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Dogs in vehicles – transporting them safely and legally

Transporting your dog in a vehicle isn’t merely a question of finding a comfortable bed, it must comply with the law too, says Jamie Tusting

dogs in vehicles

Millie, my cocker spaniel, has been with me long enough now that we know each other pretty well and I trust her completely. Having spent the early part of her life travelling around in the back of the car, confined to a dog crate, she is very relaxed while on the move. (Read how to crate train your working dog.)

Dogs in vehicles

But the transportation of dogs is something that varies greatly from owner to owner and from dog to dog. The type of journey, the type of dog, its behaviour and how much time it is to spend in the vehicle are merely some of the many factors that have to be taken in to consideration when putting dogs in vehicles. I had Millie as a puppy when I was a lowly graduate rural surveyor and I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t allowed to bring her to the office. It was far from an ideal situation, especially as a new dog owner and very much learning the ropes. So Millie spent many an hour in the boot of my parked car at the office park I worked on.

On the hotter days, I would spend my tea breaks manoeuvring the car into the shade of the trees scattered across the car park. Nervous about leaving the boot and windows too far ajar and presenting an opportune moment for a dog thief, I bought a nifty contraption that allowed me to lock the car with the boot slightly open. The flow of air through the car and the damp towel I’d put over the cage kept it remarkably cool.

The RSPCA was called out on one scorching day by someone in a neighbouring office who had reported me for causing my dog extreme distress. The man from the RSPCA arrived and Millie greeted him with a wagging tail. After using his thermometer to determine that the temperature in the cage was actually a modest 17°C, he left me alone.

What the two years of this charade taught me, though, was that routine and a sensible approach, along with quite a lot of diligence, made it possible to have dogs in vehicles.

country men

When shooting, we have to carry all sorts of clobber as well as our dogs


When I moved jobs and was allowed to take Millie into the office, I became increasingly relaxed about dogs in vehicles, to the point where Millie would merrily hop into the boot alongside whatever other clobber and baggage was in there. When I opened the boot at any arrival point, Millie would be quietly tucked up comfortably on whatever she found most comfortable. This would sometimes be an old coat, occasionally a holdall and, on the very odd occasion, she would form a nest out of my wellington boots. The cage was relegated to the garage.

It was all rather relaxed, as having a good, well-trained dog should be.

Dog in car boot

As well as safety, comfort rates highly when deciding on a transport system

When we got our second spaniel, Jura, I initially continued the relaxed approach to dog transportation. Jura, however, quickly put me back in my place. A series of chewed items including a raincoat and a wellington put me on edge. The puppy launching herself from the boot in a Morrison’s car park instigated change.

I had lost the appreciation for how important it was for dogs to be transported in cars safely, securely and legally. And scouring the internet for appropriate dog transportation equipment began.

transporting dogs in crate

It is vital that your dog is secure and comfortable in its travelling crate

My first port of call was Lintran, based in Lincolnshire, with 35 years of expertise to its name. With a wide range of products on offer for every size and shape of both dog and car, it seemed like a great bet. High on its list of reasons for transporting dogs properly is the safety of both the dog and any passengers. Lintran explained that numerous customers who had been in accidents had been able to keep their dogs from harm because they weren’t launched across the car’s cabin on an impact. It sounded pretty sensible stuff, but it wasn’t really something I had considered before.

Lintran has been involved in the fitting out of all sorts of vehicles, from dog ambulances for vet practices, fire, search and rescue services, security vans and for the military.

Its most popular dog crates, though, were for Land Rovers and I had recently swapped my VW Tiguan for a Discovery Sport, so I felt like I was in the right place.

However, despite there being a wealth of experience and availability at Lintran, I couldn’t quite find the right one for me. The Lintran dog boxes seemed a little heavy duty and seemed to take up quite a bit of space in the boot. While I wanted to keep Jura contained, I didn’t think I needed the same for Millie, and she was still pretty happy whichever spot she found herself curled up in. So a balance needed to be struck.

Orvis dog crate

Orvis makes a folding nylon dog crate in three sizes with a washable sherpa fleece mat

For Jura, after the car park debacle, it seemed essential to keep her corralled, and eventually I found a suitable little soft crate that fitted neatly in the boot. The size and convenience of it seemed ideal. But it wasn’t and Jura made light work of it, chewing through the zip-up door within 30 minutes and escaping into the car, where she munched through an iPhone charging cable.

I failed to learn from my mistake and bought a second fabric crate, lured by the price and convenience. The second one lasted marginally longer, probably because her bed was despatched first, but the hole in the fabric taught me a lesson. A small metal crate was ordered, which fitted pretty neatly in the boot, allowing plenty of space for both Millie and a decent amount of kit too.

Just as I was beginning to think I’d solved the problem, a friend of mine with a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever pointed out that I was still not transporting my dogs legally. I doubt many people are aware that travelling in a vehicle with a loose dog can result in a £5,000 fine. The projectile that an untethered or uncontained dog becomes on impact during a crash doesn’t sit very well with the road traffic authorities nor, I suspect, with the dog. (Read transporting dogs in cars – are you breaking the law?)

Rising costs

Millie therefore had to be confined in some way. Gone were the days of her falling asleep on the passenger seat in the front. I turned my search towards dog guards, which also seem to come in all shapes and sizes. The cost differential between the bottom end and the top end was quite remarkable, ranging from tens of pounds up to hundreds.

This time, I went towards the higher end of the spectrum. A very sturdy dog guard arrived from Travall and was easily fitted. I’m now rather pleased with my set-up; Millie on a bed in the boot, prevented from being flung across the car in the event of a collision, and Jura safely confined to a cage, out of chewing reach of anything left in the car. (Read our guide to the best dog beds.)

It isn’t an easy one to get completely right, because there will always be something that doesn’t work. A nice big cage, giving your dog plenty of space, might then mean you have to compromise on luggage space, or two different dogs might each require something a bit different. But the fundamentals to work by are as follows: make sure your dog is able to be relaxed in your car, is safe from the outside world and is secured against causing you accidental harm. All this will make sure you are transporting dogs in vehicles legally, comfortably and safely.