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Baston animal behaviour expert Karen Wild discusses the safest way for dogs to travel

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Car travel is often trial and error as you find out more about what your dog likes and doesn’t like, writes animal behaviour expert Karen Wild.

I have found things change too as the dogs get older. A young puppy may need a different means to travel in the car, avoiding fear and car sickness which will make car journeys really unpleasant.

Way back in the 1970’s, when we didn’t really bother about seatbelts, it used to be a case of letting the dog roam in the car, placing paws on steering wheel or shoving their head out of the window.

Labradors Cookie and Wooster in a car
Labradors Cookie and Wooster in a car

This is totally unsafe and unlawful. Rule 57 of the Highway Code: “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.”. People say they love their dogs, but then risk them getting really hurt, or risk the dog pushing them forward from

The old pop-fit dog gates are often flimsy and can move. A friend’s German Shepherd ended up on her car pedals when she had to stop suddenly. The sudden stop had caused the dog to fly forward, knocking the dog gate over the seat and rolled across her lap.

A ‘car hammock’ is a large seat cover, slung between back and front seat. They are good at keeping the seats clean, and can be used to cover any shopping in the back. They give a bigger dogs plenty of room, but little ones can roll around. You’d need them to be clipped securely, and a smaller ‘booster seat’ type might suit a smaller dog

Karen Wild
Karen Wild

A specialised dog car harness with seatbelt clip is fine as long as the dog doesn’t bark at things passing by outside, doesn’t chew through your seatbelt, and doesn’t sway around getting car sick. Make sure the harness is protecting their chest

Crates can be padded with the dog’s bed inside, and can fit securely in the car. Fabric ones aren’t as protective, so a solid one might be better. It gets very hot inside a car, so a plastic crate may not be as good as a metal/mesh one. Split crates give multiple dogs separate space, and angled ones fit under a sloping hatchback. They are helpful to stop your dog jumping out of the back as you open the hatch.

You can cover a car crate with a lightweight sheet if your dog is upset by things whizzing past, too. Some dogs don’t like being that far away from you at the front, so they need to learn it’s all ok and enjoyable.

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