How to Travel Safely with a Dog in a Car

Travelling with your furry friend can be a wonderful experience, but it requires careful planning and consideration to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for both you and your dog. Whether you’re taking short journeys or embarking on a long trip, following these guidelines will help make the experience enjoyable and stress-free. 

This article offers practical tips and advice on preparing for the trip, securing your dog in the car, maintaining their comfort and well-being, and how best to deal with traveling long distances with your canine companion.


Preparing for the Trip with Your Dog

Preparation is key when it comes to traveling with your dog. Before hitting the road, plan your route and schedule to include plenty of rest stops. Research pet-friendly establishments along the way where you can take breaks. Ensure your car is in good condition and your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. Consider a visit to the vet beforehand to discuss any potential travel-related health concerns. And make sure that you have taken the dog with you on a few shorter trips.

Let your dog get familiar with travelling in the car, before undertaking a longer trip, we’ll look at this in more detail below.


Packing Essentials for Your Dog

Packing a travel kit for your dog is crucial. The most essential items are food and water, along with bowls for each. As well as a leash and harness for walks during breaks and of course, waste bags for cleaning up after your dog. It’s also a good idea to bring comfort items like a favourite toy or blanket. You can bring a first-aid kit tailored to your dog’s needs, or at the very least, any medications your dog may need during the trip as well as a copy of your dog’s medical records in case of emergencies.


Familiarising Your Dog with the Car

Begin with short, enjoyable trips around the neighbourhood. Keep these initial rides brief, lasting only a few minutes. Gradually increase the duration of the rides as your dog becomes more comfortable. Short trips to fun destinations like a nearby park or a friend’s house can make the car experience enjoyable.

Establish a consistent routine when it comes to car rides. Use the same commands and follow the same steps each time you prepare for a trip. This consistency helps your dog understand what to expect and reduces anxiety. For example, you might use a specific phrase like “Let’s go for a drive” every time you’re about to travel.

Securing Your Dog in the Car

Make sure you adhere to all the laws and legal requirements in Ireland for driving with dogs. In Ireland, it's important to ensure your dog is properly restrained while traveling in a car. Unrestrained pets can cause distractions, increasing the risk of accidents, and in the event of a collision, they can become projectiles, causing injury to themselves and others.


Different Ways to Secure Your Dog in the Car

There are several ways to keep your dog safe and secure in the car:

  • Safety Harnesses: Attach to the seat belt system and allow some movement while keeping your dog secure. It’s important to ensure that the dog can’t become entangled in the harness.
  • Crates: Provide a safe, enclosed space for your dog, reducing distractions and increasing safety. Make sure that you have the correct size so that your dog can lie down comfortably.
  • Barriers: Separate the cargo area from the rest of the car, useful for larger dogs. Installed between the boot and the rest of the car, it will keep your dog away from the other passengers but will not protect the animal in a crash.
  • Dog Seats: Elevated seats with built-in harnesses, ideal for smaller dogs to give them a better view while keeping them secure.


Are Dogs Allowed in the Front Seat of the Car?

While it’s not illegal for dogs to sit in the front seat in Ireland, it’s generally safer for them to travel in the back. Airbags in the front seat can cause serious injury to dogs if deployed. If you must have your dog in the front seat, use a crash-tested harness and disable the passenger airbag.


Keeping Your Dog Calm and Comfortable in the Car

A calm and comfortable dog makes for a safer journey. Ensure your dog is familiar with the car, and bring along their favourite comfort items. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the car using air conditioning and avoid feeding your dog just before the trip to minimize the risk of car sickness.


Dealing with Common Issues Such as Barking, Crying, and Drooling

Dogs may bark, cry, or drool due to anxiety or excitement. To address these issues:

  • Barking: Provide plenty of exercise before the trip to tire them out. Use calming aids like pheromone sprays or calming collars if needed.
  • Crying: Ensure your dog is comfortable and has familiar items around. Regular breaks can help alleviate stress.
  • Drooling: Motion sickness can cause drooling. Ensure good ventilation and consult your vet about anti-nausea medications if needed.

Addressing Motion Sickness in Dogs

Motion sickness is common in dogs, especially puppies. Symptoms include excessive drooling, whining, and vomiting. To minimize motion sickness:

  • Feed your dog a light meal a few hours before traveling.
  • Keep the car well-ventilated and maintain a cool temperature.
  • Use specially designed dog seats that allow your pet to see outside the window.
  • Consult your vet about medications that can help prevent motion sickness.


Traveling Long-Distance with Dogs in the Car

The best strategies for traveling long distances with dogs requires additional planning. Take frequent breaks to allow your dog to stretch, hydrate, and relieve themselves. Ensure your dog has access to water throughout the journey to prevent dehydration. Exercise your dog during breaks to expend their excess energy and try stick to your dog’s regular feeding schedule as closely as possible.


Tip: Hitting the motorway? Read our guide on how to drive on the motorway.


Research and plan your rest stops in advance. Look for pet-friendly establishments, such as parks or rest areas with designated pet zones. Avoid leaving your dog alone in the car, especially on warm days, as temperatures can rise quickly. Use these breaks to check on your dog’s comfort and well-being, adjusting their setup if necessary.



Traveling with your dog can be a rewarding experience when done safely and thoughtfully. By planning ahead, securing your dog properly, and taking steps to ensure their comfort and well-being, you can make car journeys enjoyable for both you and your canine companion.

For more tips on safe driving, visit our content hub. To learn more about car insurance options that include coverage for pet-related incidents, visit our car insurance page.

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