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

Updated: May 19, 2021

Gosh, don't dogs 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? But is it safe? In short no. And here's why.

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 your pup up for success and safety in your car.

How do you set your dog up to travel safely and comfortably in your car?

Your dog needs to be secured in your vehicle!

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

Your dog 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 your dog secure in the car. You can use a crash tested harness, a crate or a travel carrier.

You may have seen seatbelt adaptors for dogs which you just clip onto your dog's collar or harness. While widely available in pet stores and online, these quite simply aren't very safe. They're not crash tested and they are likely to fail in the event of a car accident.

If you're using a crate or a carrier it is not enough to simply put it in your vehicle and put your dog inside. The crate itself needs to be secured in the vehicle. If the crate is not secured, then the risk of injury to the driver and other passengers increase dramatically, 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 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 danger of physical impact in a crash if your dog is not suitably restrained 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, your dog is distressed and worked up and at this point a firefighter or paramedic arrives to get you out of the car for emergency care. Your dog isn't restrained and the door opens.... he bolts.

At best he 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.

Choosing crash tested equipment for your dog

Top Crash Tested Dog Crates

Not all dog crates are created equal. If budget allows and you can find an appropriate sized crash tested crate for you car then this is a brilliant option.

Mimsafe and TransK9 are two of the best crash tested crates in the UK. You can search for your vehicle in their smart vehicle search bars and they'll show you which of their crates can fit in your vehicle.

An alternative for smaller dogs is a soft crash tested travel carrier which can be used with ISOFIX on your rear seats. This Jet Set Jumbo Isofix must be connected using your ISOFIX connectors for the crash tested element to apply.

Top Crash Tested Dog Harnesses

At present there are four crash tested dog harnesses available in the UK. These allow your dog to travel safely on the rear or front passenger seats safely, just don't forget those airbags!

These are a great option for dog's who don't like travelling in crates, for dog's who suffer with travel sickness, or if you don't have room in your boot for a crate.

The Sleepypod Clickit Sport is available in four different colours, we have the gorgeous duck egg blue which is rather fetching. This is the most expensive retailing at around £90 but it is a really good quality and beautiful harness.

For my dog Poppy it is great for the car but a little bulky for walks, but she is a small dog! For larger dogs it may work well for both walks and car travel.

The Kurgo Tru-fit Smart Harness is a brilliant little harness which works well both in the car and on walks, plus it's really affordable. It retails at between £22-27, which is a no brainer in terms of travel safety for your dog.

Ruffwear's offering is a Load Up Dog Car Harness which retails at £84.95. I've not tried this one myself, but Ruffwear harnesses are very popular and good quality. If this is anything like their standard walking harnesses then I don't doubt it will be a goodun!

Finally is the EZYdog drive harness. This one retails at £69.99 and works in a similar fashion to all the others with the seatbelt just threading through the harness.

Having a harness which is specifically designed for car travel versus a standard harness means that the pressure points on your dog and the harness have been taken into consideration for optimum safety.

Lastly, turn your airbags off if your dog travels in the front of your car.

Ideally your dog will travel in a crate or a crash tested harness in the rear of your vehicle. If your dog is calm and not a distraction then you may choose to put him or her in the front passenger seat.

If you don't deactivate your airbag when travelling with your mutt up front, then in the event of a collision she 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 put your dog safely in the back for your travels.

If your dog doesn't settle calmly then the front is a no-no in any event. A dog who distracts you on the front seat is only going to make an accident more likely.

Will you be changing how you travel with your dog?

What's there to think about? You buckle yourself in, your human passengers in - it's time to make sure your dog 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. Make a commitment to having your hound in the back passenger seats or the boot of your vehicle or at the very least switching your airbags off if you have your dog in the front.

2. Invest in a dog crash tested 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/harness - if your dog is particularly nervous then take it super slow and have a few sessions in the vehicle without even going anywhere!

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