How to Prepare Your Car for a Dog

Cars have almost become our natural habitat, with the amount of time we spend in them and how comfortable manufacturers make them for us. We’re familiar with the sounds, sights and vibrations of a car in motion, but the same can’t be said for our canine companions. An extra effort needs to be made to ensure that dogs are as comfy and safe as we are when going for a ride.

We’ll walk you through some of the things you can do to make the environment inside your car ideal for a dog. Not only will it make their experience less stressful, but it’ll also help you protect your vehicle from any unintended damage. It’s worth putting aside some time to make sure they’ll have the best possible time, especially if they’re anxious travellers or if they’ve never been in a car before.

Make their Area Soft
With dogs, the two places you’d have them sit is either the back seats or the boot. Both of these places can be made much comfier with some towels or blankets thrown across them. Whatever old or shaggy coverings you can spare to make sitting and laying easier on them will be appreciated, since some car upholstery can be rough on their paws. This also goes for cages; make sure it’s a soft place for them while still giving them enough room to move about. Bringing some old blankets with familiar scents will help them stay calm, too.

Additionally, towels and blankets will protect said upholstery from your dog; their claws could scratch up seats while they try to keep balance in a moving car, not to mention absorb any accidents that could happen on a trip. It’s something that needs planning for, in case they’re unfortunately caught short on a load trip. Speaking of which, don’t forget to bring some spare coverings – they can be a lifesaver.

Plan for Extra Stops
You can help your dog before you even get in the car, by making extra accommodations in your itinerary for them. Even pets who are the most comfortable in cars will need breaks on long trips, to stretch their legs, have a drink and a snack and relieve themselves. This will be especially important on longer cross-country trips, where some dogs might become restless being cooped up for prolonged periods of time.

The Highway Code recommends stopping for 15 minutes every two hours, so why not you and your pooch take some rest together? Don’t forget to keep your lead and bags handy in the car too, as your dog will always be eager to hop out and explore their surroundings.

Keep the Car Cool, but Take Care with Windows
The comfort of your dog also extends to the temperature of your car. If you can, try to keep things nice and cool before they get in, by parking in the shade or airing out the vehicle before you set off. A hot dog will be a restless, slobbery dog who’ll need more hydration. Speaking of hydration, a travel bottle or bowl can help keep them cool, just remember to stick to your rest schedule.

Cracking the window open nearest them during the journey is a great to help them cool down, just don’t open it too much! Dogs sticking their heads out of windows is a cliché for a reason, and they’ll  take the opportunity to see what they can get away with (some may even jump out if they see something to chase).

Strap them in
Speaking of keeping dogs safe, strapping your dog in will help protect them, in case of an accident. Just using the seatbelt isn’t practical; purchasing a seatbelt harness will let you attach them to the belt or buckle in the backseat, letting them take advantage of your car’s key safety feature. This could be especially important if they’re travelling on the back seats with other (human) passengers, as they might be tempted to clamber over them while on the road, or try to move into the front of the cabin.

Acclimatise young dogs
If it’s your own dog you’re chauffeuring, then one of the best things you can do to prepare your car is to train them. It’s common for owners to only drive their pets to places they might find distressing, like the vets or groomers. Dogs might then associate car journeys with the stress of these places, making it much harder to get them in and settled when you want to go somewhere nice.

There is, of course, a simple fix to this: vary where you take your dog in the car! Drive to new walking spots or take them with you when you visit friends or family. Not only will it pay dividends when you plan longer trips, but it means exploring with your dog and exposing them to new sights, sounds and smells. What better excuse for spending the day on a drive and walk than “it’s all for little Stanley!”

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