Whether you’re heading away on holiday or just to the local park, if you’re driving with your dog in the car, it’s important to make sure they feel relaxed. 

As well as keeping your dog happy, it will help to avoid any dangerous distractions for the driver.

Make sure your pet is comfortable

Before you put your pet in the car, you need to make sure it will be calm and comfortable for the journey. 

“It’s reported that high numbers of dogs struggle with travel, likely due to motion sickness or due to anxiety, so it’s really important to teach them gradually - using positive, reward-based training methods - that being in the car isn’t scary”, explains Amy Ockelford, spokesperson for the RSPCA.

To build up your pet’s confidence, take lots of short car journeys from a young age to get them used to being in the car.

Using bedding from home in the car, such as a blanket they like to sleep on, is a good way to keep them calm.

Keep them restrained

Dogs need to be safely restrained. Driving with an unrestrained pet in your car could be a dangerous distraction and you could even face a fine of up to £2,500 and nine points in your license.

Dogs can be put into travelling crates, containers, dog guards or car harnesses to make sure they’re not free to roam around in the car while you’re driving. If your dog is in a crate, make sure there’s enough room for them and there is a good airflow and ventilation, so they don’t get too hot.

Watch this video to see how to safely secure your dog in the car using a harness.

Watch out for signs that your pet is in distress

Any of the following behaviours can be a sign your dog is uncomfortable: barking, whining, jumping, vomiting, cowering, hiding or being restless.

Amy Ockelford says it’s important to keep a close eye on them and not to punish them for any signs of travel-related stress. She advises speaking to your vet if your dog frequently has difficulty relaxing in the car.

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Schedule in regular breaks

For long car journeys, make sure you have regular breaks scheduled.

Dogs tend to travel better without a full stomach and Amy suggests feeding them at least two hours before you set off, as well as giving them a chance to go to the toilet before you leave.

Don’t let it get too hot

Pets should never be left in hot cars. Remember that the temperature inside the car can be a lot hotter than it is outside. The RSPCA warns that when it is just 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.

“Temperatures inside cars can quickly rise and pets can tragically suffer, or even die, from heat exposure,” Amy says.

Establish the animal's health and condition. If your dog is displaying any signs of heatstroke, dial 999 immediately.

Making sure your dog is healthy, comfortable and calm in your car can make your journeys less stressful and a lot safer for you both.