The car is an integral part of our lives, whether it is used for a short shopping trip or for a trip on vacation. What is normal for us is initially foreign to a dog. Some of our canine friends think road trip is great, some people are afraid of driving.
So how can you train your dog to ride relaxed in the car? Where is your dog allowed to ride in the car? What’s the best way to secure it? All of these questions are answered in this complete guide to road trip and driving with your dog.
Transport the dog safely in the car
Before you go on a long journey with your dog, you should think about where and how you will transport him safely. Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act stipulates that a load must be secured in such a way that it cannot slip and endanger the driver even when the brakes are applied. A dog is considered a load and must be secured as such.
If you are caught driving your dog with you, this can result in a fine and even points. If your dog causes an accident, your insurance company does not have to pay for the damage.
Apart from a possible penalty, it is of course also safer for your canine friend if he is protected. After all, you don’t drive in the car with your seat belt buckled just for fun. In the same way, your dog will be thrown around in the event of an emergency stop and can seriously injure himself if he is not properly secured.
There are basically two ways to secure your dog:
- with a seat belt
- or in a separate room
Even if you see it often: just transporting it in the footwell is not allowed. Depending on how big your dog is, you have more or fewer options for transporting him safely in your car. Because where smaller dogs can find space on the front passenger or back seat, only the trunk remains for large dogs.
Transport in the trunk with partition grille or use a dog crate
For many dog owners, this is the most obvious solution to driving with your dog. Either the back seat is occupied by the children or the dog is so big that it only fits in the trunk. After all, it’s easy: Open the trunk, the dog jumps in and off we go.
A partition grille:
With a partition grille or a dividing net, you make sure your dog cannot climb to the front of you in the driver’s compartment. It also prevents your dog from being catapulted forward and through the windshield in the event of an emergency stop or an accident. It is important that you use a stable grid that cannot slip. The same goes for the mesh, which needs to be thick enough to do its job.
A transport box:
Especially with large or medium-sized dogs, the safest option is a transport box placed in the trunk. Of course, it depends on your dog and your car which type of box you use: does a ready-made one fit or do you need a custom-made one? In addition to safety, another advantage is that your dog cannot look out of a closed box. This can be very useful when your dog is scared. However, you need to get your dog used to the crate before you take it with you.
Transportation in the back seat
Just like when you transport your dog with a crate in the trunk, your dog must also be secured when he rides in the back seat of your car, not only for yours but also for his protection. You can do this either with a transport box or a safety belt. Which of the two options you prefer depends on your dog’s size and preferences. Small dogs fit in a transport box on the back seat of your car, while large ones can only be buckled up. Some dogs prefer to ride in a crate so they don’t see as much of their surroundings, and others get nauseous and have to look outside during driving.
If you want to buckle up your you dog on a road trip, you need a special harness to which you can attach the normal seat belt. You should pay attention to the quality, because according to a test by the ADAC , there are big differences in the quality of such harnesses.
Or you can use a well-fitting and stable harness and a special safety belt for dogs. There are now car covers for the back seat to protect your upholstery and for more comfort for your dog. These prevent your upholstery from suffering from damage and give some dogs an additional feeling of security. However, some dogs may prefer to look outside.
Transport on the passenger seat
The disadvantage of transporting on the passenger seat is that your dog is certainly the most restricted in its freedom of movement. After all, you have to make sure that your dog doesn’t jump into the steering wheel and cause an accident.
In addition, the size of your four-legged friend is of course also a limiting criterion for being on the passenger seat. After all, he has to fit either in his transport box or buckled up on the seat. If this is the case, you have similar options as in the back seat. There are also protective blankets for the passenger seat , which are shaped like small boxes and in which you can easily buckle up your dog and drive with it safely.
Secure your dog in the mobile home
The considerations for driving a car with your dog also apply to a road trip with the mobile home. Again, you have to think about how to secure your four-legged friend. You can have the mobile home specially adapted and expanded to make it suitable for dogs. It ranges from a ventilated transport box in the rear area to a dog kennel under the table. Other options are a transport box that you protect against slipping with straps in the mobile home or a safety harness to which you attach the strap.
Which option is suitbale depends, among other things, on the size of your dog and your travel companion, but of course also on your budget.
Driving with your dog – that’s how it works
Some dog owners are concerned about the safe transport of their pet, but they don’t think about how to get their dog used to driving. Open the door, put the dog in the transport box in the trunk and off you go. This works fine for many dogs, but many problems would arise.
The sooner you start getting your dog used to the car, the better. As a puppy, dogs are particularly capable of learning, but also sensitive. That’s why it’s important to let your puppy know that driving doesn’t have any bad experiences. Even an older dog can still get used to a road trip in the car. The training is the same as with a young dog, but it may just take a little longer.
Step 1: Cars are not dangerous
The most important thing is to show your dog that the car is not a dangerous thing for him. Let him explore the vehicle on his own. If your dog is still too small to jump into the car on its own, carefully put it in.
It depends on the breed of a dog how quickly it gets used to the car. Some are curious and look at everything. Some need a little longer to get used to this strange thing. Always remember: A car smells a lot stranger for our dogs than it does for us.
Now it’s about making your dog’s stay in the car comfortable. Give him treats so he associates the car with something positive. You can also put his dog blanket in the car, because the familiar smell gives him security.
If your dog doesn’t want to stay in the car, don’t force it to do so. Give him time to slowly approach the unfamiliar object. Only when he is no longer afraid of the car do you move on to the next step.
Step 2: Get to know engine noise and vibrations.
Now you can start the engine so that your dog gets used to the new noise. It’s a lot louder for him than it is for us. with his sensitive senses he will certainly feel the vibrations of the engine much more intensively, so you shouldn’t drive at this stage. It is enough if you leave the engine running and convince your dog with lots of treats and quiet praise that something good is happening here.
Step 3: Drive for a few miles
Then it’s time for the first ride. However, you should not drive a long distance, but only a few miles. After a very short distance you stop and let your dog get out. As a reward, you can play with him or go for a little walk.
If that works well, you increase the duration in small stages. Make sure your dog is comfortable and not overly excited. Your goal should always be to keep your dog relaxed while driving. With this step-by-step approach, there is little possibility that your dog will be overwhelmed or have a bad experience. It is therefore worth investing this time in getting your dog used to driving and not skimping on the reward.
By the way, dogs are good at making connections. If your first short car trips lead to the vet, he will certainly not like jumping in the car pretty quickly next time.
Step 4: The first longer car driver with your dog
If your dog is relaxed on short trips, you can now plan the first trip. Plan enough breaks so that your dog is not overwhelmed. These should be inserted at regular intervals and be sufficiently long.
Make sure from the start that your dog only gets out if you allow it. It can be very dangerous for him to just jump out of the car on his own.
If you follow all the following steps and give yourself enough time, you should both be able to enjoy your road trip on vacation.
Troubles when driving with your dog
When you drive with your dog, he may be howling or barking because he is extremely restless and panting heavily or even has to vomit. If your dog suffers from anxiety while driving and shows one or more of the symptoms mentioned, then you should take a step back with the training or start all over again. Sometimes it may even be necessary to just get him near the car and do pleasant things there.
If your dog gets sick and vomits while driving, there can be two reasons:
- either he gets so excited that he vomits
- or he may be suffering from motion sickness
The reasons for this are the same as in humans: your dog is sensitive to the movements and cannot process them. Symptoms range from excessive salivation to vomiting.
To find a solution to this, you have to find out the underlying problems. The fast-moving images are difficult for him to process, so he shouldn’t be able to look out the window. He also needs a place where he is rocked around as little as possible. If he gets sick while driving, you should not feed him beforehand.
Sometimes changing your dog’s position also helps. Just like humans, there are dogs who get sick if they can’t look ahead. If they can look outside, everything is ok, if their view is blocked by a protective car cover, she will vomit.
If that doesn’t help either and you’re not making any progress despite regular practice, then you should seek advice from an animal practitioner or veterinarian. There are both herbal remedies and medication from the vet to treat travel sickness in dogs.
As you can see, driving with dogs is a complex subject. In addition to gradually getting used to the strange vehicle, your dog must also be sufficiently secured – for your protection and his.
But if you take enough time to train your dog to ride with you and to find the right place, it pays off in the long run. Not only does it make it easier for you to get through everyday life together, but you can also go on many nice trips together.