Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Travelling with Dogs in Cars

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Dogs in Cars As the weather grows warmer everyone starts to get ideas of travelling and going further afield for walks and days out.

Likeminded dog lovers enjoy taking their pets with them to explore the countryside and visit new places. By planning your journey and making the right preparations both humans and dogs can travel in comfort and safety with little interruption to the journey.

Getting your dog used to the car

Travelling in the car for many dogs means a trip to the dreaded veterinary surgery. If this is the case then the dog may well associate the family car with receiving a nasty jab or some equally nasty medication. This can create anxiety and stress for the dog whenever it has to travel by car. This results in drooling, shaking, howling and vomiting. The dog can be desensitised to car travel by the following:

Sit in the stationary car with the dog. Leave the doors open and speak to the dog in a quiet, calm voice giving praise if the dog sits or lies down. Hold a treat in your closed hand and let the dog sniff to find it. Help the dog by play and praise to learn that the car is a nice place to be.


Start the engine but continue to show no change of mood in yourself and remain calm and confident. If the dog settles down drive forward a short distance then stop and get out and play with the dog. Don’t return the dog to the car but leave on a high note until the next day.

The next time drive down the road a short distance giving lots of praise if the dog is settled. Once again remove the dog from the car and have a short walk or play. The dog will begin to associate the car with praise and treats.

If the dog seems to be accepting the car, then take a short trip to the park, visit friends or go for a walk in the countryside.

By following these simple steps most dogs quickly adapt to travelling by car and will soon be racing to the door when you pick up your car keys.

Car sickness

This can be a real problem. Nobody can travel comfortably if the poor dog is constantly vomiting and unwell on the journey. Car sickness can be linked to anxiety and stress and is often alleviated just by following the steps to acclimatise the dog to travelling in a car.

Often drivers enjoy listening to music which can sometimes make the dog anxious if the volume is too loud. Just turning down the volume can be enough to settle the dog and prevent car sickness. Try to drive in a calm relaxed way when the dog is with you. Heavy braking and swift acceleration, taking bends too fast and being impatient can affect the dog leading to sickness and discomfort. Planning your journey and leaving in good time will be more relaxing for the driver, passengers and for the dog as well because your more calm and relaxed approach to the journey will greatly influence the mood of the dog, and his stress levels.

Never feed the dog before travelling. Three hours should have lapsed between the last meal and starting the journey. This prevents car sickness and reduces the risk of Gastric Torsion (Bloat). Should the dog continue to be sick despite taking precautionary methods the vet can prescribe a mild sedative and anti-sickness tablet that will allow the dog to travel comfortably. There are also homeopathic and natural aids to assist in the treatment of car sickness such as Bach's Rescue Remedy.

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Packing for your dog

It is a good idea when travelling to pack your dogs medical and vaccination records. Remember to include any medications your dog may be taking and your vet's phone number.

Most dogs are either micro chipped or tattooed and if yours isn’t, now might be a good time to have it done. It is relatively inexpensive and is a valuable tool should your dog become lost or stolen.

As an extra precaution, write your mobile phone number on a piece of tape and stick it on your dog’s collar. That way if your dog does wander off you can be contacted immediately.

It is a good idea to pack your dog’s food, food bowls and plenty of water. If you are held up or in the event of a breakdown you will be able to feed the dog at his normal time. With deep-chested dogs or with one of the dog breeds that are susceptible to bloat do not feed whilst travelling to reduce the risk of Gastric Torsion occurring.

Pack a basic first aid kit especially for the dog. You can find a detailed list of what the kit should contain in our Dog First Aid article.

It is always best to take a spare lead and collar and an extendable lead to keep your dog under control in the countryside or at busy motorway services.

Finally remember the all important dog poo bags!

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Safe travelling

All responsible dog owners make sure that their pet is secured within the car while travelling. In some countries, such as Spain, it is actually illegal to have a dog in a vehicle without a secure cage to hold the dog in the event of an accident, as well as whilst driving normally.

In the event of an accident, an unrestrained dog becomes a dangerous projectile that can threaten the lives of the driver, passengers and the dog. There are many different types of car restraints for your pet.

Companies will fit a custom-built cage that suits your vehicle though the downside of this is that it will need to be changed if you buy a new car.

There are various crates available that collapse and fold away for storage. It is important to make sure the cage is secured within the car as in an accident the crate may be thrown about causing the dog an injury.

Include a comfortable blanket, the dogs favourite toy or chew and a water container that can be fixed to the crate.


Another option that suits saloon cars is a restraint harness or dog seat belt. This fits around the dog’s body and attaches to the cars existing seat belts. The dog is free to sit up or lie down but is safely secured. Be sure to buy one with metal fastenings as those with plastic ones can break.

People with hatchbacks or estate cars often fit a dog guard between the rear seat and the boot space. This is the least desirable option as although it may prevent the dog from coming into the passenger space it does not stop the dog from being thrown around.

Leaving the dog in the car

Never leave your dog in the car when it is warm, even if you are only going to be a short while. In hot weather the temperature within the car can rise dramatically in just a few minutes even with the windows slightly open.

Dogs are unable to adjust body temperature as efficiently as humans can and dehydrate and suffer from heat exhaustion very quickly. Ten minutes in a hot, airless car can cause irreversible damage or death.

Make frequent stops for the dog to relieve himself and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act

This Act has given Councils new powers over dog issues. Under the Dog Control Order, many councils have banned dogs off lead when within most areas that are open to the public.

You may be visiting an area that has already implemented the Dog Control Order so be sure to check before letting your dog off lead. There is a hefty fine and/or a court appearance for those found guilty of contravening this law.

By paying a little attention beforehand your dog can travel safely in a relaxed manner so you all can enjoy your holiday together.

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