Dog wearing a seat belt in a car
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Driving with your dog

Most people who have a dog treat him or her as another member of the family – it’s common to see dogs sitting beside their owners as they drive. Do you let your dog sit on your knee or the passenger seat? Perhaps you insist that they stay on the back seat, but are they free to roam?

In this guide, we’ll look at what the law says and tips for keeping your pets safe and comfortable on board! 

Are you breaking the law?

Under rule 57 of the Highway Code, you must make sure that: “dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so that they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop too quickly.”

You could receive a £100 on-the-spot fine from the police if they think you’re being distracted by your dog while driving. Fail to pay it, and you could end up going to court and having to pay a fine of up to £5,000.

According to research by the Dogs Trust[1] , almost half of all dog owners are failing to restrain their dogs while driving. Only 2 in 5 put their dog in a harness to keep them safe. 1 in 4 people admit that their dogs are a distraction when they drive and 1 in 10 have had to take their hands off the wheel to restrain their pooch on at least one occasion. 1 in 20 admit to taking selfies and playing with their dogs while driving. 

What are my options?

Your dog should ideally travel in the back seat or boot as they are less likely to be a distraction. The best way of keeping both you and your dog safe is to buy a dog harness for the car. It will attach to a seatbelt and should there be a crash, your dog will be secure. Without it, your dog could be a danger to yourself and is more likely to be fatally injured. Other options include using a dog cage or a pet crate in the boot or positioning a dog guard between the boot and the back seat to stop your dog gaining access to your car during the journey.

Safety tips

  • Make sure your dog has had a drink and has been to the toilet before they get in the car. Under no circumstances should you leave your dog alone in the car as you could be putting them in danger, especially in hot weather. Dogs die in hot cars. When it’s 22 degrees outside, it can be 47 degrees in a car within an hour.[2]
  • You want your dog to feel relaxed and happy in the car. If they’re new to the driving experience, take things slowly. You don’t want them to become scared or anxious. Rather than doing a long journey, try to do several short trips, with their blanket or toys nearby as the scent will be reassuring. 
  • The dog harness you buy must be the right size for your dog. Allow them to get used to wearing it in your home before you use it in the car. It’s recommended that you attach it to the seatbelt behind the passenger seat, rather than behind the driver. 
  • Practice getting in and out of the car safely. You want your dog to wait calmly before you open the door.
  • If your dog becomes too overexcited every time they get in the car, it might be better to leave them at home. If they won’t remain still, or they keep barking, they could be a distraction for your driving. You have to put the safety of yourself, your passengers and other drivers first.