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Car travel for dogs

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Chances are that, if you are like most people, there will be occasions when you need to embark on a journey or adventure with your dog.

Most of these trips will likely be by car or some other form of transport, you may have a camper or caravan, or, you might even need to travel by air.

Dogs are adaptable and resilient but, like all things there are are several areas that you need to think about when you are travelling with your pet. Safety and comfort should be a priority as well as knowing what to do if your dog is a reluctant traveller.

travelling by car with a spaniel
Nimrod driving

Travelling by car with a dog

My Cocker spaniels, Nimrod and Boris love the car.

Whenever the word ‘car’ is used they both get excited as, normally, going for a ride in the car means going on an adventure.

We normally end up in the forest, on the fell, at the beach or just simply having a walk around one of the local villages ( normally with a visit to the pub for a couple of beers afterwards).

The dogs were introduced to the car as puppies and we’ve never had any real problems with either of them apart from the odd episode of sickness which occurred as result of feeding them before going on a journey, which made them throw up.

car travel for dogs
Car travel is fun for most dogs

Cleaning up spaniel sick from the inside of your car is not something that I would recommend as a pastime that you should explore – all I can say is that I’m glad I have leather seats.

Start young and get your dog used to the car

Chances are that when you get your dog you will have to travel and, no doubt, put him in the car to get home.

It is always a good idea to get your pet used to the car from an early age at this will help to prevent your dog from having problems when he is older.

car travel for dogs
You come across all sorts of characters on the road

Some dogs get anxious and sick when in the car and there are ways in which you can help to stop these.

Don’t feed your dog before going out in the car. If you must feed him then try to wait until you arrive at your destination.

This will help to prevent him from getting nauseous and/or sick.

Start with short journeys, with a nice walk at the end.

This will help your dog to grow to like the car as he will associate the car with excitement and something enjoyable at the end.

car travel for dogs
Playtime at the end of a car journey makes it much more appealing to a dog

Take your time when driving and don’t rush.

Just as people can get car sick if they are thrown around when travelling, dogs too can feel unwell and can be susceptible to travel sickness.

Don’t have the car too warm, and try to allow fresh air into the vehicle, perhaps by having a window down when conditions permit. 

If you have the radio on etc, then don’t have it on too loudly.

Your dog can hear different sound frequencies and levels and so be careful on volume and type of music.

Make the journey as pleasurable as possible for you and your dog.

Help him to recognise the car as a source of fun which normally results in fun at the end.

car travel for dogs
Some dogs enjoy car travel too much

Essentials of car travel with a dog

No matter on the type of car or other vehicle that you have and use when transporting your dog there are several things that you really do need to think about and should really be considered as essentials for you and him.

Driving presents risks and you should always try to use a good quality dog restraint for your dog.

This can be in the form of a dog type seat belt, dog cage or dog guard.

Read our article here on dog car crates.

It depends on the type of vehicle that you own but effective restraint to ensure the safety of your dog is important.

If you need to stop suddenly or are involved in an accident then the restraint could save your dog’s life.

You should always have some fresh water with you when your pet is in the car with you.

Dogs get warm quickly when in  a vehicle and access to water may be something that you need for him quickly.

car travel for dogs
Some are just too cool

It goes without saying that you should never, ever, leave your dog in the car when  the weather is warm, In fact you should avoid doing this at anytime. 

Remember that dogs die in warm cars and, there are some people out there that steal dogs from vehicles.

Just as you would if you had children with you so you should make regular stops if you are taking a long journey.

Your dog will need to go to the toilet, he’ll need a drink and he’ll also need fresh air.

Think about buying some window shades for your car to help to keep the sun off your dog and keep him cool.

The certified sunshades from Kinder Fluff keep out almost 100% of UVA and UVB and are ideal for all vehicles.  You can check their latest price on Amazon here.

Where should a dog sit in the car?

The safest place for your dog to travel while in the car is always in the back of the car.

If you have an estate car, station wagon ( or whichever term you use) then the best option is to use a cage or crate.

car travel for dogs
Dogs enjoy watching the world go by

In the past I owned a VW Passat Estate and had a solid dog crate that would comfortably hold three English Springer Spaniels.

This was a really solid box that keep the dogs secure and safe. When it was not being used for dogs it could be used to carry shopping and luggage.  It was also possible to secure it with a padlock.

The other option for an estate car is a good dog guard and there are many available online, such as these that are available on Amazon.

You should never really allow your dog to travel on the front seat. This can be dangerous to both you and your dog.

Is it safe for my dog to put his head out of the car window?

My two Cocker Spaniels Boris and Nimrod love to put their heads out of the car window, they seem to get a large amount of enjoyment from doing this.

car travel for dogs
Be careful if your dog likes doing this

But, is it really safe and a good idea for a dog to ride along with his head out of the car window?

Why do dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows?

The world of a dog and particularly dogs like spaniels, is governed by smell. Most dogs are walking noses and their world is all about scent.

I can only speculate as to why Boris and Nimrod love putting their heads out but I can only guess that they enjoy getting the breeze up their nostrils as they whizz along.

Whenever I drive with the window down, I experience a variety of smells depending on the area that I am passing through and, given that a spaniel’s sense of smell is much better than mine, they must smell all sorts.

Maybe they are having some sort of smell fest or binge for dogs.  A bit like Homer Simpson at an all you can eat buffet..

car travel for dogs

What are the dangers of my dog riding with his head out of the car window?

There are several risks that your dog can face if you let him ride with his head out and some of them can be serious.

Your dog could fall out of the car which, at its best would be a bad injury or at worst fatal. If you have the window too far down then he could be distracted by something and fall or jump out.

car travel for dogs
Be careful that your dog does not fall out of the car

He could get hit by an object as you are travelling along. The added speed of travel could make a small object much more dangerous than normal. If it hit his eye then this could be serious.

You could be involved in an accident and, should your dog have his head out then this could be tragic.

You could misjudge how close you are to a tree, bush etc and as you drive past your dog could get whacked by the object.

To give your dog the enjoyment of fresh air and the rush of scent, just lower the window a little less, so that he can stick his nose into the breeze, but can’t get his head out.

car travel for dogs
Some dogs are just born to pose

He’ll enjoy it just as much and won’t really care about the difference, all he wants are the smells.

Final Words

Most dogs love car travel. Going out in the car often means some excitement at the other end – such as a walk or other adventure.

If your dog is a little reluctant then start with short journeys and do something fun at the destination.

Whatever you do though if he doesn’t like the car then don’t use the vet’s as your first journey.

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