A Cocker Spaniel in the boot of a car, wearing a car safety harness

Dog Safety in the Car

7 December 2022

Reviewed by Dr Jill McMaster BVM&S MBA MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and in-house expert at BorrowMyDoggy on 6 June 2023

When it comes to the highway code and driving laws, the facts about fines and regulations can be confusing. Whether you are a new pet parent or an experienced dog owner, you may need a refresher on how to keep your dog safe when travelling in the car and what the rules of the road currently are.

According to the Highway Code, your dog should be restrained whilst travelling in a car. This is to ensure the safety of you and your pup. If your dog is unrestrained, they may cause accidents by moving around and distracting the driver.

You may be fined for dangerous or careless driving if your dog is unrestrained or has its head out the window.

Doggy member Polo, the Bichon Frise strapped in a pink car carrier safely ready for travel

Check your car insurance policy to see whether it has a clause regarding accidents caused by pets, as in some incidents you may not be covered if an accident was caused by your dog.

So, how best to restrain your dog in the car so they are safe and comfortable? You should never restrain them just by their collar. Instead, the safest and most appropriate way is with a seat belt harness, pet carrier or dog cage. If your dog goes in the boot rather than on the seats, then you should consider a dog guard.

Although there are no laws about whether your dog should or should not ride in the front seat, it is recommended that they are put in the boot or back seat. If it is necessary for your dog to ride in the front you should disable the airbag on the passenger side. This will protect your dog if the airbags were to be triggered. You could also consider moving the seat as far back as it goes in case you have to suddenly brake or get in an accident. This will prevent them from hitting the dashboard and causing injury.

If you are planning a road trip with your dog in the coming months, there are a couple of safety tips you should remember.

  1. Never leave your dog alone in the car. Even on a cool day and in the shade, your car can overheat and put your dog’s health at risk. Dogs cannot regulate their temperature as well as humans and so your car may need to be slightly cooler for them even while driving.
  2. Always have a water supply while travelling. Whether you make regular stops to let them out and rehydrate or have a travel bottle, it will help keep them cool and comfortable throughout the journey.
  3. Having treats and (quiet) toys on hand can help keep your dog entertained and calm while you are driving.

These tips combined with some prior car training to get them used to travelling in this way will make your dog an easy passenger. Bonus, they can’t ask ‘are we there yet’ or tell you how to drive - we think they make the pawfect passenger.

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