Driving with dogs – how to safely restrain your pet

Written by Fiona Frawley

With many of us spending a lot more time at home over the past year, dog adoptions have been through the woof – sorry, roof. If you welcomed a pandemic puppy into your home during lockdown, you’re probably looking forward to taking the little guy or gal out exploring now that travel restrictions have eased. Before you do, it’s important to make sure you have the appropriate restraints to ensure your dog’s big day out is a safe one.

Did you know that it’s a legal requirement to safely restrain your dog in a car in Ireland? This is to make sure they don’t distract the driver or cause injury to themselves or any other passenger in the event of a crash. There are many ways to safely restrain your fur baby – pick what’s best for your dog depending on their size and temperament.

Safety harness

For bigger dogs, a harness that attaches to the seatbelt is a great, cost-effective option. The average harness should set you back about a tenner. The harness should comfortably fit around the dog’s chest and back and they should have enough room to move around a bit, but not be able to reach the driver. The harness should then be secured to a seatbelt. Some actually clip into the seatbelt slot, which is handy and these types of harnesses are available in most pet and motor shops. Just make sure it’s the right size for your dog, and you’re good to go!

Pet carrier

For your chihuahua, your dachshund, your shih tzu and beyond, something smaller like a pet carrier works well. Just make sure the carrier is a comfy fit for your dog and secure it in the car with a seatbelt. Don’t leave the carrier unsecured in any part of the car, as it could be thrown around in the event of a crash, or if you need to stop suddenly. It’s also important to note you should never put a pet carrier in the boot of a saloon car as your pet could suffocate.

Metal guard

Another option for securing larger pets is by installing a metal guard in the boot of the car. Bear in mind that this option works best for 4×4 vehicles, hatchbacks or estates. The main function for these guards is to keep the driver and passengers safe in the event of a collision, but they don’t offer as much security for your dog as a harness or a pet carrier. You should put a rubber mat down in the boot to give your pet more grip while the car’s in motion.

And remember…

It might be one of life’s great joys to see a dog with his or her head out a car window, tongue out and lapping up the fresh breeze, but this is actually a big no-no. Dust, dirt or insects could get into your dog’s eyes and nose, and there’s also a danger the dog could fall out of the window, or be injured by an oncoming vehicle or other obstruction. Open the window slightly to ensure your dog has a bit of fresh air, and be sure to pack the essentials like water and maybe some treats for longer journeys.

Finally, in the warmer months it’s so important to remember never to leave a dog unattended in a vehicle. In our blog, we demonstrate how quickly the temperature inside a car can rise to dangerously high levels on a warm day.

Written by Fiona Frawley