I would imagine that most of you reading this article either drive or have access to a vehicle in which to take your dog(s) out and about. Like many active 'dog people', I cover a fair number of miles with my dogs. I never cease to be horrified by the manner in which SOME dogs are transported in their owners' vehicles and, in some cases, the way that dogs get in and out of the vehicles.

As a Newfoundland owner before becoming a Barbet owner, I freely admit that my dog-transporting arrangements night seem a little over the top for those with, maybe just one Barbet, however I describe them along with more modest, but equally safe, set-ups!!

The first, and what should be the most obvious factor to consider when driving with your dog(s) is your safety (and the safety of your passengers, if any, especially children); the second is the safety of your dog(s). A parallel consideration is the safety of other road users.

If a dog is travelling unrestrained in a vehicle it becomes, potentially, a missile should you come to a sudden stop under any circumstances. Remember  Newton’s First Law of Motion

 "An object remains at rest or moves in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted on by an unbalanced force”

That means that if you are travelling at 40 m.p.h. and make an emergency stop, your unrestrained dog will continue to move forward at 40 m.p.h.!!!!!! A 25 kg dog hitting the back of your head, or the windscreen of your car ,  at that speed will probably kill you or kill itself.

Rule 57 of THE HIGHWAY CODE  (UK) . . . .


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.

So, how should a dog be restrained?

Without a doubt, in my opinion, a strong, purpose-built dog box, cage or crate of appropriate size, is the solution. Equally good is to have your vehicle modified with a customised, built-in caging system. I am fortunate to have two vehicles and my van is professionally caged-out by  http://www.dogcages.net .This is the ideal solution, providing the best of both worlds, but I realise it is not practical for most people! They also make crates which, like their custom caging, have the added advantage of being guaranteed silent (no rattles when on the move!!) 
This is my van set-up  . . . (as I said, a little over the top for some!!)
Two “upstairs” areas which can be converted to one large area.  Both areas have “escape” doors as well, in case of a rear  “shunt”!

One large “downstairs” area.

This arrangement has the added advantage of providing excellent ventilation, both on the move (both side doors have sliding windows) and, more obviously, when stationery.

There are many types of cage or dog box available made from a variety of materials, of solid or mesh construction. Many crates are not up to the job of providing sufficient protection for the dog; they are made of flimsy- gauge wire. Ensure that if you use a mesh crate that it is very heavy-duty. "Solid" sided dog boxes are preferred by many gundog people who are proud of their vehicles as if their wet, muddy dog shakes when it gets into the vehicle, a solid box will contain the mess!!  Here are some examples  . . .
Again, having owned working Newfoundlands I am somewhat obsessive about ventilation and would prefer a strong mesh crate or dog-guard and tail-gate guard combination in my car (but I am not worried about mud and water for the same reason!!)
A good quality, heavy-duty crate is made by  http://www.doghealth.co.uk/  Check carefully before buying as they also make a lighter-weight crate suitable (in my opinion) only for indoor use at home. I have one of these heavy-duty crates in my car - it is excellent! If you're worried about wet/mud spread by a shaking dog, you can always just drape a towel over the crate

For whatever reason, some people will not use a strong crate or box and choose, in my opinion, an inferior method of restraint. These methods fall, basically into two groups - "soft" crates and harnesses.

Soft crates do restrain the dog and, if safely and firmly fixed (which in my experience they usually are not) will prevent the dog from being thrown forward on impact, but they provide virtually no protection in a crash as they just collapse.

“Soft” or collapsible crates

"Safety" harnesses which attach to the vehicle's seat belts have the same disadvantages.

Even more dangerous, I believe, are the "hammocks" or "slings" that fit between the rear and front seats. These are even more dangerous than the dog riding on the seat or in the foot well because I the dog is in a higher position and therefore even more likely to be catapulted forward on an emergency stop and it cannot be “attached” to a seat belt harness.

Bottom of the scale in safety (in descending order!) are the dogs that travel on the back seat, then the ones on the front seat (or the lap of the front passenger) then the ones on the rear parcel shelf, then the ones on the front dashboard (yes! .. really!) or, worst of all, on the driver's lap!!! Some of you will have seen examples of all these horrors.
Here are some nightmare scenarios I have found . . .

Unrestrained “back seat dog”


Unrestrained "front seat dog"


Dog on rear parcel shelf


Dog resting on driver’s head!!! (identity concealed)



Something worth mentioning here is the danger of allowing a dog to travel along with its head sticking out if the window. Never permit this, it can be very harmful to your dog, especially if debris gets forced into it eyes or ears. In addition, the forced flapping of the pinnae caused by the strong wind speed and pressure can cause severe damage.
Another factor not often considered, is the possibility of the dog falling, or jumping, out of the window with obvious disastrous results. If the weather is hot and you want to have the windows open, fit grills over the aperture to prevent the dog sticking its head out.

Again, no comment!!!

The final thing I am going to mention, in regard to safe travel, is the getting and getting out of a vehicle. Ensure that your puppy (as soon as it is old enough to do so safely) is able and willing to sit quietly by the vehicle and then jump into it on command without fuss. (or be lifted in if it is a very small dog or a very high vehicle) Even more important is training your dog/puppy not to jump out of the vehicle until it is told to do so on arrival at your destination. This is particularly relevant if you have more than one dog sharing a box or crate. The dogs should sit on command and remain sitting until each one, by name, is given the command to exit the vehicle safely. (Remember not to allow immature dogs/puppies to jump out at all as they could cause permanent damage to their joints by so doing.)


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