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Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Car

keeping your dog safe in the car

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s our duty as dog owners to keep our pets safe wherever we are; whether at the park, at home, on a walk, while traveling, or in the car. Like any dog owner, we want our furry friend by our side wherever we go. Taking your dog in the car is not uncommon, and sometimes unavoidable in case of veterinary appointments or moving homes. It’s a fun adventure to take a car ride with your pup. It’s also important to keep your furry passenger’s safety in mind by planning ahead.

For some, keeping your dog loose in the car may be feasible. As we know, dogs are unpredictable. And no matter how aware we are of our dog’s actions, distracted driving can easily turn into an accident. According to Kurgo and the American Automobile Association, around 80% of dog owners admit to driving with their pets unrestrained. Unrestrained pets cause more than 10,000 car accidents every year.

keeping your dog safe in the car

It can be dangerous to drive with your dog on your lap, have them hang their head out the window, or let them roam free to accidentally hit controls that could impact your driving.

We’ve compiled some tried and true tips for pet parents to ensure their dog’s car ride is a safe one.

Invest in Safety Restraints and Add-ons

If your dog is more reactive, you may want to opt for a travel crate or harness. If your dog can be trusted to stay relaxed in the back seat, you may not need additional safety devices. However, in a crash, the dog would then be an unrestrained occupant which is dangerous for everyone in the car.


Many owners use car harnesses to clip their dogs into the car securely, similar to a human seat belt. The goal is to prevent your pup from moving around the car by restricting them to a specific area. Dogs can easily cause an accident by climbing up front, trying to open the window, hitting buttons, and ultimately distracting you as the driver. A clip-in harness is a feasible solution for small or medium-sized dogs or an anxious pup who won’t sit still.

Net or Barrier:

Another popular solution to contain your dog in the backseat is a net. If your car has the capabilities, you can even put the back seats down to extend into the trunk, making a large back seat space for your pup to have more room.

Travel crates:

These are a great option, especially for keeping highly anxious or reactive dogs safe in the car. If your dog really struggles with anxiety in the car and you know they won’t tolerate a restraint such as a harness, a crate might be the best choice. Making them feel comfortable in a crate is a popular option, and may be the only one for you. They’ll feel protected and contained within the crate. And any chance of an accident or injury caused by your dog being reactive is lowered significantly. These crates are also ideal for long-distance or duration travel. It provides a place for your pup to relax and lets you focus on the road better.

You should keep in mind, however, that travel crates are bigger and bulkier, so you’ll need space to accommodate them. Make sure your car accommodates your dog’s needs by lowering the backseats for more space or upgrading your car model.

Tracker or Chip:

Investing in protection in case of an emergency is always wise. If you’re traveling with your pup, you’re going to want to invest in a trackable dog tag or AirTag. You attach AirTags from Apple to an object, giving you GPS tracking capability to find the item when lost. These are an ingenious way to keep track of your dog in case they try to escape, so you’ll have an easy way to find their location right on your phone.

Opt for a Safety-Feature Heavy Model

If you’re looking to go to lengths to protect your pup, you can’t go wrong with upgrading your vehicle to a newer, safety-heavy model. Experts praise proactive features in many new cars for their ability to prevent accidents on the road. You may ask yourself before buying, how effective are these vehicle safety features at reducing car accidents?

Studies show 50,000 crashes and 16,000 resulting injuries could be prevented if blind-spot monitoring had been equipped in vehicles back in 2015. While blind-spot monitoring is but one of the multitudes of features to be offered, this statistic goes a long way to show that your well-being in the car is improved with up-to-date models equipped with safety add-ons.

To most people, pets are a part of their family. Just as you want to keep your family safe, you want to keep your dog safe in the car. Many up-to-date cars have built-in safety features to maximize protection when driving. Commonly, these features include beeping blind-spot monitors, automatic braking that initiates crash prevention if you get too close to another vehicle, lane-keep assist, and even a heads-up display (HUD) of the speed limit or maps projected onto your windshield so you never need to take your eyes off the road. Upgrading your car to a model with many features may be in your best interest, if you’re looking to maximize everyone’s well-being while driving.

Eliminate Distractions

These built-in precautions can double your awareness on the road. But to keep you and your furry friend danger-free you must eliminate other distractions. Obviously, with your pup in the car, you’re naturally going to want to keep some of your attention on them. Just as you would with kids in the backseat, make sure you’re mindful of eliminating additional distractions. Stay off your phone and refrain from making any calls, even if they’re hands-free. Be sure not to have any food out in case your dog tries to get to it. Keep your radio volume low, listening to music or podcasts can grab your attention causing you to neglect the road.

Conflicting noises in small spaces can cause anyone sensory overload. When this happens, your fight or flight senses are activated. This often causes you to react to whatever is overwhelming your system. In the car, if you have loud music on, the A/C turned up, and an anxious dog trying to climb into the driver’s seat, chances are you’re going to feel overwhelmed. It’s a small, confined space, so do what you can to eliminate distractions in case your dog needs your attention.

Dogs can be unexpected. They react, bark, make noises, get sick, cry, and can feel uncomfortable if car rides are new to them. Setting precautions in place before you begin your ride will help keep both you and your dog’s stress levels low.

Bring a Trusted Friend

Depending on your dog’s personality, having someone else in the car could either make your pup calmer or more anxious.

If you’re nervous about your first test run, or your dog is notoriously bad with car rides, having a person you both trust might help ease some of that anxiety. This will not only ease your anxiety, but may offset some of your dog’s stress of trying a scary new thing. After all, your dog can pick up on your emotions and senses! If you’re feeling heightened and nervous, chances are they’ll hop on that boat with you.

Alternatively, if your dog is highly sensitive, reactive or not trusting of others, you may be better off making the car a safe space and a bonding experience between you and your pup. This can help them learn to be more trusting of you for keeping them safe during a new activity.

Reward Your Pup

Be sure to reward your pup for a good car ride. This can be done through classical conditioning, a form of training where you may offer your pet a treat for getting in the car and upon completion of the ride. By doing so, you’re instilling in your pet that car rides can be a safe place. The more well-behaved they are, the more likely they are to get a treat and have a better doggie experience!

But save the treats for after the ride, as many dogs experience motion sickness in the car. To counteract this, it’s recommended you feed your dog at least two to three hours before embarking on your trip. During the ride, you can give your pup a new toy to keep them occupied and a blanket or piece of clothing from home for comfort.

No matter how the car ride went, you want to reward your dog for being brave and trying it anyway. Some dogs may love car rides, while others are terrified and really have a tough time. Whatever your situation may be, it’s important that you take the steps to make sure you and your pup are protected when it comes time to pull out of the driveway. Opting for a safety-heavy vehicle, adding in restraints and making sure your dog is comfortable are key to a safe, happy car ride for you and your pup.

Copyright 2023 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

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