8 Tips for Driving with Dogs

Results from a recent survey with AIG policy holders revealed that 25% of drivers travel with their pets in the car. When asked about restraining their pets while driving, over half of those surveyed always restrained their pets in the car, 5% restrained them on long journeys, 15% sometimes restrained their pet and 23% admitted to never restraining their pet.

Do you have to restrain your dog while driving in Ireland?

Yes. You are legally required to restrain your pet while driving so that they can’t distract you or cause injury to you or themselves if you stop suddenly.

We know how precious pets can be - they’re a member of the family and bringing them with you to the beach, park or even on holiday can add instant enjoyment. But, it’s important to protect them, and yourself, while driving. Here’s our guide to driving with dogs:

1. Allow your dog to become accustomed to traveling in the car before completing any long distances

Nervous or carsick dogs do not enjoy travelling in the car and it is unfair to force them into taking a long trip in a vehicle before they are ready.  

For nervous dogs, begin by taking them on short journeys. Take a familiar or favourite item with you such as a blanket or chew toy. You can also give them a treat for getting into the car and again when they are leaving the car. The more often you practice with them, the less nervous they will become.  

For carsick dogs, avoid feeding your dog before car journeys and make sure they are comfortable and that the car is well ventilated. If this doesn’t work you should talk to your vet.

2. Restrain your dog properly

This is a legal requirement. We recommend restraining your dog with a harness, a carrier, or behind a metal guard. The most suitable option will depend on the size and temperament of your dog.

For medium and large dogs, a harness that attaches to the seatbelt works well. The harness should go around the dog's chest, back and shoulders and attach to the car’s seat belt. Car harnesses are readily available from motor and pet shops and cost around €10. When buying a car harness ensure that it’s suitable for your dog’s weight and size and that it’s specifically used for cars.

For smaller dogs, a pet carrier is another good option. The carrier needs to be of correct size and should be secured in place with the seat belt or by placing it on the floor behind the front seat.  

Note: you should never place a carrier in the boot of a saloon car as your pet could suffocate. You should also never leave a carrier unsecured in the boot of a hatchback or estate as it would be thrown around in the event of a crash.

3. Pack a pet travelling kit

Pack the essentials such as water, water bowl, any medication, treats, blanket, lead and whatever else you might need. If travelling for a long distance, bring some food for your dog but allow them some time to digest their food before getting back on the road to avoid motion sickness.

4. Keep the car well ventilated and know the signs of overheating

Keep your air conditioning at a low temperature that’s comfortable for your dog. It’s important to keep the vehicle well ventilated to avoid overheating. 

Signs of overheating/heatstroke in dogs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Unwillingness to move
  • Agitation 
  • Signs of discomfort
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Dullness 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapsing

5. Never leave your dog alone in the car

We’ve all heard the horror stories of dogs dying from being left alone in hot cars or people having to smash car windows to rescue abandoned dogs from suffocation. It is cruel. If you are bringing your dog in the car, ensure wherever you’re visiting is dog friendly. 

6. Take breaks on long journeys

Just as a human needs to stretch their legs and have a snack after sometime in a car, your dog needs to too. Most large service stations have pet areas for walking and allowing your dog to go to the toilet. Just don’t forget your waste bags!

7. Don’t let your dog hang its head out the window

Although they may want to, hanging their heads out the car window can lead to injury or death from an oncoming vehicle or obstruction. Instead, leave the windows open a little amount and use your air con to keep your dog cool.

8. Ensure your pet is microchipped

Though microchips are a legal requirement in Ireland, not every dog has one. Get your dog microchipped and check that the information on the chip is up to date and correct. This is in case your dog wanders or becomes while you’re visiting an unknown area that’s far from home. It’s every owner’s worst nightmare but the microchip will increase your chances of being reunited with your furry friend. 


Looking for places to visit with your furry friend? Check out these articles for some inspiration: ‘10 Family Friendly Walks in Cork’ and ‘10 Family Friendly Walks in Galway’.


At AIG we offer a range of great value car insurance policies with benefits such as breakdown assistance and unlimited windscreen repair. Get an online car insurance quote in minutes and see what you can save with AIG.


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