Have you ever wondered where in your vehicle is the safest place for your dog? Should you crate a dog in the car? Let’s take a look at the options available before making a decision.
Where is the safest place in a car for a dog?
When travelling with a dog in a car, the safest place is typically in the back seat. In general, the rear seat area is considered safer for both human passengers and pets because it is farther away from the front of the vehicle where collisions often occur. Further considerations would be:
Airbags: The front seat is equipped with airbags, and they can be dangerous for dogs in the event of an accident. If the airbag deploys, it can cause serious injury to a dog. Be sure to turn the passenger airbag off if you ever have your dog riding shotgun (and back on if you take a human passenger!)
Distractions: Having a dog in the car can be distracting for the driver, which increases the risk of an accident. It’s essential to minimize distractions while driving so your dog should be securely restrained and preferably out of the driver’s eyeline.
Restraints: Dogs should be properly restrained while in the car to prevent them from moving around too much, which can be dangerous for both the dog and the occupants of the vehicle. There are various types of dog seat belts, harnesses, and crates available to secure them in the back seat.
If a dog is travelling in the back seat and the car has a crate secured properly, it may benefit from the additional protection provided by the crumple zones. The crate can act as a protective barrier and help prevent the dog from being thrown around in the event of a collision.
Should the crate be in the cargo area?
A crumple zone in a car is a part of the vehicle’s structure designed to absorb and manage the energy generated during a collision. It’s usually located in the front of the car and is engineered to deform or “crumple” in a controlled manner upon impact. The purpose of the crumple zone is to reduce the force transferred to the occupants inside the car during a crash, thereby minimizing the risk of injury.
Some vehicles have separate crumple zones for the cargo area, while others do not. If the cargo area is part of the vehicle’s crumple zone, it might not be the safest place for a pet during a collision.
Which crates are safest?
The safest dog crates for travel are ones which have been ‘crash tested’ independently by the manufacturer.
We do a full review of crashed tested crates available in the US and UK here.
If you’re thinking of using a normal, wire mesh crate in your car you can but they offer very little in extra protection and safety for your dog in the event of an accident.
Traveling legally with your dog
Three states have specific laws regarding traveling with your dog in a vehicle;
|Hawaii||Requires dogs to be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash.|
|New Jersey||Requires dogs to be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash.|
|Rhode Island||Requires dogs to be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash.|
Other states have laws but are more specific to pick up trucks or where you can have your dog in the car;
All other states have no specific laws requiring dogs to be restrained in a vehicle. However, many states have general animal cruelty laws that could be applied to drivers who transport their dogs in a way that is unsafe or inhumane. Additionally, some states have laws prohibiting dogs from being loose in the front seat of a vehicle, or from being transported in the bed of a pickup truck without proper restraints.
Here are some additional state laws and guidelines regarding restraining dogs in vehicles:
- Arizona: It is illegal to drive with a dog on your lap in Arizona.
- California: It is illegal to drive with a dog on your lap in California. Additionally, drivers in Los Angeles may be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed if they’re caught with a dog in their lap.
- Connecticut: Dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when transported in the bed of a pickup truck.
- Maine: Dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when transported in a vehicle.
- Massachusetts: Dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when transported in the bed of a pickup truck.
- Minnesota: Dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when transported in the bed of a pickup truck.
It is important to note that even if your state does not have a specific law requiring dogs to be restrained in vehicles, it is still a good idea to do so for the safety of your dog and yourself. In the event of an accident, an unrestrained dog could be thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured or killed.
The Brits have similar laws regarding restraining dogs in vehicles. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that you must “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.”
This means that you cannot simply have your dog loose in the car, or sitting on your lap. You must use a restraint such as a harness and seat belt, a pet carrier, or a dog cage.
Dog restraint laws in Australia vary by state and territory. However, there are some general guidelines that apply across the country.
- It is illegal to drive with a dog on your lap in any state or territory.
- Dogs must be restrained in the back of a ute or trailer in all states and territories.
- Dogs should not be left unattended in a hot vehicle.
Some states and territories have additional laws regarding dog restraint in vehicles. For example:
- In Victoria, dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when travelling in a vehicle.
- In South Australia, dogs must be secured with a harness or leash when travelling in the back of a ute or trailer.
- In Western Australia, dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when travelling in the back of a ute or trailer.
Dog restraint laws in Canada vary by province and territory. However, there are some general guidelines that apply across the country.
- It is illegal to drive with a dog on your lap in any province or territory.
- Dogs must be restrained in the back of a pickup truck or trailer in all provinces and territories.
- Dogs should not be left unattended in a hot vehicle.
Some provinces and territories have additional laws regarding dog restraint in vehicles. For example:
- In Ontario, dogs must be restrained in a crate or with a harness or leash when travelling in a vehicle.
- In New Brunswick, dogs must be secured with a harness or leash when travelling in a vehicle.
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, dogs must be secured in a crate or with a harness or leash when travelling in a vehicle.
What size dog crate should I get for the car?
Unless you’ve chosen a make and model specific dog crate (in which case they are usually only available in one size) you should choose the smallest possible crate that allows your dog to stand upright in it.
This will ensure the crate is big enough to satisfy any welfare considerations but being the smallest size possible to decrease the distance your dog will be thrown in an accident. E.g. in a smaller crate, your dog may be lying a few inches from the side of the crate that it will be thrown against in an accident. In a larger crate, this distance will be further and so their injuries may be greater.
Should I take off my dog’s lead in the car crate?
When transporting a dog in a crate in a car, it’s generally recommended to remove the dog’s lead to prevent any potential hazards. Here are a few reasons for this:
- Safety: Leaving a lead or collar on a dog in a crate can pose a safety risk. In the event of sudden stops or a collision, there is a possibility of the lead getting caught on the crate or other objects, potentially causing injury to the dog.
- Restrictions: The lead or collar may restrict the dog’s movement within the crate, and during an impact, it could lead to the dog being restrained in a way that is not safe.
- Escape Prevention: Removing the lead reduces the risk of the dog getting tangled or caught on something when exiting or entering the crate, especially if the lead has a clip or buckle.
What should I put in my dog’s car crate?
Bearing in mind that your dog will be using the crate after muddy, wet or sandy walks then having something that is absorbent and easy to clean is key when lining your dog crates in the car.
For this reason, we recommend vet bedding (just as we do for indoor crates too!) but for the car we like the one with a non slip backing to it. This stops the dog and the bedding from sliding around whilst travelling.
Because you’re not actively supervising the dog during travel I would not put any chews in with them as they could be a choking hazard, but I would provide water in a non-spill bowl (the clip-on bowls tend to spill over).
Ready to start crate training your dog?
All articles on tetradog.com are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.
- · Foundation degree (Level 5) in canine behaviour management
- · WSDA instructor (World Scent Dogs Association) and level 1 competition judge
- · ADTB Puppy level instructor Diploma
- · Diploma in Puppy Training
- · Diploma in canine behavior training
- · Canine First Aider
- · Veterinary Support Assistant Diploma
- · Completed Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Sirius academy
- · Owner of an extraordinary working Cocker spaniel called Huckleberry