Travel by car

Whether you are taking a short journey to the shops or back, or you are considering travelling with your guide or assistance dog over an extended period of time, the following information has been provided to support your dog in a car journey. You should also read and familiarise yourself with the section on the welfare considerations page. 

If your dog has to travel with you in the front foot well of a vehicle, do not disengage the passenger airbag and ensure the dog is lying down at all times and is not distracting the driver. If there is space to do so, it is advisable and preferable to move the front passenger seat forward and place your dog in the foot well behind it, supervised by a person sat behind the driver.

On longer journeys, make sure your dog is secure in the vehicle, either behind the back seats ideally with a dog guard in an estate or hatchback vehicle, or secure on the back seat with a car harness attached to a rear safety belt and make sure the dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag. Car harnesses, which can also be used when flying with a dog, tend to come in three sizes: small, medium and large, so do ensure that the dog has the correct size harness before travelling. Car harnesses can be bought from vets or pet stores.

When travelling on an extended journey, make sure your dog has frequent rest stops to go to the toilet, stretch its legs or have a drink. Depending on the length of journey, it would be advisable to do this every 2 to 3 hours.

It is advisable to have water and a drinking bowl accessible to your dog on a longer journey. Vets and pet shops usually stock a range of travel bowls for dogs, including portable bowls that fold down into a small carrying pouch, and bowls which can be filled with water and left in the car with the dog without the water spilling.

Avoid feeding your dog immediately before travelling; ideally allow 2 hours between a meal and the journey starting. Remember to take a clean-up kit in case of the dog becoming ill in the back of the vehicle.

Before setting off on an extended journey, it is advisable to take your dog for exercise or a long walk so they are relaxed, or break the journey with an extended relaxation stop.

Make sure the vehicle being travelled in has adequate ventilation for your dog, especially if the dog is likely to be left alone in the vehicle at any point in the journey. If at all possible, it may be worth considering using a vehicle which is equipped with air conditioning, has tinted windows in the rear portion of the vehicle or a UV coating or film on the back windows for the comfort of passengers and your dog. It is recommended not to travel with your dog in a vehicle where a detachable roof has been removed or where the soft top is down.

Ensure the temperature inside the vehicle is comfortable, avoiding leaving the dog in a car in direct sunlight or extremes of temperature. It is advisable not to leave your dog in an unattended vehicle for more than 1 hour, which should be considerably less in warmer temperatures, as even with a window open the temperature in the vehicle can rise dangerously if the dog is left for more than a short period. Take your dog with you if you can, but if not, ensure that the tailgate is locked open and/or several windows are left slightly open. There are products on the market which can be bought from pet shops or car maintenance retailers, which can lock a tailgate slightly open on an estate or hatchback vehicle, or can protect an open window from intruders.

If you do need to feed your dog on the journey, try and do this in a stop-off break allowing enough time for your dog to go to spend (relief itself) before recommencing your journey. Alternatively, leave feeding your dog until you have reached your destination. Dogs are very resilient, so will manage to cope if their regular meal time is set back a number of hours, avoiding potential sickness in the vehicle you are travelling in.

Before taking your journey, remember your dog’s lead and collar with tag, harness or jacket, dog bed for the vehicle and for where you are staying, toys, blanket and pet food and medicines for the duration of your stay.