If you’ve got a dog, it’s very likely that you take them in the car for a trip down the street, or even further afield on an adventure. Whether the trip is 10 minutes or 10 hours, like you would make sure a toddler was safe in the car, the same care should be taken for your dog.
Laws governing how you can travel with your pet vary from state to state in Australia, so for specifics you need to check the relevant states regulations. Currently, there is no set government or industry standards for what pet restraints are the safest to use, so common sense needs to come into play.
My tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable during car travel:
1. Safety restraint
Restraint means that your dog can’t move around freely, jump out the window, distract you from driving or be thrown from a moving car during an accident or sudden stop. There are many ways to do this and best way varies with the car type and space:
- Harness - A car or chest harness that is correctly fitted on your dog and attached to a seat belt or safe anchor point. This is the way I prefer to travel. Train your pup to be comfortable and happy in a harness from the get go. Don’t attach the restraint to their collar, in an accident this will put a dangerous amount of pressure over their neck.
- Cargo barrier - For station wagons and SUVs, a barrier to the back seat can be used to restrict movement of your mate. But if the area in question is large, a harness that is safely anchored should also be used. Be advised that a barrier or anything loose in the car can become a possible dangerous projectile in an accident, so it needs to be correctly and safely installed. (Dogs should never, ever travel in the boot of a sedan).
- Crate or pet carrying box - Another way to confine your fur kid to make travel safer, can be used for smaller to medium dogs. They will need some training to go in the crate or box so that they consider it a happy place for them.
- Ute - Appropriate tethering or use of a cage so they can’t fall or be injured. Again, a harness is best.
Your dog must be able to lay down, stand and turn around.
3. Never in the front seat
Air bags are a possible cause of fatality for a dog.
4. Regular stops
Regular breaks in your driving (also good for you!) for water, toilet and stretching of the legs. (portable dog water bottles are great or no-splash water bowls for in the car).
5. Good ventilation and air flow in the car
6. Keep cool
- Monitor for and know the signs of heat stress in dogs (excessive panting, drooling, red gums, vomiting, seizures and collapse), and treat immediately. Make sure you read more and hot cars and pets here.
- Use air conditioning in the car if needed, or for ute's, ensure there is shade from a cage roof, or avoid travelling in the middle of the day when it’s hot.
7. Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car even for a couple of minutes
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