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How to travel with a dog in a car: what is the law?

October 25, 2022 by

Putting a pooch in your Porsche? Hauling a hound in your Honda? Carrying a canine in a Caterham? Bone up on the rules surrounding travelling with dogs in cars

While it is legal to take your pet for a trip in the car, there are several legal and practical issues to take into consideration first. So, whether its a necessary trip to the vet, or a fun visit to the park, read on to find out what you need to know before setting off.

Is it legal to bring my dog in the car?

Yes. It is legal to take your dog or cat in your car. The Highway Code states that your animal needs to be suitably restrained so that they cannot be a distraction to you while driving or injure either you our themselves.

Something else to keep in mind is that all dogs (from eight weeks of age) must have a microchip and a collar with their owner’s name and address if they go outside.

What’s a ‘suitable restraint?’

The Highway Code suggests using a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard as ways to restrain your animal in the car. There are several other animal restraint systems available such as cages and screens, the right method will depend on the size and type of your animal.

Just remember that the key purpose of the restraint is to prevent driver distraction and injury while driving.

What kind of dog restraint is right for my car?

Not every dog cage or seat belt harness may fit your vehicle. For example, a very large dog cage may not fit into your hatchback, or an ill-fitting mesh dog barrier may leave a gap for your pet to squeeze through.

If you are uncertain of which dog restraint is best, speak to your vet as they will know what type of restraint is best for your pet and will have experience in which types of cars these will work with.

Can dogs drive cars? Should dogs drive cars? Where would dogs go if they did? These profound philosophical questions have yet to be resolved.

There is an element of common sense involved here, too; trying to transport a dozen huskies in your tiny city car is not going to end well. Loosely restraining your Irish Wolfhound in the front passenger seat may result in some unwanted driving assistance from your curious pooch.

What should I do to keep my dog comfortable in the car?

Once you have your dog suitably restrained, there are several things you can do to make the journey that much more enjoyable:

  • Bring along your pet’s favourite toy or blanket – make sure they can sit comfortably in their restraint
  • Use window shades to keep temperatures cool
  • Lower the window slightly for a bit of air –- but not low enough for them to stick their head out
  • Take a few small snacks with – rewarding your pet with good behaviour can help them look forward to future car trips
  • Always take water with you and stop regularly on longer trips for toilet breaks and a little sniff around

What else should I do, especially on a long journey?

Aside from making your pet comfortable in the car, it is important to factor in regular stops on longer journeys. Letting your pet have a short walk and go to the toilet will make it far happier when you are on the road for a couple of hours.

Make sure you give it plenty of water, too, and a few treat snacks. Don’t overfeed your canine companion, though, as that can lead to an upset tummy or worse.

Is there anything I shouldn’t do?

There are also a few things that you should never do when travelling with your pet:


  • Lower your windows too far – your dog may try to jump out or stick its head too far out.
  • Go out without getting your dog microchipped and fitting it with a collar that has your contact details on it
  • Feed your dog a big meal sooner than two hours before departing
  • Leave your dog unattended in a car
  • Forget to take water and a few small treats for the road

Can I leave my dog in the car?


While it is not explicitly forbidden to leave your dog in your car, it is highly unadvisable to do so. Temperatures inside a parked car can rise very quickly – even if you leave it in the shade and lower the windows. Every year dogs die in hot cars and the chances of this happening in summer rises dramatically.

If your dog becomes sick or dies from being left in a hot car you may be charged with the offence of animal cruelty. This can lead to a prison sentence as well as a fine.

Car travel with dogs FAQs

Can a passenger hold a dog in a car?

No. This does not constitute a ‘suitably restrained’ pet as required by the Highway Code. The dog may break free, distracting the driver and/or injuring themselves and others in the process.

Can dogs sit in the front seat of a car?

Yes. If the dog is securely restrained (as set out by the Highway Code) and does not pose a hazard to the driver, then it can ride shotgun. As an added safety measure, it is advisable to move the front seat as far back as it will go and deactivate the front passenger airbag as well.

Can dogs become car sick?

Puppies and younger dogs have been known to get car sick. Adult dogs are also susceptible to car sickness, but most tend to outgrow it by the time they turn one.
If your dog starts to pant or drool excessively, pull over and give it some time to calm down. Keep the car well ventilated and don’t feed your dog too much before a long journey to reduce the chances of it becoming car sick.

How do you calm down a dog in a car?

Make sure that your dog is safely and comfortably restrained, play relaxing music and keep the car well ventilated. Speak to it in a calm, reassuring tone and ensure that its favourite toy or blanket is close to hand. Familiar smells and sounds can go a long way to calming your pooch down.

Your vet may also be able to prescribe calming supplements if your dog regularly becomes anxious in the car. Always drive smoothly and avoid sudden manoeuvres.

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