Transporting dogs in cars

Read our guide to transporting dogs in cars and find the best way to ferry around your pet

BuyaCar team
Jun 30, 2022

We’ve all seen the typical photogenic pooch hanging their head out of the car window while cruising down the road. However, the somewhat cruel irony is that this image highlights just about everything that you shouldn’t do when taking your dog in the car.

Put simply, your canine car companion requires the same level of safety as any human occupant. This means ensuring that they are safely secured for the duration of the journey in the same way as you would with a person wearing a seatbelt. Keeping you and your pet safe takes a bit more effort than just letting them bundle into the car and roaming freely.

Even getting a dog in and out of the car requires some consideration. Studies have found that jumping out of taller cars could cause injuries for your furry friend, so providing them with safe and suitable access is another important aspect of finding the perfect canine-friendly car.

We've underlined all of the factors you will need to address before taking your dog out onto the open road. Once you're done here, you might want to put what you've learned into practice and take a look at the best cars for dogs or, if required, the best cars for large dogs, as identified by us here at BuyaCar.

Find the right car

This bit’s probably the most obvious: you’ll need a car that’s big enough to carry your dog in a comfortable way, either in the boot or back seats, and preferably one with effective air conditioning to keep the entire vehicle cool on hot days.

Many manufacturers offer extra accessories to keep your dog secure and your car protected. You can read more about these in our guide to the best cars for dogs. Tall SUVs are popular but it’s important to ensure that your pup can climb into and out of the boot comfortably.

Studies have shown that the taller boots of SUVs put added strain on dogs’ front legs when they jump out, potentially making them more vulnerable to injury. Also, if your pooch simply refuses to make the leap, then you’ll be the one taking the strain.

Cars with low boot sills are ideal, but there’s also the option of buying a step or ramp if you want the height of a top dog on the road. Nissan offers one as an optional extra with its X-Trail.

Letting your dog put its head out of the car window

Who doesn’t love the wind in their hair on a summer’s day? Unfortunately, for dogs, hanging their head out of the window also plants their eyes and floppy ears in the blast of the high-speed breeze, making them a vulnerable target for fast-moving dust and debris, which can damage eyes and become uncomfortably lodged in ears.

Ideally, dogs should be kept out of the front seats to avoid distractions and any injuries caused in a crash where the front airbags are deployed. But even in the back, your pooch shouldn’t be able to hang out of the window because securing them with a harness is highly recommended. If, for some reason, you are having to use the front seat, be sure to deactivate the passenger airbag. There is often a switch for this in or around the glovebox.

Car harnesses for dogs

Leave a dog loose in your car and it’s virtually inevitable that they’ll find a way to cause some havoc. Changing radio stations as your favourite song starts, or switching off your sat-nav just before a complicated junction.

But it could be much worse. A roaming dog is a distraction that no-one needs while driving and the risks increase if you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, when an unsecured ball of flesh and fur risks serious injury to itself and other passengers.

By harnessing your dog into the rear seats, they will be seated in the passenger compartment - the safest part of the car. The most secure harnesses clip into the seatbelt lock or - even better - connect to a car’s Isofix child seat points. A number of products also allow your dog to move around the back seat while still being secure.

Car dog guards

If there’s no space in the back seats of your car, dogs can also be harnessed in the boot too. For extra security, fit a tough barrier behind the seats. Most manufacturers offer guards that are specifically designed for each of their cars, including those that are no longer made but still available second-hand.

This guard will prevent them from being launched into the passenger compartment but they could still be injured by flying into them, so use a harness to secure them to the car.

Dog crates in cars

Another option is using a crate to contain your dog if they are happy to be confined for the journey. These sturdy containers typically fit into the boot and can help train nervous pets for the journey, as you can get them used to being in the crate at home.

Make your pooch comfortable

You might be cool in the front of the car but if the sun is blazing down on the back screen where there’s little air conditioning breeze, the boot could be more like a sauna for your dog. Sun blinds or open windows can help to keep temperatures down in the back, while travel water bowls - which resist spilling - will ensure that your dog can keep hydrated. 

Eating at least two hours before your dog leaves will help to reduce the likelihood of travel sickness and release any pent-up energy. Once your dog’s safety is ensured, then you can think about your car’s wellbeing. Waterproof covers are essential, keeping mud, fir and worse from your upholstery.


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