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Safe car journey = happy dog!

by Charlotte Pimm

Safe car journey = happy dog!

Every dog lover is always interested in their pet’s well-being. We love our dogs and want them to live fulfilled life’s which means allowing them to have the best experience possible. We also like to share those experiences with them which can often mean taking them to various places. And this will inevitably involve travelling…
Whether it’s a journey to the local vets, trip to see distant relatives or a camping trip, every journey should be well planned and structured, so your beloved dog does not need to undergo any additional amount of stress. Safety precautions are absolutely necessary when transporting an animal – owners need to ensure that their dog is either safely confined in the crate or restricted via car harness. Many owners may not even realise the jeopardy they put their dog into by letting them roam freely around the car. By not restraining an animal correctly and safely, owners are breaching the law according to the UK Highway code (Rule 58). Also, in case an accident is caused by the owner who has an unrestrained dog in the car, the vehicle insurance of the owner can be severely affected. Not mentioning the penalty for dangerous driving and possible loss of driving license for at least twelve months.
No matter how obedient and well-mannered your dog is, in the eyes of the law a pet that is not restrained can cause a great deal of distraction and obstruction to the driver by possibly blocking the view, obstructing the steering wheel, clutch, hand break etc. Animals can also be injured or killed during the collision mainly due to poor restraint –collisions with the air bag, driver or windscreen can be fatal.  Dogs without restraint can also cause distraction to potential passengers or other drivers on the road. Imagine that you are driving on a busy road and pass a car with sweet fluffy head sticking out of the passenger seat… It would be hard not to acknowledge the happy pooch and very easy to keep your eye off the road ahead.
There are many types of restraining tools from crates of various size and material, car dog seats and cradles to car harnesses and leads. Always ensure that any animal that is travelling has got enough space to move around the crate, to stretch and stand up in full height and easy access to water. Even when confining a dog in your car boot, make sure that some type of restraining method is present and the dog cannot jump over to the back seat. Comfortable bedding in the crate is also recommended. Especially one that is full of familiar smells and comforting for the animal during the travel. Toys that can provide animals with mental stimulation, such as a Kong, could also keep your dog preoccupied during a long journey.
As we all know, a dog that is trapped and unsupervised in the hot car without ventilation can die of severe overheating (hyperthermia). Ensure that when planning the journey your pet will never be left unattended in the car without any escape route, particularly on a hot day. Shaded area should be available in the car and owners should try to park in spaces where the car is not exposed to the direct sun light. Keep the air conditioning on or open your windows to allow fresh air supply. Cooling coats are also available on the market – especially long haired dogs would appreciate those on a hot day. Another safety tip – get a First Aid Doggy Kit. They vary to the one designed for humans and will be a great tool to have for any small injury.
So yet again, plan your journey according to your doggy companion. Depending on the nature of your travel look for places that are dog friendly. Nowadays services are very accommodating to our four legged friends, however it is better to be on a safe side and check prior to arriving at the destination. Also check the weather forecast as well as traffic - delays, road works and queues can add on unnecessary time to the journey.
Supply of fresh water is a necessity. Regular water break should be a part of the journey – this will also be a good time to take your companion to get some fresh air and possibly relieve themselves and stretch their limbs. Areas for breaks like this should be chosen wisely – too much noise and distraction can put the animal off or worse, panic them. In terms of feeding, ideally, it’s better not to feed transported dogs before the actual journey. Undigested food in the stomach could cause car sickness, discomfort or possibly lead to worse, bloat (gastric torsion), which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Allow a sufficient amount of time between feeding and the actual journey. Small treats can be given together with some water, especially on long journeys, but be mindful about the quantity.
A good supply of poo bags is a must as well as a collar and lead with an identification tag. It is a legal requirement to have your pooch microchipped and have all relevant information updated. This is particularly helpful in case your pet gets stolen or lost. And don’t forget your dogs’ passport and vaccinations in case you are planning a particularly long car journey abroad.
But mainly, try to make the trip fun for you and for your beloved doggy friend. Do not let the traffic jam stress you out or irresponsible drivers to upset you. All of those emotions will reflect on your dog…And an anxious pooch will not relate travelling in the car to a good and happy experience.


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