What Is The Safest Way To Transport A Dog In A Car [Explained]
Travel With Dogs And Cats

What Is The Safest Way To Transport A Dog In A Car? [Explained]

Most of us dog owners will need to transport our dog(s) in a car at some point.

Whether it’s because you don’t want to leave your dog home alone while you run errands or just once in a while to go to the vet, your dog will probably need to go in the car at least occasionally. 

The question, in that case, is how to transport your dog in a car safely.

We humans take extra precautions to keep ourselves safe in the car such as wearing seat belts and making sure we have working air bags installed.

But dogs are more susceptible to factors such as heat inside vehicles, and the recommendations for keeping our canine friends safe in case of accidents are less well-known. 

In this brief guide, we’ll be discussing what you can do as a dog owner to keep your dog safe during transport in the car. 

Table of Contents:

Keeping Your Dog Safe During Car Travel

1. Use A Pet Seatbelt

Just as people need to wear seatbelts in the car in case of a car accident, pets including dogs should always wear seatbelts in the car. 

Many people think that putting their dog in the trunk of their car with a grate to separate them from the rest of the vehicle will provide protection.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. These grates are only designed to stop your dog from getting into the main body of the vehicle.

In the event of an accident, the grate may protect you by stopping your dog from flying into you from behind, but your dog could still be severely injured or worse. 

You will need to invest in a pet seatbelt specifically rather than trying to make the seatbelts already built into your car work for your dog.

The likelihood is that your existing car seatbelts are not designed for dogs.

There’s a reason children need to have car seats in order to wear seatbelts safely in the car – they’re smaller than the average person, so a seatbelt can’t work effectively without that support. 

There are many companies providing pet seat belts these days, so you should be able to find one that works for your dog’s measurements. 

VavoPaw Dog Vehicle Safety Vest Harness, Adjustable Soft Padded Mesh Car Seat Belt Leash Harness with Travel Strap and Carabiner for Most Cars, Size Large, Black
  • STRONG SECURITY: This car vest harness is specially designed for preventing pet dog running around in the car to distract the driver’s attention and further protecting dog's safety during the during time.
  • EASY TO USE: After the pet wears it, hook one end of the safety belt with it and insert the other end into the safety belt socket. Equipped with a carabiner to better resolve the problem pf buckle’s compatibility, universal fit for the most of car models.
  • SOFT & COMFORTABLE: This vest harness is made of an extremely strong Oxford fabric (Polyester), filled with soft sponge, and lining with an elastic mesh cloth to make dogs feel soft and comfortable.
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  • EXQUISITE WORKMANSHIP: The edges treated with exquisite stitching workmanship, and come with a D-ring to make you easy to install a strap on it, very convenient for using. You can enjoy its excellent quality.

2. Consider Crash-Tested Harnesses, Carriers And Crates

You might also have your dog wear a safety harness in the car, or if you’re taking them to the vet, you might be transporting them in a crate or a carrier. 

Crates and carriers should be used in conjunction with seatbelts in case of an accident. The carrier should have a handle which you can use to thread the seatbelt through. 

Make sure that any safety products you use to carry or restrain your dog in the car are crash-tested.

Unfortunately, there’s no legal requirement for car safety products designed for pets to be crash-tested, so you can’t just rely on this being the case.

Always check the information provided on the manufacturer’s website to be safe. 

3. Don’t Allow Heads Through Windows

3. Don’t Allow Heads Through Windows

Many people think that allowing their dog to stick their head out of the window during a car ride is a kind thing to do because it stops them from overheating and provides them with more entertainment.

However, please don’t let your dog put their head through the car window. 

Allowing your dog to put their head through the window of a moving car leaves them vulnerable to potentially very serious injuries or even fatal accidents. 

You may be able to control your own driving for the most part, but accidents can happen to anyone, and besides that, you have no control about what drivers in lanes on either side of you are doing.

All it takes is for a driver in the next lane to get too close or for you to not notice a branch sticking into the road for something awful to happen. 

While cracking the windows in your car may help to keep the car cool in warm weather, which is important for your dog’s health and safety, your canine companion should never be able to get their head through an open window while the car is moving.

If you need to open your window enough that they could get their head through, keep your dog either strapped in on the other side of the car or have them sit in a crate or carrier. 

4. Check Car Temperature

Before you set off on a car ride with your dog, always check the temperature inside the vehicle. Cars are essentially ovens in hot weather, and the inside of your car may be much warmer than the temperature outside. 

If the inside of your car is at or above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it will likely be too hot for your dog in 10 minutes or less.

Cracking the windows won’t cool the car down enough to keep them safe and comfortable, and even air conditioning may not be sufficiently effective. 

In these situations, it’s best not to bring your dog in the car at all, and certainly don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the car at any point.

If you absolutely have to take your dog in the car while it’s hot, cover windows with shades to block out sunlight and bring a damp towel to help cool down your dog.

Crack the windows and run the air conditioning at the same time. 

5. Invest in Cooling Aids

Even if your car isn’t in the dangerously hot range for dogs, you should still get some cooling aids in case you need them.

Even just a warm car can become uncomfortable for a dog quickly, and dehydration and heat stroke can set in alarmingly fast. 

We recommend buying a cooling mat so that your dog can have some relief from warm temperatures during car rides. 

The Green Pet Shop Dog Cooling Mat, Large - Pressure Activated Pet Cooling Mat For Dogs, Sized For Large Dogs (40 - 80 Lb.) - Non-Toxic Gel, No Water or Electricity Needed for This Dog Cooling Pad
  • THE ORIGINAL SELF COOLING GEL PAD FOR DOGS – The Green Pet Shop pressure-activated cooling pet mat provides chilled relief for your dogs and cats. It's the perfect solution if your pet struggles to stay cool and comfortable in the summer heat
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  • PERFECT FOR HOT SUMMER DAYS – Lay the cooling pads for pets where your furry friend likes to relax. Once they lay on the pad, it goes to work immediately. Cool to the touch, the chilled sensation offers immediate relief. It's ideal for senior animals or pets with medical conditions
  • MULTI-USE AND PORTABLE – Use it on the floor, sofa, or place it in your pet's crate, bed or kennel. The cooling pads are lightweight and folds effortlessly, ideal for travel. Clean with a damp cloth as needed
  • LARGE DOG COOLING PAD – This pet cooling gel mat measures 23.6 x 35 inches, for large dogs weighing between 45 - 80 lbs. Other sizes are available. Do not leave in direct sunlight as this will affect the performance of the cool pad

6. Prioritize Hydration

Make sure that your dog is well-hydrated before they even get in the car.

This will help them to withstand warmer temperatures for a little longer without being adversely affected, although you should still avoid putting your dog in the car if it’s within the uncomfortable range.

Additionally, make sure you have water available for your dog to drink in the car.

Water bowls can easily spill over in the car, so it may be a good idea to freeze the water before you set off to avoid this.

Additionally, keep a large bottle of cool water in the car in case you need to top up the bowl. 

Actively encourage your dog to drink water before and during car rides on hot days to keep them as hydrated as possible.

Final Thoughts

The safest way to transport a dog in the car is using a pet seat belt to keep them held securely in their seat (see also ‘The Best Cat Car Seats For Your Pet‘).

You may also want to use a crash-tested safety harness. Make sure that crates and carriers are also crash-tested and held in place with a seatbelt. 

Keep windows cracked in the car in warm weather, but never let your dog stick their head out.

Use air conditioning and bring plenty of water and cooling aids when it’s hot, but avoid taking your dog in the car at all if the interior temperature of the vehicle is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API