As anyone with a dog understands all too well, our four-legged friends are as much a part of the family as anyone else. It’s little wonder that for many dog owners, the idea of heading off on holiday without their fur baby is akin to leaving without their kidneys. More and more caravan parks are cottoning on to this and as such pet-friendly accommodation is on the rise. Add to the mix a network of fantastic free camps around our great country – many of which are pet-friendly – and you’ve got loads of options when it comes to holidaying with your fur baby.
But finding somewhere fabulous to stay is only part of the challenge; you’ve also got to be able to transport your pup in a way that is safe for both her and the vehicle’s human passengers. Sure, the idea of cruising off into the sunset in a two-seater convertible with man’s best friend taking pride of place on the passenger seat, gums flapping joyfully in the breeze might seem adventurous, but the reality is there are much safer and more comfortable ways for them to travel. Here are some of your options.
1. CAR HARNESS
You wouldn’t hit the highway if your kids didn’t have their seatbelts on, so why let pooch travel without hers? A car harness is a simple, cost-effective way to keep your dog safe while still allowing them to feel like one of the family on the back seat.
PROS: Cheap, portable, and safe.
CONS: Fidgety dogs can get tangled and twisted, requiring a passenger to help them out.
TOP TIP: Don’t put your dog in the passenger seat if your vehicle has airbags, as these can injure your pooch in the event of an accident. The backseat is a safer option.
2. DOG CRATE
By far the safest option for everyone in the vehicle is to transport the dog in a collapsible, wire, or hard plastic travel crate. In the event of an accident, the dog’s chances of injuring itself or passengers are greatly reduced, and the dog cannot get up to any funny business that could distract the driver.
PROS: Very safe and serves as a portable kennel when you get to camp. With some training, your dog will come to see this as her safe place.
CONS: Can take up quite a bit of space in the car, depending on the size of the dog (they need to be able to stand up fully, turn around and lie down comfortably).
TOP TIP: Secure the crate in place with an octopus strap and position it as close to the middle of the car as possible, for example, pressed against the boot divider. This will keep the dog safe if someone should run into the back of you, which is the most common vehicle collision.
3. REAR SEAT HAMMOCK
For freestyle pups, a rear seat hammock is a good option that provides them with the ability to move around, look out windows and get comfortable. It clips onto the front and rear headrests protecting your rear upholstery and preventing the dog from getting into the front or on the floor.
PROS: The dog can see out the window and is free to spread out and get comfy. This can help with travel sickness.
CONS: Takes up the entire back seat, so only suitable for traveling singles or pairs.
TOP TIP: This could be used in conjunction with a car harness to ensure the dog is adequately secure in an accident or a sudden stop.
4. REAR SEAT DOG BASKET/HALF HAMMOCK
A space-saving variation on the rear seat hammock, the dog basket/half hammock clips onto one front headrest and the back headrest behind it, creating a ‘basket’ for your dog to sit in. This is particularly useful if you need the other two backseats for passengers or luggage.
PROS: Saves on space while keeping your dog safely in her dedicated area.
CONS: Dog must be willing to stay in the basket. This might prove challenging for young or exuberant hounds.
TOP TIP: Spend some time training your dog to sit in the basket before you head off and provide treat-stuffed chew toys like a Kong to keep her entertained in her basket while traveling.
5. PORTABLE CARGO BARRIER
A solid cargo barrier is a great way to keep your dog safely in the back of the car but limits the functionality of the vehicle for other purposes. A good solution is a portable mesh or tubular cargo barrier that can sit either between the boot and the back seat or the back and front seats.
PROS: Keeps the dog safely in the rear where she has space to spread out and get comfortable.
CONS: The dog still has enough range of movement to potentially injure herself during an accident or sudden stop.
TOP TIP: Consider using in conjunction with a boot or back seat hammock liner to protect your upholstery from pet hair and claws.
6. PET BOOSTER SEAT
A great solution for smaller dogs is a booster seat. This sits on the backseat or hangs from the back headrest and provides the littlies with the ability to see out the windows. A good booster seat will also include a safety harness to secure your pet – a factor that should be non-negotiable when selecting a booster seat.
PROS: A dog that can see out the windows is less likely to get carsick and will feel happier than one with limited vision.
CONS: Suitable only for small dogs.
TOP TIP: The booster seat can double as your pet’s bed when you get to your destination.