Back in the day you’d let your dog climb into the car, sit where it wanted and off you went. Now it’s not so straightforward. Dog car seats are one way forwards but the law in the UK doesn’t stipulate these. It simply says dogs must be appropriately restrained. Not doing so can invalidate insurance and even cause injury in an accident. Read on to find all you need to know.
What does the law say about driving with dogs in cars
In the Highway Code, Rule 57 governs travelling with pets in cars. It says drivers are legally responsible for ensuring any pet travelling in the car does so safely. Experts from the Dogs Trust recommend that dogs are restrained in cars. This is so they can’t distract the driver or injure you or themselves in an emergency stop.
What do people do wrong?
Research shows that 44 per cent of dog owning drivers don’t restrain their hounds while they’re in the car. According to the Dogs Trust, which carried out the survey, dogs should be secured in the boot. There should be a guard blocking access to the car’s passenger area or the dog should travel locked in a cage. If drivers don’t do this, dogs should travel on the back seat with a harness that’s fitted to the seatbelt.
Why do dogs need restraining?
Quite simply, a loose dog can kill you in an accident. If a 32kg dog such as a retriever is in a car crash at 30mph, it will be thrown forwards with such force it will weigh the equivalent of 100kg. Safety experts call this phenomenon the canine cannonball.
Where do you get a restraint from?
Car makers haven’t been slow to catch onto the market for dog guards. And there’s a healthy aftermarket supply. Any you buy must be strong enough to restrain your pooch in a crash. Prices start from around £30.
Harnesses fit around dogs’ chests and are then secured to a fastened seatbelt or into the seatbelt socket. They’re inexpensive with prices from reputable companies starting at about £5. The Dogs Trust recommends that dogs don’t travel behind the driver as in heavy braking they might shoot forward and injure them, causing them to lose control.
Is it legal to let your dog hang out of the window?
Most certainly not. They might look funny and they may be enjoying themselves but letting your dog hang its head out of the window is illegal. It is judged that the dog isn’t properly restrained. It can also distract the driver and the dog could even be injured by flying debris. What’s more, if the unrestrained dog is judged to have caused an accident, the driver’s insurance may not cover them.
How do I introduce my dog to motoring?
Gently does it is the advice from Dogs Trust. Put things that smell familiar to them inside the car. Then make getting in and out of the car as positive an experience as possible by using treats so the dog begins to associate the car with something they’ll enjoy. Start with short journeys that end at home so again, they link being in the car to something reassuring. If you only ever take your dog in the car when they’re going to the vet, you’ll struggle to get them to think positively about it.
Keep dogs well hydrated
Chances are your dog will get thirsty when it’s in the car. Pack a large bottle of water and a bowl. When on long journeys, take regular breaks from driving to give them a drink and a comfort break. And remember: keep some poo bags in the glovebox or door pocket.
Do you need special insurance?
If you’re taking your dog abroad, you should arrange special cover. If you have UK pet insurance, it’s unlikely to work when you’re in continental Europe.