Dogs Riding in Cars - Safe Transport

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Loose dogs in cars can be dangerous. Dogs that are not properly secured in the car can be thrown around during accidents, hurting themselves and people in the car. Fearful dogs may need more time to get used to car rides; it should be done slowly and carefully. Here are some tips for traveling safely.

Getting Your Dog in the Car

  • Keep your dog on leash. Do not drop the leash until your dog is safely secured in the car.
  • Use treats and toys to lure your dog into the car if needed. You may need to carefully pick up your dog and place them in the car.
  • When the ride is over, make sure your dog is leashed or in a crate before opening the car door.

Restraint and/or Confinement Options in the Car

  • Crate: A secured crate in the back of a vehicle is one of the safest choices. Secure the crate to the car with bungee cords or strap it to the seat belt or hooks in the car.
  • Harnesses: A safety harness for dogs that clips or straps onto the seatbelt to keep your dog secured is a safe choice.
  • Gate: A physical barrier/gate put between the seats and the back of a vehicle can keep a dog safely in one area.
  • If a crate, harness or gate is not an option, your dog should ride in the back seat. Secure the leash by tying it to a handle on the ceiling or wrap around headrest. Tie the leash tight enough so that your dog can't jump into the front seat but keep it loose enough so that your dog can stand if the car stops suddenly and your dog falls to the floor.

Other Safety Concerns

  • Leave windows only open slightly for air. Allowing a dog to put its head out the window can result in injuries to its eyes and head. Turn off power windows, as dogs' paws can trigger them.
  • Don't leave your dog alone in the car, especially during temperatures hotter than 70°F or colder than 35°F. Any outside temperature could be cause for someone to break the window to release a dog they think is in danger.
  • Never put your dog in the back of an open truck bed without properly securing them so they cannot jump out.
  • It's best to take your new dog alone in the car for their first ride. If another dog is there, have an extra adult in the car to help observe and manage the dogs.

Helpful Tips

  • Paper towels (or towels) and pet stain cleaner should be kept on hand for dogs that poop, pee, and/or vomit in the car. Your veterinarian may be able to help if your dog gets car sick.
  • Provide chews and/or favorite toys. Some dogs do better in the car when they have something to chew on or play with.

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