The dos and don’ts of driving with your dog

Amy Bairstow
Amy Bairstow
The dos and don’ts of driving with your dog

Oh, the places you can go with your dog! There are endless adventures to be found on the other end of a car journey together. You could drive to calm water for a kayak, or head for a bushwalk in one of NSW’s dog-friendly state forests. Whatever your destination, there are a few key tips that will make your car trip comfy, safe and stress-free for all.

So whether you’re heading to the dog beach, or straight to the cafe for a puppuccino and a bone biscuit, check out these dos and don’ts for every canine car trip.

Do use safe restraints

Dogs love having the freedom to roam, but the car’s not the place for boundless enthusiasm. It’s illegal in many Aussie states and territories to travel with your dog unrestrained. If you’re travelling in a car, always use a dog car harness or crate that will keep your pet safely tethered to the seat. The back is best, as front airbags can pose a risk to canine companions.

And if your dog is travelling on the back of a ute, make sure their tether will be long enough for your pet to sit and relax, but not long enough for them to fall off the side or back.

Do think about pet comfort

Of course your pet’s comfort is front of mind, and here are a few specific things to consider ahead of a car trip together:

  • Take some short practice journeys if your pooch isn’t familiar with car trips just yet. A favourite toy or rug can help provide a familiar smell if Fido feels a bit anxious.
  • Consider where the sun will be in relation to your direction of travel, so you can either shift the dog’s spot or use car shades to keep them cool.
  • Avoid giving your pet a big meal just before a big journey to avoid an upset stomach. It can help to feed them a little earlier, or to split the meal into before and after the trip.
  • Older, smaller and heavy dogs might need an extra hand getting up into the car. There are some great foldable ramps and stairs available that can make this easier.

Do take regular breaks

We all like to stretch our legs, and dogs don’t have the words to say, “are we there yet?” So if you’re driving with your dog on a longer trip, be sure to break it up with regular rest stops. Pull over to a shady spot, and give your hound a few minutes to walk around and answer the call of nature. Offer them some fresh water, and maybe a reassuring snack. Regular stops can help pets feel much more settled when you get back to cranking the tunes and rolling down the highway.

Do make sure your dog’s collar is secure

Nobody wants to lose a beloved pet on a car journey. Before you leave, take a second to check that your dog’s collar and ID tag is secure and that their microchip is registered in your name. Be sure to attach your dog’s lead before getting out of the car too, just in case they happen to get excited or spooked in new surroundings.

Do make it fun

Driving with your dog shouldn’t just be for vet visits. The more brilliant adventures you go on together, the more likely your furry friend is to associate the car with fun experiences rather than stressful ones. Camping, hiking, doggy playdates and picnics - now’s the time to write up that epic buddy bucket list.

Don’t ignore the heat

Dogs can die in hot cars in as little as six minutes, and interior temperatures can easily double the outside digits even in mild weather. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs and older dogs can be particularly susceptible to heat stress.

Australia’s states and territories have different laws around leaving dogs in cars. In the NT, for example, it’s illegal to leave your dog in a car unattended at all, even if the windows are open. Meanwhile in NSW you must do everything possible to avoid cruelty or pain to an animal. No matter what, it’s important to keep dogs home during the heat of the day. If you need to fuel up at the servo, then consider how to keep them cool and safe while the engine is off. If you have any passengers with you, you can have them stand in the shade with pup on their leash.

Ute trays can also get intensely hot on warm days, so remember to provide shade, ventilation and floor insulation for your dog if they travel on the back.

Don’t get distracted

While your hound might love gazing adoringly into your eyes, your attention always needs to be on the road. Providing chew toys can help to minimise distractions if you’re driving with a new puppy. As for having a dog on the lap while driving - well, of course this is a no-no for obvious reasons, and can even result in a fine or demerit points. The best way to drive with a dog is to focus on safe, relaxed and distraction-free driving so you can set out on every adventure without worry.

Are you looking to upgrade your car to a more pooch-friendly model? Check out Carma’s curated selection of pre-owned cars in Sydney and travel in style. We offer free pickup or delivery and a 7-day return window, so you can make sure your new vehicle has the tick of approval from both you and your pet.

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