How To Master Driving With Pets

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

Whether it’s an appointment at the vets, a family day out or something a little bit further away, such as a holiday, driving in the car with a pet can be a tricky task.

Your car is a vital part of owning a pet.

When you need to move around or take them out, unless you live a short distance away from your destination (e.g. the vets), then you’re going to need to transport your animal in your vehicle.

It’s incredibly important that you take the time to consider the welfare of both yourself and your pet when you are contemplating a journey.

Animals can move around suddenly, jump on the driver, try to escape through windows and generally be very problematic in a car.

Not only can this be dangerous in that it can cause an accident and lead to injury, or worse, but it can also invalidate your insurance or lead you to fall foul of the law by not being in full control of the car or perhaps not paying full attention to the road.

So, rather than just hop into your car without a second’s thought, use this guide to ensure your journey is properly planned and mapped out.

What You Will Learn

To keep yourself, your passengers and your pet safe while driving, not to mention ensuring you stay on the right side of the law, we’ve put together this guide full of information which will make travelling with your pet much safer.

Our guide is going to cover a wide span of areas, including the health of the animal, securing your pet in the car and some basic do’s and don’ts.

To make sure we stay consistent with our other guides, we have split this up in to the following sections:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

What the law says:

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

With the above in mind, here are some steps to take which can help you master driving with pets in the car so that everyone stays safe.

Ensure Animals Are Safely Secured In The Vehicle:

You should take care to ensure that your car has enough equipment in place so that the animal is secure during transit.

This may include getting a carry crate, a pet seat belt/harness or a dog guard which separates the boot from the cabin of the car (in the case of estate cars).

Your animal needs to be secure when travelling, for the safety of both you and the pet itself.

As mentioned above, this is also a legal requirement by law which could come with a hefty fine and possible points on licence, or a straight ban if prosecuted – don’t risk it, it is much safer for everyone when an animal is adequately secured in the vehicle.

Don’t Transport Animals That Are Sick/Injured Unless Necessary:

If your pet is under the weather, or perhaps carrying an injury, then you should avoid taking them in the car – unless, that is, you’re taking them to the vets.

For most animals, travelling in a vehicle is stressful and the sudden movements can cause them to fall around a little.

If your pet is already unwell, then this is only going to make them feel worse and potentially cause further injury.

If you’re transporting them to the vet, then you should take every care to make them as comfortable as possible.

Secure them in place in a carry case or pet harness, and if possible, try and have somebody sit near them in the car (e.g. in the back) to help comfort them.

Ensure Animals Are Comfortable & Have Been To The Toilet Before Leaving:

Animals are a little like children in the sense that you can make things much easier by ensuring they have been to the toilet and burned off some energy before the trip.

Also, depending on the type of animal, it may be worth giving them a little food maybe two hours before leaving to ensure they’re not hungry en-route – this may differ depending on your animal though.

Take Frequent Stops:

Depending on the type of animal you’re transporting with you and the distance of the journey, it’s likely beneficial to take regular stops.

Dogs, for example, will love the opportunity to get out of the car, run around, go to the toilet and have a drink of water.

It’s also a great opportunity to cool them down.

Ensure The Environment Is Comfortable:

One issue that many animals have in cars is how hot they get – again, dogs are a prime example of this.

So, ensure the temperature of the car is at a suitable rate for the animal rather than the human.

Open the windows of the car a little to ensure there is a circulation of cool, fresh air.

The polar opposite of this may be if you’re transporting a reptile, for example a snake.

While they will be in a carrier of some sort, they will likely need heat – so keep the car warm so that they remain healthy.

Pack Well:

Even though your pet may have been fed, watered and been to the toilet before your journey begins, this doesn’t mean it won’t need things during the journey.

Pack for all eventualities; poo bags, food, water bowl, a bottle of water, towels and some wipes to clean up in case of spillages or accidents in the car.

Never Leave An Animal Alone/Unattended In A Vehicle:

Aside from the stress and anxiety that this may create for the animal, it can also be a health hazard to leave your animal in the car.

Even with a window open, cars can heat up quite suddenly if the sun breaks through the clouds – even during winter!

Never chance it, not even for two minutes!

Video Demonstration

Please Note: Unfortunately there aren’t any pet travel tutorial videos available for UK audiences so we used this Australian video as the tips provided are still relevant for UK audiences. If you know of a pet travel training video which is suitable for a UK audience, please let us know. Alternatively, stay tuned as we will be creating our own in the foreseeable future.

Hints & Tips

Start with short journeys – if you have a journey coming up which you need to take your animal with you on, then get them used to the car with much shorter trips in the weeks leading up to the journey.

Take short, 5 minute drives so that your animal gets used to being in a car.

The more you can do this, the more used to it the animal will become and the easier any subsequent, long journey will be.

Also, don’t call the animal’s name if it’s settled!

If your animal is pretty excitable, like a dog, then do not call its name as it may get excited and try to move around the car.

This can be dangerous to yourself and the animal.

Useful Information

Often, animals find journeys in vehicles stressful which in turn makes the journey more stressful for you.

If you simply must take your animal in the car, if the animal finds it too stressful or is perhaps sick, then it’s worth speaking to a veterinarian.

They may be able to recommend some travel sickness tablets the animal could take prior to the journey, or alternatively some sort of remedy to calm them down.

There is also lots of advice available online from animal owners about travelling with your pet, so don’t give up in your pursuit of making a car journey less troublesome for your pet.

Final Thoughts

Mastering driving with pets is mostly a case of taking your time to prepare for the journey.

Picking the smoothest and fastest route, ensuring all of the safety equipment you need is in place and packing for every eventuality will all make the journey much more comfortable for your pet.

Also, plan your stops ahead of time and have a general idea of what is available at each stop (e.g. service stations).

All of this preparation is going to make life a lot easier for you once you hit the road!

Further Resources