With more and more rules being brought in to make our roads safer, it might surprise you that there is no law about dogs wearing seatbelts… yet!
But 60% of motorists have admitted to being distracted by their dog whilst driving. Whilst driving without canine restraint isn’t illegal, ‘driving without due care and attention’ is. It can bring heavy fines and license points. You could also be ‘causing or likely to cause danger by reason of load or passengers’. This can add to your points and even result in disqualification.
And it’s not just other users on the roads, either. Dogs may injure themselves whilst bouncing around, or if an emergency stop was necessary. And if there was an accident, it’s almost certain that your dog would turn into a high-velocity projectile. Severely injuring themselves and anybody else they encountered. Whilst we all love seeing happy dogs with their heads out in the wind, it’s not uncommon for dogs to fall or leap out of the window, resulting in severe skin injuries, broken bones and death.
So, keeping yourself, your dog, and other road users safe should be a high priority, but what’s the best way to do it?
Travel Crates and Kennels
The safest way to restrain your dog whilst driving is with a travel crate or kennel. You should aim to pick one that’s an appropriate size for your dog, but that also fits in your car. Whilst placing them on the back seat is possible, they’re usually best kept in the boot for ease of use, and safety in the case of an accident. After all, a crate rolling around the back or flying through the air in an accident is just as dangerous as a dog!
Just as with anything, teaching your dog to love their travel crate is an important part of training. Whilst the crate will usually be associated with positive things – like a walk – some dogs will need help to feel confident using it. Remember, building up slowly and providing encouragement in the form of praise, play and food are important steps. Don’t close the crate at first, put your dog in it and give them treats. Over time, you can build up to shutting them in, then closing the car door, and eventually starting the engine. Only once your dog is happy to do all of these things should they be taken for a drive.
Car barriers can also be used to turn the boot of your car into an extra-large crate. This is a great way of maximising space for your dog whilst keeping everybody safe. However it does come with some downsides. Remember, your dog is still loose, so care should be taken that they don’t jump straight out into danger when you open the boot.
Seatbelts for Dogs
Seatbelts are a modern solution to the problem. They’re designed to clip into your car’s usual seatbelt, then attach to your dog’s harness. Although they’re an excellent safety device in case of a crash, they have the added benefit of providing a little bit of gentle restraint. Therefore reducing your distractions. Just remember that these should attach to a harness, not a collar. Otherwise your dog’s speedy progress through the air in the event of a crash will be stopped by his windpipe, which is unlikely to survive the assault.
Even better than a normal harness with attached seatbelt is a specialised car harness, which has been tested to survive a crash. They’re usually also padded with a wide strap in order to provide a comfy stop in case of impact. These take a bit more effort to use, as your dog will need to have it put on every time they go in the car (they’re too bulky to be worn every day). But they’re the safest option, which is worth the extra effort. Make sure they fit your car. Although most are designed to clip into any seatbelt stalk, some brands are not compatible or interchangeable, so do your research.
Car Seats for Dogs
For smaller dogs, a car seat can provide a little bit of height so that they can see what’s happening whilst providing some restraint. The cosy sides may also be of benefit to dogs that suffer with travel anxiety. Make sure to thoroughly research the brand. Ensure it is able to be attached to your car to prevent it acting as a projectile. Most car seats come with their own harness attachments. If they don’t, you should ensure you pair a car seat with a suitable harness to provide restraint in the case of a crash.
So, should your dog wear a seatbelt? Not necessarily, but they do need to be restrained for their own safety, as well as yours. your passengers, other road users- and even the emergency services in case of an accident.