Text size


Doggie Do's and Don'ts

Doggie Do's and Don'ts


Is it OK for your doggie to shoot the breeze with his head out of your car window? We answer this and lots of other pet related questions in National Pet Month.

What can you do with a dog in your car and what can’t you do. How can you make sure your pet pooch is as happy as possible when on the move and should you ever leave a dog alone in a parked car?

Are dogs allowed in the main cabin of a car?

Taking your dog out with you in the car seems a very normal thing to do. For many of us our dogs are part of our families and a trip out wouldn’t be complete without our delightful doggy.

The problem comes because many of us dog-lovers don’t realise that there is a specific law, Rule 57 of the Highway Code, stating that dogs, or for that matter cats, must be suitably restrained in the car to stop them distracting you, the driver.

Now it would seem that many of us are ignoring this law, probably because we’re unaware it exists, but that is no excuse in the eyes of the law and if you’re caught with your doggy on the loose in your car you could be subject to a £100 on the spot fine and if you object to that you could find yourself in court with a maximum fine of up to £5,000.

This law is eminently sensible; no matter how much you love your doggy family member, they shouldn’t be loose in your vehicle, where they can easily cause distractions and even get underneath the pedals and then easily cause an accident.

Dog loose in a car looking pensively out of the window

How can I keep my dog and my passengers safe?

Dogs can be restrained in a number of ways, if you’re driving an estate car or large hatchback, your dog will probably fit in the boot, which with a dog guard fitted would keep your pooch out of the cabin of your car.

With a smaller hatchback or saloon you need to look at some sort of dog restraint, be that a harness, dog crate or doggie hammock. Any of these will ensure that your pooch is kept still and safe in case you’re involved in an accident. Keeping dogs as back seat passengers only is essential; dogs should not be in the front passenger seat, even if they’re restrained, as they pose a very real distraction to you as the driver.

very cute dog asleep with in-car dog safety harness on

What if my dog doesn’t like being restrained?

Clearly if your pampered pet is used to roaming freely around your vehicle, he/she is not going to embrace being confined! However, it’s in everybody’s best interests that you train you dog to sit or lie still. Tips for making you pooch perfect in the car include:

  • Let them travel with a favourite toy, blanket or pillow from home. This will smell of them, your family and your home and help keep them calm.
  • If you are going to use an in-car harness, which attaches to a rear seatbelt, sit your pooch behind the passenger seat and NOT the driver’s seat; this will minimise distraction for you, the driver.
  • Teach your dog to wait and NOT to jump out of the car wildly; this is so important, as your dog could jump out into traffic and be injured. A calm and controlled exit from your car is what you should be aiming for.
  • Make sure your dog associates the in-car harness with good times; once your pooch realises that the harnesses means lovely, long walkies, he’ll soon learn to love it!

Chihuahua with favourite pillow in the car

Is it illegal to leave a dog in a parked car?

No, it’s not illegal; however, if the consequences of the dog of being left in a car are that that the dog suffers, in any way, then that is illegal. Leaving your dog, alone in a hot car is defined as animal neglect under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and you could be fined, prosecuted for neglect or cruelty and even prevented from keeping pets.

A survey by the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, showed that even dedicated dog lovers were more likely to leave their dog alone in a car for a few minutes, 28%, than leave their phone unattended in their car (10%). This isn’t cruelty on the owners part, it’s ignorance of just how quickly a parked car heats up.

Dogs Trust have produced a video to highlight the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car.

What if I leave the windows open?

If you believe that leaving the windows open will assist your dog in cooling down, I’m afraid you’re wrong. Neither parking in the shade of trees, nor leaving the windows open an inch or two, will make any difference to the temperature inside the car; it will carry on rising and any dog trapped inside will be in imminent danger.

It doesn’t even need to be excessively hot outside for the inside of a car to climb rapidly and sadly, in less than 20 minutes, a dog’s body temperature can rise to over 41 degrees C, at which point the dog is truly in peril of death.

Don’t do it. Don’t take your dog with you to an activity or event, where you know they will have to be left in your car. There is NO way of making a car a safe place for a dog to spend time alone and there are plenty of loving dog-owners out there who’ve done it and come back to absolute catastrophe.

dog curled up on the dashboard of a hot car

My dog loves hanging his head of the window

It looks so cute and your pooch is having the time of their lives, but it’s a very dangerous activity. Your dog could easily fall out of the window or perhaps, more likely, injure his eyes the grit and other airborne irritants being whipped straight into his eyes. Other more catastrophic accidents could also happen, which we don’t need to elaborate upon further, but suffice it to say that these types of fatal incidents happen much more frequently than you might imagine.

It may look cute, your dog may love it, but if you love your dog, don’t let them do it.

dog with its head out of a car window

There are lots of ways to keep your doggy safe and happy when you’re on the move, many brands have specific dog safety equipment and there are lots of websites that specialise in doggy travel gear, including collapsible water-bowls, car sickness and calming tablets, in fact everything your perfect pooch could possibly need to make their journey enjoyable!

Travelling with Pets

Pet Planet