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A guide to transporting your dog

From dogs in the boot to a puppy travelling in the car, learn how to transport your canine companion and ensure you and your furry friends are safe.

Travelling safely with your dog

Whether you’re heading overseas, somewhere in the UK or just nipping somewhere local together, there are many considerations to think about when travelling with your dog. Make sure you’re both safe and secure on the journey with this guide.

Travelling in the UK with dogs

Driving with dogs is the most common way to travel with pets the UK, but taking the train or bus is also an option. Public transport usually allows pets, but coaches can have exceptions so always check ahead of travelling. 

Whether in an SUV, in a doggy-carrier, or curled up beneath your feet on the bus, the RSPC advises your dog:

  • Has regular breaks, both to move and to go toilet. 
  • Can access food and water at the usual times – gelled water in a non-spilled container is recommended.
  • Is well-ventilated – don’t leave your dog in the car in even slightly warm weather, as this can lead to heatstroke.
  • Can’t get loose, break free, or escape, even if they’re the most well-behaved boy or girl. 
  • Travels during the coolest part of the day and when it is less busy.

Check out our guide to the most dog friendly cities in the UK if you’re looking for some inspiration on where to travel.

Travelling with a dog in the car

Dogs are curious and love to explore. However, car journeys can be an overwhelming experience for them. If you’re driving with a dog in the car, there are safety measures and accessories to make their journey safer.

  • Travel crate – Crates are the perfect way to keep your furry friend safe and secure. It also prevents them from disturbing the driver. Travel crates fit in the boot of the car, keeping the main space free for passengers.
  • Car harness – These fit around the chest and upper body like a standard harness. The vehicle’s seat belt slips through an opening or strap on the back of the harness to securely belt your dog into the car.
  • Carrier – Carriers are a snugger refuge for your dog, with a square base that takes up less space when putting your dog in the boot. Some carriers can be placed in the back seat and attached to the seatbelt, similar to a harness.
  • Boot gate – Boot gates act as a barrier between the boot of the car and the main space. This prevents your dog from jumping to the front of the car, while also giving them enough space to relax in the boot without too much restriction.

Rules for dogs in cars

The law on dogs in cars in the UK has changed over time as vehicle technology and designs have evolved. 

According to Rule 57 of the Highway Code, dogs must be ‘suitably restrained’ when in a car so they don’t throw off the driver or cause injury to themselves or others. Failure to secure your dog in the car can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and even a court appearance. This means that dogs in the boot will also need to be suitably restrained. 

The Code recommends using a dog seat belt attachment or proper harness to secure your dog in the car. If your pup is loose and moving around the car, you could potentially be charged with ‘careless driving’. It also advises keeping your dog in the back seat. However, if your dog is in the front passenger seat, you must disable the passenger airbag.

Make sure to check your car insurance policy to see if it includes any information when driving with a dog or puppy in the car. 

Ultimately, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest government rules for dogs in cars to avoid charges and always ensure your pup’s safety. 

For more information, take a look at this guide to travelling with your dog in the car from the RAC.

Driving with dogs in the EU

Depending on the country you’re visiting, there may be different rules about travelling with pets.

Here’s a quick checklist of things to do before you set off:

  • Get your dog vaccinated and ensure they’re de-wormed.
  • Microchip your dog.
  • Check any laws on bringing a dog across borders.
  • Research if there are any local laws about driving with a dog in your car or travelling with one. Think about all the ways you may want to journey. For example, they may not allow dogs to travel loose at all.

You may also need to look at getting a dog passport or animal health certificate. 

Learn more about pet holidays and passports, with our handy guide.

Transporting dogs on ferries and planes

You can take your dog in planes and ferries, but there are some things to note:

  • Many UK airlines will allow dogs, but only in the hold. 
  • Sometimes, airlines may allow certain types of dogs into the cabin, but this is an exception, so do your research.
  • If you require a guide dog or other form of service dog, they should be allowed in the cabin.
  • If you’re flying with a service dog, you may need documentation to prove its status.

Assuming they’ve got their sea legs, you can bring a dog on a ferry. If you’re driving with a dog and plan to take a ferry, it should be smooth sailing. Just ensure the ferry company officials responsible for loading know that you have a live animal in your vehicle and follow their instructions. 

Learn more about taking your dog abroad by checking any guidelines.

Dog travel checklist

Whether you’re driving with your dogs in the car, or leaving your pooch at home, proper preparation is always paramount.

Before you set off make sure:

  • You’ve arranged any immunisations for your dog.
  • You’ve washed and trimmed your dog’s coat and clipped its claws.
  • You’ve arranged any medication you might need for travel.
  • Gather microchip information.
  • Collect any of your dog’s belongings you can transport, such as bowls, a small bed, or toys. This helps familiarity.

Protecting your dog while travelling

Whether you’re bringing your dog in your car, or leaving them at home, Sainsbury’s Bank dog insurance ensures they’re protected.

Provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc.

Holiday cover

It doesn’t matter if you’re enjoying a sandy stroll with your Shih Tzu or a country walk with your Cocker Spaniel – Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance can protect your dog abroad.

Here are some of the benefits you can get when you protect your pet:

  • Protection against vet fees overseas.
  • Cover against costs incurred from lost or stolen travel documents.
  • Assistance with additional accommodation charges. For example, if your pet goes missing, or cannot return home as scheduled.

Additionally, you can use holiday cancellation cover – even if you decide to leave your pup back at your pad. If your dog needs lifesaving treatment or goes missing, you may need to cancel your holiday. In these events, holiday cancellation cover can protect you against the cost of lost travel or accommodation – up to a set amount.

Going somewhere your dog can’t come along?

If you’re heading somewhere that’s not dog-friendly then you’ll need to make plans for someone to look after your pooch when you’re not there. 

You’ve got two choices, usually, when looking for someone to care for your pup.

Friends and relatives

We’ve all got friends or family members who love dogs, sometimes they might want their own dog but aren’t in a position to get one yet. This can be a great choice: it’s cheap, comfortable for your pet and carer, and you can check in easily.

If they live a busy life, you could look into some gear to help your temporary carer out, such as automatic feeders. The only downside is you can’t guarantee people will be available.

Kennels and boarding 

Kennels all offer different things, and the environment can be unfamiliar for your dog. So, it’s important to spend time to find the right one. 

When researching a suitable animal boarding spot, make sure to consider:

  • Exercise – your dog will need plenty of exercise and space to roam and play freely.
  • Insurance cover – will need to be in place in case your dog needs emergency care.
  • Number of staff – three staff members are better than one when looking after all the animals.
  • Medical issues – your pup’s medical conditions will need to be accommodated at all times.
  • Monitoring – a suitable system to monitor pets in the day and evening is important.
  • Social contact – staff will need to spend time with your dog each day and give them the social contact they need.

If it’s your first time choosing an animal boarding place, you can contact local councils, search online for local places, or speak to your vet. Always visit the boarder before choosing one.

So, whether your beloved pup is in the care of a friend or family member, or with a reputable boarding accommodation, you can have peace of mind that they’re getting the care and attention they deserve while you’re away. 

Helpful pet guides

Need something to keep you busy while travelling? Here’s a handful of handy guides and interesting articles.

Pet health and wellbeing

Tips on keeping your pet healthy and happy, whether you’re at home or away.

What else am I covered for?

Learn more about microchipping and see what it can do to help find missing pets.

Pets and holidays

Discover the ins and outs of holidaying with your favourite pet.

Any questions?

We’ve got the answers to our pet insurance customers’ most common questions.

Frequently asked questions

Can a passenger hold a dog in the car?

No, dogs should not be held in the car. The Highway Code covering transporting dogs in cars states they should be ‘suitably restrained’ while in a vehicle. Using a harness or dog seat belt will prevent a dog from distracting the driver or causing injury to themselves or others. 

Can dogs sit in the front seat?

Yes, dogs can sit in the front seat as long as they are securely fastened in. It is advisable to move the seat as far back as it can go and deactivate the front passenger airbag as an added safety measure.

How do you transport a dog that can’t walk?

The safest and easiest way to move a dog that can’t walk is to use a pet carrier. These are soft, snug and will allow you to place your dog in the boot of the car. There are different types of carriers, so make sure to choose one that is comfortable and suits your dog best.

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