Road-trip ready! How to travel in the car with your dog | Antinol UK

Road-trip ready! How to travel in the car with your dog | Antinol UK

Travelling with your dog this summer? Make the car ride stress-free & safe. Learn the rules & prepare for the journey, for a comfortable trip for your furry friend.

By Antinol Team

The temperatures are rising, school is nearly over, and we are heading for summer fun! If you’re planning to stay in the UK this summer, heading for a beach staycation, or are visiting family—no doubt there are some long car journey’s ahead.

Travelling in the car with your dog on long trips can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know, including legal requirements, restraint options, and preparing you and your dog for the journey ahead.

The law on travelling in the car with your dog

When it comes to travelling with dogs in the car, it's essential to be aware of the legal requirements. These have changed fairly recently, so you may be unfamiliar with the new rules.

The Highway Code

Point 57 of the UK Highway Code states…

“When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

This means that if your dog is loose in the car, you could easily be distracted, causing you to have an accident. If an animal isn't restrained correctly, you could face points on your licence and a £5000 fine. Not only that, but it could invalidate your pet and car insurance. So it’s worth following the rules.

Can dogs travel in the front seat of a car?

This may be possible with the correct harness and seatbelt, but the recommendation is that dogs travel in the rear seats or the boot. If your dog travels in the front seats, it could be deemed a distraction, resulting in fines. There are also greater risks to your dog in the front seat. If the airbags are deployed, they can cause serious injury or even death to your dog.

And the classic, head out of the window, tongue out movie moment… although many dogs love it, it could also be deemed a safety risk and distraction. So keep your pooches safely inside, and follow the highway code.

How to restrain your dog in the car

The Highway Code says they must be restrained, but what are your options for safely travelling with your dog in the car?


Using a travel crate or carrier is an excellent way to secure your dog during car journeys. Make sure the crate is appropriately sized and securely fastened to prevent it from moving around. You can also have these custom-made to fit your car’s make and model. Although they are a little more expensive, you know they fit and won't move about, plus they make the best use of space for your dog.

Dog guards/barriers

Installing a dog guard or barrier between the back seat and the boot of your car creates a safe and confined space for your dog. It stops them from roaming freely through the car, potentially causing accidents or injuries. These can also be custom-made for your car. If you have a large boot and a small dog, you can have them fitted to ensure you also have storage space left in the boot—safely separating your dog from your luggage.

Seatbelt and harness

Specialised seatbelt fastenings allow your dog to be securely fastened to the car's seatbelt system. These may be attached through the seatbelt or plugged directly into your car’s seatbelt connector. This option provides some freedom of movement while still keeping your dog restrained. Always use these with a harness rather than attaching them to your dog’s collar. Connecting to a collar is more likely to cause harm to your dog during an accident or under heavy braking.

Pet carriers

For smaller dogs, a pet carrier can be a suitable option. Ensure the carrier is well-ventilated and securely positioned in the car to prevent it from sliding or toppling over during the journey. A fabric one may be a better option than a plastic-based carrier—these will give your pet more grip and prevent them from sliding around inside.

Before you go…

Don’t just hit the road on an epic journey; here are some things to consider before driving long distances with your dog.

Short trips first

If your dog is new to car travel, build the distance up. Take them on shorter trips to acclimate them to the feelings and sounds of car travel. That way, they'll feel less stressed and anxious when it’s time for the long journey.


Dogs in the UK legally need to be wearing some form of ID, but this is doubly important on long journeys in case you were to get separated. Check that your contact details are current to ensure rescuers can get in touch.

Consider travel sickness

As with people, some dogs suffer from travel sickness. If your dog struggles to keep his dinner down on short journeys, contact your vet for support. They may be able to prescribe you some travel sickness medication to make the long journey a more comfortable experience for everyone in the car!

Car sickness may also be linked to anxiety, so try a calming pheromone product or a specially formulated pet aromatherapy product to help your dog to relax.

Make it comfy

The more comfortable your dog is, the more pleasant their travelling experience will be. So have their favourite blankets available. If there are likely to be lots of stops, and getting in and out of the car, consider using steps or a car ramp. This is particularly important for dogs with mobility concerns, as jumping in and out of the car can be more difficult for them.

Tire them out

A tired dog is more likely to relax and settle into a car journey, so take them out before you hit the road. Let them run off some energy (and go to the toilet).

On your car journey

Keep it cool

If the sun is shining, remember that the air conditioning may not be too effective right back in the boot of your car. Put a sunshade on the back windscreen to prevent the boot from heating up in warm weather.

Carry water

Keep your dog hydrated throughout the journey. Non-spill water bowls are available, and some designs are very effective. If that isn’t an option, offer your dog plenty of water to drink throughout your journey.

Keep them safe

Get a passenger to regularly check on them throughout the journey (or stop somewhere safe if you’re alone). Are they relaxed and happy? Do they need a drink? Are their restraints still correctly connected, and they haven’t become entangled?

Toilet breaks

It’s not just you that needs a wee-stop! Get them out for regular breaks in a safe location for a toilet stop. If you’re near a road, make sure you keep them on their lead.


If your dog does worry on car journeys, give them things to distract them. A favourite toy, a lick mat with a small amount of food, or even a snuffle mat will prevent restlessness and help them to stay calm.

When you arrive

Yey! You made it!

When you arrive, make sure your dog has a chance to stretch their legs, burn off some energy and go to the toilet.

It’s been a loooong journey, but now it's time to have some summer fun. Go adventuring!

Planning to head to sunnier climes this year? Check out our guide to travelling abroad to the EU with your pet.

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