t forget to measure your boot space when picking out a crate too! If your car isn’t big enough, you might need to go down an alternative route, like…

How To Secure A Dog In Your Car Using The Seat belts

Perhaps the best in terms of dog safety, securing your dog in one of your car’s seats works in a very similar manner to how you’d buckle up yourself or your children, however it’s certainly not as simple as pulling the belt around your dog and clipping them in – in fact, this is almost guaranteed to upset your pet, causing them distress and perhaps even injury.

Instead, you should purchase a seat belt harness. The harness itself is worn by your dog around their torso, but unlike harnesses that are used when simply walking your furry friend, this variety has an attachment that can be combined with the seat belt of your car to clip them into place. Now, they’ll be unable to move around the car, other than within the area of the seat that they’re sitting on, and in the event of an accident, they’ll be held in place just like you and your human passengers.

As with the crate option, size matters. It’s important to get a harness that fits your dog. Many will have some degree of adjustability, but bear in mind that you’ll probably have to buy a new one once your pet outgrows the puppy harness they’ve had since day one. Their harness should be comfortable, allowing them to relax on long journeys. If your dog is extremely small, you should add a booster seat to your inventory of pet accessories – special dog seats, not the kind you’d seat a child in – but even when on a booster seat, it’s essential that you secure your pet with a harness.

Are Dogs Allowed In The Front Seat Of The Car In The UK?

Yes – dogs are allowed to ride in the front seat while you’re driving, but there are some rules that you must follow. Your dog must be secured in the front seat, likely using a seat belt harness, and should not be able to cause any disruption.

If you’re seen with an unrestrained dog bouncing around the passenger seat of your car, you are breaking the law and can be fined up to £5,000. You could even be awarded points on your licence and have your insurance – both car and pet – invalidated if a loose pooch was deemed to be a contributing factor to an accident.

So, how can your dog ride shotgun safely? Well, besides the restraints, there’s another thing that you shouldn’t overlook, and it’s similar to something you should do when dealing with children who are sitting in the front seat. Before you set off, make sure you deactivate the passenger airbags. It’s all well and good ensuring that your faithful companion is buckled up, but if the airbag hits them, it’s not going to end well. The sheer force of an airbag deployment is enough to break an adult’s nose and jaw – it doesn’t bear thinking about what could happen to your dog.

Can A Passenger Hold A Dog In The Car?

If you’ve read this far, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your passengers cannot hold a dog while you’re driving. As we’ve established, a dog must be securely restrained for the safety of you, your passengers and the animal itself. It doesn’t matter how tight you hold on to the dog, the power of love won’t keep it from getting hurt if you have an accident. Put the pooch in the boot or clip them into a spare seat using a harness.

Can You Leave A Dog In A Car?

There are varying opinions on this, but let’s start with something that’s not up for debate: you should NEVER leave your dog in your car on a hot day, even if you park in the shade. The temperature within the car can rise to double that of outside and your dog could suffer severe dehydration, brain damage and even die in a matter of minutes. If the worst happens, you can expect criminal charges.

Most people use their own judgement to decide when it’s too hot to leave their dog in their car, and on cooler days, a lot of people do this. However, some experts recommend that you never leave your pet unattended. Temperatures can be unpredictable, and even extreme cold could make them uncomfortable and lead to unnecessary stress.

Plus, there’s the ever-growing danger that someone could break into your car and steal them.

How To Calm A Dog While Driving

This is incredibly important, not only for the wellbeing of your dog but also for road safety. Even if your dog is restrained appropriately, if the poor thing is stressing out and playing up, they’re still going to be taking your attention away from the road. After all, it’s impossible to concentrate fully when you’ve got a German Shepherd barking a few inches away from your ear.

From the very beginning, you can put measures in place to get your dog used to being in the car in the hope of preventing any anxious episodes from ever happening. Start out by putting your dog in the car, before slowly working your way up to restraining them, all while the vehicle is still parked. Once they’re comfortable, take a short drive to somewhere they’ll enjoy. Unless it’s unavoidable, you don’t want their puppy brain to associate the car with a trip to the vets!

Once you’re on the road, there are other steps you can take to minimise the stress that your pup will experience:

  • More toilet breaks, less feeding – Don’t feed your dog right before a car journey as this can lead to accidents or even sickness (puppies are surprisingly susceptible to motion sickness!). It’s still a good idea to stop regularly to let them do their business outside, and to stretch their legs.
  • Play some tunes – Music can calm dogs, and if there’s one thing a long road trip is good for, it’s listening to the radio. Put some relaxing music on, or if your car can connect to another device, try playing some white noise, which is great at blocking out any other sensations that could upset your furry passenger.
  • Bring toys & treats – This might sound a bit hypocritical, but we’re not suggesting you play fetch inside your vehicle, nor are we saying that you should feed your dog a belly full of treats. What you should do is give them something to chew on or hold onto, like a tugging toy. Another good alternative is to lay their favourite blanket, assuming they have one, on the seat or in their crate.
A cool dog wearing sunglasses leans out of the window of a car

Now that you know the ins and outs of travelling with a dog in your car, it’s time to assess whether your vehicle is up to the job of safely transporting your family, canine included, from A to B. If it’s not, or if your anxious dog has torn your interior to shreds, get a quote now from Scrap Car Comparison and find out how much your old vehicle could be worth as scrap or salvage.

Sell your car or van with us and you’ll end up with a hefty lump sum of money paid directly into your bank account that you can put towards something newer and better suited to your needs. We’ll scour the market to find the best deals for your vehicle and we offer free collection of your vehicle, no matter where you are in the UK. Give us a call on 03333 44 99 50 or enter your vehicle registration and postcode into our scrap value calculator and find out how much you could earn from selling your car now!

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