Keeping your dog safe during car travel

It’s hard not to smile when you see a dog with its head out of the window in a travelling car. They look so happy and carefree! But travelling with an unrestrained dog could be a real risk – to them, to you, and to other drivers.

If you’re going to be out and about on the road with your dog this summer, here are some things to consider to keep everyone safe.

What does the law say?

Whilst it isn’t illegal to travel with an unrestrained dog, it is advised against it in the highway code:

“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. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

UK Highway Code, rule 57.

We recommend restraining your dog while travelling. It will keep them safe and secure in the unfortunate case of an accident. It will also stop them from distracting the driver by moving around the vehicle and blocking the view, for example.

Select the right type of restraint for your dog

Acceptable vehicle restraints include a travel cage or carrier (good for smaller dogs and short journeys), or a specially designed harness or seat belt. If you choose a travel cage, this should be placed in the footwell of the front seat or secured with the seatbelt on the rear seat. Never put animals on the front seat of a car. A harness should be properly fitted in the rear of the vehicle, and secured with a seat belt. There should be sufficient room for your dog to comfortably move, but not so they can escape.

Larger dogs may be more comfortable travelling in the boot of a hatchback car. You can use a dog guard to stop them jumping over the headrests. Ensure your dog has plenty of space.

Make sure your dog is comfortable

Give your dog some home comforts for their travels; add blankets and their favourite toy to carriers or cages. If you’re going on a long journey plan regular stops for water, snacks, toilet breaks and stretches. Be sure to keep your dog on a lead as they leave the vehicle; if they’re in an unfamiliar place with other people and traffic there’s a chance they could panic and run away.

Regulate the temperature inside the car; don’t open windows too much or have air conditioning blowing directly on your dog. Of course, it goes without saying, NEVER leave your dog in a warm car. Temperatures can quickly rise even on cooler days; leading to heatstroke, dehydration, and even death. If your dog becomes distressed in a hot car, passers-by are encouraged to dial 999, and the police will act to release the dog – even if that means damage to your vehicle.

What’s more, if you fail to properly restrain your pet, it could invalidate both your car insurance and your pet insurance.