Hit the road! How to travel safely with your dog

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From barriers to harnesses, road tripping with your furry BFF is best done the safe way

A road trip without taking every member of your family – including our four-legged ones – just isn’t much of a holiday. As a general rule, dogs make better car travellers than cats (of course they do) and while window-surfing dogs – pups who hang their head out of the window – can be amusing, it’s also highly unsafe. According to a recent report by Australia’s National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) states: if you’re driving 60km per hour with an unrestrained 20kg dog in your car and it gets thrown onto you, the impact is the same as if it had hit you from a third-floor balcony – with that image in your head, why take the risk?

In Australia, police can fine drivers for having dogs on their lap while driving, and if “an animal is causing the driver to be not in full control of the vehicle.” In the US, some states don’t have rules against dogs travelling unrestrained in a car, while other states have strict laws in place. Regulations in both countries vary between states so best check with your local authority. The bottom line is, laws are in place to keep both yourself and your dog safe while on the road – good enough reasons to take note in our book!

Choose the right restraint

Booster seats
Dogs love to see what’s going on outside the window and a booster seat allows smaller dogs (chihuahua and terriers) to sit a little higher. If you opt for a booster seat, be sure to also use a harness which will keep your dog safely anchored; the dog won’t projectile should you have to break quickly.

Barriers
If you have a large dog (retrievers and labradors), and own a Station Wagon, SUV or 4WD, temporary or permanent barriers are an excellent option. There’s plenty of room to stretch in the back, especially on longer trips. Make sure the barrier is measured correctly and securely fixed into place. Don’t forget a spill-proof water bowl and their favourite toy for long trips.

Seatbelts and harnesses
If your dog is a happy car traveller, sitting upright on the back seat using a harness with a seat-belt attachment or a specialised car harness is the safest option. NRMA Insurance tested six harnesses and only two – Petlife Roadie and Sleepypod’s Clickit – passed testing. Both products restrained the dummy dog when the car propelled forward – a big tick in our book.

Transport carriers/crates
Carriers and crates work best for smaller dogs who, by nature, are anxious and especially so in unpredictable environments like a moving vehicle but feel secure in their little ‘den’. The carrier should be securely fitted with the seatbelt, not left to roam freely.

Travel check list

  • Do a search for dog-friendly beaches and parks and plan stops where dogs (and kids) can be exercised.
  • Get your dog a duffle bag and include things like his regular food (to curb tummy upsets), bowls, toys, and a spare collar and lead. Ensure tags list correct contact information and he is microchipped.
  • Medicine and vaccination records are a good idea in case you need to visit a vet.

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