Safe Car Travel with Dogs

Nix sleeping in the car You may remember that before Nix came into our lives, we had no car. We mainly moved around using public transport and borrowed a car whenever we needed one. However, about 4 or 5 months after Nix joined our family, we felt the need for a car more acutely, and eventually got one a couple of months later.

We feel it’s very important to travel by car safely with Nix. There are two possible car areas for a dog to travel in: either the backseat or the boot. Syd travelled in the boot, but Nix travels 90% of the time in the backseat. I’ll talk about the advantages and disadvantges of each from my point of view and how to travel safely in each case.


Travelling in the boot

Having your dog in the boot of the car has the advantage that you can probably make do withouht any additional elements. From the boot, the dog cannot reach the driver’s seat, so there is no risk of having an accident for this reason. In addition, the backseats usually prevent the dog from moving from the boot itself.

However, I also see some problems. My main issue is that I don’t think it’s very safe if there is an accident, as the dog is not held by any kind of seatbelt.  Other disadvantages may be: discomfort for the dog, if the boot is small; the fact that you’re left with no space to carry stuff around (you then have to use the backseat); and dog hair everywhere in the boot. To deal with the dog haig, the best option is to find some kind of protection for the boot which is easy to clean and where dog hair doesn’t stick. It will also be useful if the dog gets car sick.

On a side note, it is usually possible to buy some kind of dog barriers so that the dog doesn’t stick its head where it’s not supposed to. They are adjustable so I guess that they can be used on almost any car. I cannot give my opinon though as I’ve never used them.

Nix traveling in the boot
One of the few images of Nix travelling in the boot of our car. As you can see, when she sits her ears touch the car’s ceiling and I feel that she’s not very comfortable or safe.


Traveling in the backseat

TK-Pet Seatbelt adapterThe problem of letting a dog travel in the backseat is that, unless you use some kind of retention mechanism, the dog can get hurt very easily in case of an accident and it can easily reach the driver and distract him. Many people travel with dogs in the backseat and they have learnt to behave and do not disturb the driver. However, in my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

For me, there are two safety essentials plus a non-safety one:

  • Harness
  • Seatbelt adapter for dogs
  • Seat cover

We use all three of them. The seatbelt adapter is merely a strap of a material similar to the one used in car seatbelts. Its length can be adjusted for comfort and safety. On one end it has the same metallic piece of seatbelt, so that the dog can be fastened properly. The other end is attached to the dog’s harness. Note that these seatbelt adapters do not work on Volvo cars.

Rogz HarnessNever use a collar to fasten your dog instead of a harness. If there is an accident, the seatbelt adapter will pull the dog’s neck and it could easily break. By using a harness, the whole body of the dog is held back.

Finally, the seat cover covers all the backseats and creates a kind of dog area. It avoids having dog hair all over the seats and it’s easy to clean and to set up. It’s also useful if your dog gets car sick. Nix actually threw up once and this saved us lots of headache.

However, most of the velcro straps that are used to keep the cover in place have been ripped apart by use (including misuse on Nix’s side) so right now we have to decide whether we fix this one or get another one. For the time being, it’s usable.

Nix sleeping in the car
Nix wearing a harness and fastened to the seatbelt. You can also see our seat cover in use.

What’s your preferred method of travelling with dogs? Do you use any other safety essentials that I haven’t mentioned?

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