Here in the UK, nearly a quarter of households own a dog with many considering their pet as part of the family. No surprise then that travelling in the car with a dog has become extremely common.
Whether you’re taking your dog with you on holiday with you or just taking your faithful pet to the vets, it is important that you keep your dog safe and happy in the car. Thankfully, with careful planning and the right safety equipment, hitting the road with your canine companion can be both fun and hassle free.
Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has put together some top tips on how you can travel safely with a dog in the car, as well as some of the most dog-friendly cars on the market.
Travelling safely with dogsDog car safety isn’t just about keeping your dog protected, it’s also about taking care of the driver and passengers too. Many modern cars aren’t designed with dogs in mind so it is important to ensure that your dog is safe and comfortable in the car before setting off so they don’t distract the driver or cause a nuisance to other passengers in the car.
Before You LeaveBefore you hit the road, make sure that you have everything you’ll need to keep your dog happy and healthy. Consider…
- Taking your dog for a walk. Try and take your pet for a long walk before you set to burn off any excess energy. This will make him more inclined to rest for the journey ahead
- Avoiding feeding your pet before the journey. Don’t feed your dog for at least two hours before you travel as many dogs suffer from motion sickness
- Packing plenty of food and water. Bring along a sufficient supply of the food your dog is accustomed to eating and make sure you bring along plenty of water too
- Checking with the vet. If this is your first trip in the car with your dog, you may want to discuss your plans with your vet briefly
- Bringing blankets and waste disposal bags. Bring blankets for bedding and warmth. Don’t forget the waste disposal bags as well for rest stops
- Protecting your interior. Consider putting plastic seat covers or old sheets on your seats to protect your car from stains and pet hair and keep plenty of paper towels and stain/odour remover to hand to wipe muddy paws and clean up after any accidents
- Don’t forget the lead and collar. Make sure your dog is kept on the lead in public areas and make sure you keep his collar and ID tag on at all times
Follow the law
Research by the RAC
found that more than one in four (27%) dog-owning motorists may be unwittingly breaking the law when it comes to transporting their pets by not keeping them restrained when their vehicles are on the road.
Rule 58 of the Highway Code
states drivers need to ensure ‘dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so that they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop too quickly’.
Whilst breaching the Highway Code is not necessarily an offence in itself, there are a number of offences that could potentially arise as result of driving with an unrestrained pet. A motorist could be considered to be driving ‘without due care and attention’ if their pet is allowed to move around the car freely. Gocompare.com
also warns that drivers who don’t restrain dogs and cats while on the move could also be invalidating their car insurance.
A seat belt harness, dog cage or dog guard are all ways of restraining your pet while driving, keeping you and your best friend safe in the event of an accident. Let’s take a look at the options available.
Dog CageDog cages are great for car travel, assuming that the size of your dog isn’t a limiting factor. When choosing a cage for your dog, make sure it is large enough to allow the dog to stand up and turn around inside but that there is not too much room that the dog can slide around when the car moves.
For small dogs such as a Boston Terrier, Dachshund or Pug, the minimum height required for a crate needs to be around 14/16incs or 36-41cm. For medium-sized dogs such as a Border Collie, Dalmatian or Whippet, the minimum height required for a crate needs to be around 23/24ins or 58-61cm. For larger dogs such as Great Dane, Bullmastiff or Bernese Mountain Dog the minimum height required for a crate needs to be around 30/32ins or 76-82cm.
The cage should also be well-ventilated and securely fastened in place.
A dog harness works by attaching to an ordinary car safety belt. The harness works by provides the dog with some freedom but also restraining the dog in the event of an accident. By attaching your dog to a harness, you ensure your dog is secured by the body and that their neck won't be damaged in an emergency. A dog harness sizes vary by size and are generally based on the weight and girth (the widest part of your dog's chest). A rough size guide is below:
- XX SMALL – For dogs up to 5 lbs such as a Chihuahua or Teacup Yorkshire Terrier
- X SMALL – For dogs between 5-10 lbs such as a Dachshund (miniature), Maltese, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle or Yorkshire Terrier
- SMALL – For dogs between 10-25 lbs such as a Cavalier King Charles, Pekingese, Miniature Schnauzer, Pug or Scottish Terrier
- MEDIUM – For dogs up to 55 lbs such as a Beagle, Border Collie, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog or French Bulldog
- LARGE – For dogs up to 75 lbs such as a Boxer, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever or Weimaraner
- X-LARGE – For dogs 75+ lbs such as Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Dane, Mastiff, Rottweiler or St. Bernard
Unlike a dog cage or a dog guard, a harness takes a bit of getting used to so you might want to try it out in the house and give your dog lots of praise for wearing it before you try it out for real in the car.
A dog guard can also be an effective restraint for securing a dog in an open area such as the boot. A dog guard works by providing a wire mesh or tubular partition between your car seats and the boot of your car. This ensures your dog cannot climb over into the passenger area of your car or pose a threat to occupants in the vehicle if he/she is pushed forward in a head-on collision.
When shopping for a dog guard, be sure to check that the guard can be securely attached to the interior framework of your vehicle and that it can restrain the weight of your dog in the event of an accident.
Take Regular Breaks
Just as you would with small children, it is also important to make sure you take regular breaks when travelling in the car with your dog. Frequent toilet breaks and opportunities to burn off pent-up energy will help to make your dog a happy traveller. When you do stop for a break, be sure to never leave your dog in the car in the hot sun as this could lead to dehydration. Also make sure you keep the car cool by using sun blinds, air conditioning or by opening a window to make sure your dog doesn’t get overheated.
The Best Cars For Dogs
Dog lovers know that not every car is a sensible choice for carrying canines so it makes sense to consider your four-legged friend when choosing your new car. Fortunately, many car manufacturers offer a range of pet-friendly accessories and features to help keep your dog happy on the road. The main consideration when shopping for a new car which is capable of carrying your canine companion are:
- Spacious and flexible cabin. Interior space should be on the top of your list when looking for a car suitable for carrying your dog. Look for cars with 60/40 split rear seats or plenty of room inside to easily fit in a dog cage so your dog can travel safely in the back
- Big boot. If you’re thinking of fitting a dog guard in your new vehicle, it's best to pick a car with a sizeable boot that's easily accessible and spacious enough to allow your dog to turn around
- Low loading sills. Cars with a low loading sill in the boot area will make it easier for pets to jump into unaided, especially as your dog gets older and less agile
- Easy clean materials. While plastic seat covers will help protect your car from stains and pet hair, vehicles with easy clean materials will make your car interior even easier to manage
- Comfortable ride. A smooth drive will not only make for a comfortable drive for the driver but will help keep your pet relaxed on the road. When taking your car for a test drive, look out for models with soft suspension, light steering and a raised driving position to make for a smoother, more comfortable journey
So, what cars fit the bill? Check out five of our favourite cars for moving man’s best friend below.
At a whopping 4.5 metres long, the Ford Kuga is big enough to fit in the family, the weekly shop and your four-legged friend thanks to its spacious and versatile interior.
Inside, the split 60:40 rear seats offers increased flexibility and is capable of holding up to 442-litres with the rear seats in place and an impressive 1,928-litres with them folded down.
In terms of drive quality, the Kuga’s suspension has been tweaked for comfort while its light electric power steering make it one of the best cars to drive in its class.
What’s more, Ford also offer a wide range of pet accessories such as Travall+ dog guards
which are easy to fit and remove, securing your pet safety in the vehicle and allowing the driver and passengers to travel in safety and comfort.
When it comes to dog-friendly features, the Skoda Superb Estate is hard to beat. In addition to the enormous 660-litre boot with low boot floor, the Superb Estate's front passenger seat can also be moved forward to allow for items up to 3.3 metres long (such as a dog cage) to be carried.
In terms of drivetrain, the Superb Estate is available in two or four-wheel drive, making it ideal for dog owners who want to take their pet on long winter walks whatever the weather.
Skoda also offer a wide range of dog safety features including a dog seatbelt adapter, a backseat hammock, a dog guard, a luggage compartment divider and a protective liner for the boot, to help keep your dog safe and happy whilst on the road.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is another large car that offers a 5-Star Euro NCAP safety rating, a spacious and classy interior as well plenty of features for the canine lover.
For those who like to keep their eye on their beloved pooch, the optional ‘App-Connect Cam-Connect’ links to the car’s infotainment screen with a GoPro camera so that you can watch the boot inhabitants in real time on the screen.
The Tiguan is also available with a ‘pet package’ as an optional extra which includes a partition grille between the cabin and boot, a liner for the load area and a protective film over the rear bumper to prevent it getting scratched.
When it comes to boot space, the Volvo V90 boasts more than enough space for your four-legged friend to spread out and enjoy the ride.
Its square shaped 560-litre boot allows you to make full use of all the space on offer while Volvo’s wide range of pet options including a handy dog guard, a load liner and a dog harness, help keep your pooch safely restrained whilst you’re on the road.
As expected from a Volvo, the V90 is also one of the safest cars around so you can rest assured that your canine companion – along with your passengers – are in safe hands.
Finally, if you fancy something a little more upmarket to carry around your pampered pooch, check out the sophisticated and stylish Land Rover Discovery Sport.
With a generous loadspace of up to 1968 litres and space for up to 7 passengers, it’s no surprise that the Discovery Sport took home the What Car? Car of the Year award in Best Large SUV category in 2016.
Add to this the lower ride height for access and Land Rover’s optional accessories including a partition to separate your dog from luggage and passengers and a range of boot liners to stop the carpet from getting too dirty, and it’s easy to see why the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a top pick for dog owners.
If you are taking a 'paws for thought' and considering a new car that is capable of carrying your four-legged friend, contact Nationwide Vehicle Contracts today to discuss your leasing options.