Summer is well and truly here, and the ongoing pandemic has more of us than ever planning a staycation with our furry friends. But did you know that travelling with your pet in the car can actually be illegal if they are unrestrained?
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that as owner must “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”. Because of this rule, you can be charged with dangerous driving if you are found to be travelling with an unrestrained pet, and it can even invalidate your car insurance, leaving you with hefty fines and points on your licence in the event of a crash – not to mention the potential loss of a loved one!
So how exactly do you restrain a dog?
There are multiple methods! You can pick whichever one works for you and your dog and, as long as you use it appropriately, you’re safe!
Option 1) Dog Guard
A dog guard is a strong net or mesh that fits behind the back seat, creating a divider between the boot and the rest of the car. There are loads of different brands available, usually specific to a model of car, and they all fit into the car differently; be sure to read the instruction manual when you fit it!
This method is great for if your dog prefers to travel in the boot, or if you take your pup on lots of mucky walks (it’s much easier to waterproof the boot, and much easier to clean). It’s also much comfier for your dog if you’re going on longer journeys and you have a larger boot space. However, dog guards can be pretty expensive, and they aren’t easy to transfer between vehicles if you use more than one car.
Option 2) Car Harnesses
Car harnesses offer flexibility. They are a piece of equipment that you can strap around your dog’s chest, enabling you to buckle them into the seatbelt buckles, using a modified seat belt or a special attachment. This means you can travel your dog on any seat with a buckle attachment (except your own!). It’s also worth noting, however, that you should avoid buckling your pooch into the front passenger seat: if you do crash, the air bags will fire out with a huge amount of force, causing a great deal of injury to your furry family.
Some car harnesses, such as the CarSafe harness and the Henry Wag travel harness, also double up as walking harnesses so you can go exploring together as soon as you reach your destination. There’s also no faffing around with extra equipment when you stop at the services for a wee!
Now just in case you do like muddy walks, but you also fancy the variability of a car harness, you can complement it with seat covers – these act as barriers between your dog and your car seats, making your car much easier to keep clean without hampering your dog’s fun.
The only downside to a harness is that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to just ‘buckle up and go’. You may need to do a few training sessions before your journey, getting your pup used to the feeling of having a new harness on, just to make sure they’re comfortable. Why not try popping the harness on just before a meal-time, so your dog knows the harness predicts good things happening?
Option 3) A Car Crate
Crates offer another great option for your dog, and you can get specific travel crates made for this exact reason. Where you can put them depends on the size of your dog and your personal preference, with most larger dogs going into the boot, and smaller dogs onto the back seat. This choice is, of course, completely down to you!
A crate gives you the benefit of limiting muddy paws to one specific area, which is easy to clean, but once again you may need to do a spot of training to get your pup used to jumping into one of these. You will also need to make sure your crate is secure so that, in the event of a crash, your pup and the crate don’t go flying.
If you are planning a long journey this summer, check out the Driving With Dogs website to plot out some scenic dog friendly walks or find some doggy cafes for those pitstops along the way?