What is the safest way for a dog to travel in a car?

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Gosh, don't doggies look cute travelling up front with you on a road trip? With their faces catching the breeze out the window and the freedom to be by your side, what's not to like? Pooches just love riding shotgun don't they?!

Travelling safely with your best bud is super important and there are a couple of really simple things to consider when deciding how to set Buster up for success and safety in your car.

First Up - AIRBAGS!

Such a simple thing to miss, if you don't deactivate your airbag when travelling with your mutt up front then in the event of a collision Buster is going to be pounded with the impact of the airbag when it explodes. Young children and dogs alike need to have the airbag switched off when they are riding in the front, not doing so can be fatal. If you don't have the ability to turn off your airbag then pop Buster safely in the back for your travels.

We're going to assume you wouldn't pop Buster in your lap when driving for a selection of reasons not least being the crushing effect it would have on Buster's bones in a crash.

A surprising 16% of people are the minority when it comes to restraining their pooches for travel. In the event of a crash this could be deadly.

Ok, so airbags off, what's Step Two?

Buster needs to be secured in someway to prevent him being catapulted out the windscreen. There are a number of ways to safely and comfortably keep Buster secure. You can use a doggy seatbelt*, a crate or travel carrier. A doggy seatbelt* should ideally be attached to a harness rather than a collar to prevent injury to Buster's neck.

If using a crate or carrier it is not enough to simply pop Buster inside, the crate itself needs to be secured in the vehicle. Not doing so increases the risk of injury to the driver and other passengers as you'll now have a dog in a crate being catapulted around your car if you crash!

Ensuring your dog is safely restrained is not just a good idea, it's a legal requirement in the UK. Not doing so could not only injure you, your dog and any passengers but it could also land you with a £5000 fine and invalidate your car insurance.

Research conducted by Confused.com found that one in 10 drivers has had an accident while travelling in the car with a pet, or know someone who has.

Aside from the physical dangers of impact in a crash if your dog is not restrained and your passenger airbag not deactivated there's another very important reason to plan your dogs travel set up. Think about the emergency services attending your vehicle. You're in a bad way, Buster is distressed and worked up and at this point a firefighter or paramedic arrives to get you out of the car for emergency care. Buster isn't restrained and the door opens.... he bolts.

At best Buster dodges the traffic or is caught by a member of the public swiftly. At worst he gets hit by an oncoming vehicle or runs so fast and so far that he's now missing... lost, alone and traumatised. What's there to think about? You buckle yourself in, your human passengers in - it's time to make sure Buster is buckled in too. Even for the short rides. Every single car ride.

It's time to rid yourself of the ''it won't happen to me' mentality and take these easy steps to keep both your pooch and you safe.

1. Learn how to turn your airbags on and off or make a commitment to having your hound in the back passenger seats or the boot of your vehicle

2. Invest in a dog seatbelt and harness, a crate or a travel carrier and secure it in your vehicle

3. Get your dog used to their new travel arrangement. Start with short periods of time in their new crate/seatbelt - if your dog is particuarly nervous then take it super slow and have a few sessions in the vehicle without even going anywhere!

* If you're considering a doggy seatbelt/harness for your dog then be aware that many are not crash tested for the only crash-tested products visit the Centre for Pet Safety.