Travelling with a puppy in a car

Travelling with a puppy in a car

If you’re planning a road trip with your puppy, you’ll want to make sure they are happy and safe on the journey. Read our guide to travelling with a puppy in a car. 

Travelling with a new puppy

Travelling in a car will be a new experience for your puppy. Before you plan any long journeys, start with some short trips to get your puppy used to being transported in a car. Puppies can get car sick but this should pass as they become more comfortable with being in a car. 

Safest way to travel with a dog in the car

As with children, safety is a key issue when travelling with a puppy in a car. This is for the safety of the driver as well as the dog. The Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

It is not wise to travel with a dog sitting on the lap of a passenger. If you were to be involved in an accident, a dog could go through the front window, be seriously injured or cause injury to the driver or another passenger. 

There are different ways that you can travel safely with a dog in the car. These are: 

  • A dog crate/carrier. If you are crate training your puppy in the house, consider using one in the car too. A crate – or a carrier – is particularly good for young puppies or very small dogs. 
  • Dog harnesses/seat belts. You can buy harnesses in a range of sizes with a seatbelt adapter. A pet seat belt works the same as a seat belt for a person and will keep your dog safely secured in their seat. 
  • Boot guards. These can be helpful for containing a dog in one area of the car. However, they have been found to not provide as much protection as a dog crate or harness and seatbelt if involved in an accident. 

Planning a road trip with a puppy

Once your puppy has been vaccinated against nasty diseases, they will be ready for trips out. This is usually two weeks after they have had their second round of injections. However, short trips in the car are possible before this time as you can carry your puppy to the car, go for a short drive and then return home. This will help them to get your puppy used to the car before you take them out on longer journeys. Your vet will advise when your puppy is safe to go further afield, after they have had their second vaccinations. 

A road trip with a puppy needs careful planning. Here’s what you’ll need to think about and take with you:

  1. Make sure your puppy has had a walk and been to the toilet before you head out in the car. Ideally, they will be ready for sleep. If your puppy has been car sick in the past, try to avoid taking the out directly after they have had a meal.
  2. Make sure you take a supply of fresh water with you. You can buy travel water bottles that have a built in bowl for convenience, but a bottle of water and a plastic bowl from home will be just as good. 
  3. Think about whether your puppy will need feeding while you’re out. Don’t forget to pack their food and a bowl if so. 
  4. Break up the journey with a few stops to let your puppy stretch their legs and go to the toilet. Driving With Dogs is a helpful website for finding dog walks near UK motorways. 
  5. Pack some toys for the journey. Something like a Kong filled with cream cheese will help to keep them mentally stimulated on a long journey. A washable cover for your car seat may be a wise purchase. 

Keeping your dog cool in the car

Dogs can struggle to stay cool on a hot day. You might have noticed that during the summer your dog prefers to take himself out of the sun to a nice shady spot or into some water, or sleep on the cold kitchen floor instead of in their comfortable bed. A dog’s body temperature heats up a lot faster than a human’s, so even if you are feeling comfortable in the heat this doesn’t mean your dog is. 

This is why you should NEVER leave a dog alone in a car on a warm day, even for a few minutes. Dogs cannot cool themselves down in a hot car, even with the window open.

If you’re travelling in a car with your dog, here’s a few things you can do to reduce the temperature and help keep them cool: 

  • Switch on the air conditioning or open the windows to generate a flow of air
  • Put sun shades in your car windows to reduce the heat of the sun
  • Give your dog plenty of water to keep them hydrated
  • Get a cooling pad for your dog to sit on in the car. This can help to absorb your dog’s body heat and cool them down. However the mat only stays cool for a while and needs to be reactivated after being used in the car. You can also use a wet towel.
  • Make regular stops on longer journeys and spend some time in a shady spot.

Remember, this advice is for when you are travelling with you dog in the car. Please don’t ever leave them alone in a warm car, even to quickly pop to the shops. And if you spot a distressed dog in a car on a warm day, dial 999. 

Dog-friendly motorway services?

Many UK motorway service stations provide dog drinking bowls outside. Some have dedicated dog walking areas. However, very few seem to allow dogs inside. This can be a problem if you are travelling alone with your dog, need a toilet break and can’t take your dog with you. It’s best to plan ahead for this and find a dog-friendly pub or restaurant to stop at instead. 

You may find the following websites helpful when preparing for a trip out with your puppy or dog. There are lots of pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels that will be happy to welcome you: 

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