What's the Safest Way for My Dog to Ride in the Car?

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You love to take your dog everywhere with you. It's fun to go to the grocery store, shopping for clothes, to the park, and on road trips with your pup at your side.

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While you enjoy spending all that time with him, it involves transporting him in your car. As a pet parent, you want to be as safe as possible when it comes to driving your dog in the car, but you aren't sure what options are best.


Learning about dog safety in the car is the first step to having a comfortable and enjoyable ride with your pup.

Why is having a dog in the car dangerous?

It's dangerous to ride with your dog in the car without exercising safety for a few reasons, the most common one being that he's distracting. He may get your attention because he's oh so cute, or perhaps because he's barking at other dogs, trying to jump out the window, running back and forth, or whining uncontrollably.


Your dog could also physically prevent you from pumping on the brakes, turning your wheel, or changing gears if he's big enough or refuses to move.

If you get into an accident, your dog could fly into you or, unfortunately, through your windshield, getting hurt and harming you or another driver in the process. Or, if you and your dog are in a wreck and you're both trapped in the car, he may get in the way of emergency workers doing their jobs.


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Your dog may see another dog and jump out of the window to attack him, or jump out of the back of an open truck when he sees something he wants.


If his head is out the window, debris can fly into his eyes and hurt them, or objects you pass, like car mirrors and mailboxes, could harm him.

What not to do with your dog in the car

In order to avoid any issues with having your dog in the car, never let him sit on your lap while you're driving, or sit in the front seat, where he could physically or mentally distract you or get hurt if the air bag were to go off.


Even if you keep him in the back seat, don't let him run around loose, because he could end up going to the passenger seat or getting hurt if you hard brake or get into an accident.

Don't leave your windows down because of the risk of debris or objects harming your dog. Also, you don't want him jumping out to chase something. Never, ever let him sit in the back of a pickup truck.


If it's a warm day, never leave your dog in the car, even with the window down or if he has access to water, because it makes very little difference. On a 70-degree day, the temperature in the inside of your car may reach 100 degrees in only 20 minutes; on a hotter day, the inside of your car could reach 140 degrees in under an hour, making both scenarios extremely dangerous for your pup. (Related: here's what to do if you see a dog in a hot car.)


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How to safely transport a dog in a car

You should always transport your dog in the back seat of your car, and make sure he's safely restrained. You can purchase a dog harness that will attach to your seat belts and keep him in place. Having him seat belted, with his safety harness on, is comfortable and will ensure he won't be able to move around the vehicle.


If your dog is small enough, keep him in a crate on the floor in the back of your car, or in the backseat if you have to. You can use a soft or hard crate; just make sure you buy straps that will secure your dog's crate to your seat belt system if you choose to put him on the seat. Your dog should be able to turn around, stand up, sit and lie down in the crate without issue. However, it shouldn't be so large that he moves around in it while you're driving. Along with being a safe option, putting your dog in a crate can reduce his chances of getting motion sickness.

Additional tips for having a dog in the car

Remember that when traveling with your pup, you should stop about every two hours so he can relieve himself, get some food and water, and stretch out his legs.

If you want your dog to be calmer in the car, consider putting a light blanket over his crate so he can't see any stimulation. He'd probably love it if you gave him his favorite chew toy to distract him, just in case he gets upset being in the car.

A lot of dogs will whine when they go into the car. This may because they feel sick in the car or it's very stimulating for them. If this is the case, you can train your pup not to whine. Get in the car with him and sit there for a few minutes without turning the car on. If he doesn't whine, give him a treat. You can take a short drive, and if she whines, pull over the car and don't acknowledge the whining. Then, try again another time and give him treats when he doesn't whine in the car


The safest way to take your dog in the car is to strap his safety harness to a seat belt or put him in a well-fitted crate on the floor of the backseat. Then, you can avoid any issues while driving and keep your pup happy at the same time.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.