75% of all UK adults hold a full driving license meaning many people and their dogs will ride in a car together. As one of the most common modes of transport in the UK it is only natural to take your dogs with you, but do dogs like car rides?
Do Dogs Like Car Rides?
Dogs enjoy a car ride because the car momentum creates a sense of adventure. Securely fasten them in and drive smoothly to ensure they have comfort, safety, excitement and enjoyment on the way to your destination.
Let's dig a little further to find out what can make your car ride more enjoyable for you and your dogs. You might be surprised to find out the law around dogs in your car and what in car accessories you really should have in place.
Signs Of Your Dog Enjoying a Car Ride
You can tell just by the way your dog shoots out of the door and makes their way to the car like a kid making their way to a sweet shop. They are on a mission and already know their mode of transport. If they are anything like our little man Francis, they will paw (tap) at the car door with the repetitive looks waiting for you to open it and they will leap in ready to go.
Tail wagging and positive vocals by barking are good signs too. Too much barking can mean the opposite though and can be signs of anxiety so make sure you monitor and understand the communication from them. We look for spins, and zoomies and tapping at the door which to us means they are ready to go.
What Causes Dogs To Have A Negative Car Experience?
If a dog has a bad experience in any car it will be enough to stay with them for a lifetime. A negative experience could be caused by driving too fast, sudden breaking or by them simply not feeling secure. Signs of a dog feeling stressed in a car include panting, pacing, shaking, vomiting, urination, being overly vocal and sometimes you can just see it in the colour of their face.
If you approach a car with them and they pull back or are partially refusing to go with you, then this is a sign of nerves.
More often then not, car sickness occurs in young puppies. They will typically grow out of it. Their inner ears will not have fully developed yet and this means the motion can affect them slightly more than normal which causes them to be sick. If sickness persists as they get older, this could be a sign that they don't like car rides and the motion makes them feel uneasy.
Unfamiliar Car Territory
Putting a dog into a vehicle for the first time can cause them to be confused. It's a new environment and you need to slowly entice and adapt them to these surroundings. Familiar blankets, smells, toys and treats and very slow careful driving with someone sitting with them if possible can all help to alleviate this unfamiliarity.
Make the introduction as fun and smooth as possible. You may only have once chance at it and if you frighten them, then you may have a lifetime of difficult, unpleasant drives for you both.
How to Secure a Dog in a Car for an Enjoyable Car Ride?
According to the UK highway code, they must wear a seat belt harness, be in a pet carrier or dog cage or be retrained from getting to the front of the vehicle by a dog guard. The best way to secure a dog in a car is to use one of the aforementioned accessories which should ensure they are comfortable and safe during a car journey.
One of the most surprising things you will often see is a dog with its head sticking out of the car window and in some cases half of its body hanging out. Although I am sure it's refreshing for them, it is incredibly dangerous. Many images online show a dog with its head out of the window as a portrayal of a 'travelling dog'. Although the picture can look somewhat endearing, it's wrong and not secure for them, but why?
- They could get decapitated (sorry, I know that is probably the worst thing that could happen).
- They could make a jump for it to try and catch the squirrel or cat they saw.
- They could get something in their eye or hit in the face.
- They could fall and not only injure themselves but could cause further accidents and even potentially fatal crashes.
How to Keep Your Dog Occupied During a Long Car Ride?
To keep your dog occupied during a long car ride, provide them with familiar blankets and smells, new toys to engage them and a large chew such as a buffalo horn.
A long car ride can be tiring and if you don't provide your dog with something to engage them then boy are they going to be bored. The last thing you need after packing the car and setting off is your dog barking, moving, or crying throughout the whole journey. This could cause a lot of false starts and end up with you pulling over multiple times to give them the attention they require.
If they are whining, then you need to check the potential problems rather than ignoring them. This means they might need the toilet, they may be hungry, they may feel sick, they may be too warm.
Once you become more familiar with what they want, you may establish that they just want your attention the cheeky monkeys. If you have a four-hour ride ahead of you then you need to keep them occupied for a good two hours of that before you have a break if possible. We have managed this on multiple occasions by having them play with toys for the first 30 minutes and then they usually pass out for a snooze for a good hour and a half before we all stop for a break.
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Where Should a Dog Sit in the Car During a Car Ride?
Dogs should be placed either in the rear seat with a harness on which is attached to the seat belt attachment. Alternatively, they can go in the boot so long as you don't have a parcel shelf blocking them from any light and communication. The boot should have a secure crate or cage and a guard preventing them from moving through the vehicle.
If they are on the backseat we have found our dog sometimes tries to push forward despite being in an Ezy-Dog harness and he tries to lay on the arm rest. The restraint needs to be a little tighter but not uncomfortable for them to prevent this from happening. If you would also like the windows down to keep some fresh air moving through the car for them, then window vent guards would be a good starting point for this.
Is It Illegal to Have a Dog in the Car Unrestrained?
Dogs generally should not ride in the front of a car. Passenger airbags, potential for them falling into your lap, or down near the pedals and even simply distracting the driver are all enough reasons to not do this. If they are on the passenger seat or your lap when driving without being even clipped in, then this would be deemed reckless and could even be punished by the police if they notice.
According to assets.publishing.service.gov.uk
"A total of 1,752 people were killed in reported road traffic accidents in Great Britain in 2019".
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How Long Can a Dog Ride in a Car Until They Need the Toilet?
As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to manage a two hour car ride before stopping to stretch their legs and take them for a toilet break. This rule changes if they are younger, especially for puppies. The stops will need to be more frequent due to them still being so young.
Before you leave, make sure they are hydrated but have also had plenty of time to go to the toilet, run around and tire themselves out. This will make the journey easier and will prevent you from pulling over for a toilet stop in the first 10 minutes.
Can Dogs Get Travel Sick During a Long Car Ride?
Dogs can become travel sick just like we can. There are many variables that can play a part in this. These can include, too much food, anxiety, your driving and even the temperature. It is typically seen in young puppies due to their inner ear structures not being fully developed yet and they grow out of it. However, they might just happen to be uneasy travellers, everybody and every pet is different.
Lots of yawning, whining, vomiting and excessive drooling can all be signs of being travel sick. Therefore, it is so important to introduce them to travel gradually, with care, slow driving, good hydration, and ventilation. As soon as you strike fear into them, they will forever relate fear, sickness and anxiety with the car, and this will be a hard behaviour to then break.
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What Can I Give a Dog for Car Sickness?
To help alleviate travel sickness in your dog, try giving them herbal travel sickness tablets and consider using a natural pet calming kit to relax them before they go.
Should I Use a Car Seat Cover for My Dogs?
There are a few positives to using car seat covers. You will protect your car seats, you will prevent mud and water from going everywhere but if the seat cover is a comfortable material and warm, especially when it's winter and if you have leather seats then your dogs will be far happier having that to sit on rather than a cold surface! Take a look at these Pet Rebellion car seat covers for some serious dog comfort.
Dogs can and do love car rides with their humans. They sit there taking in all of the world as they zoom along ready for their next adventure with you. The most important things to do is keep you and them safe during the car journey, ensure they are comfortable and happy, stop at the right times and get used to this form of travel with a slow and calm introduction for lots of future fun and adventures together!