Heels & Horsepower Magazine


By H&H Admin

Taking your dogs on holiday with other members of your family is a no-brainer but it’s important to protect them and yourself along the way.

Dogs aren’t just a man’s best friend – they form part of the family; and while most pups enjoy being on the road, they can prove quite distracting to drivers. 

As loyal and obedient as they might be around the house and at the park, an unrestrained dog can be a hazard in a car and failure to secure your furry relative can lead to a dangerous situation.

While there currently aren’t any pet restraint laws in South Africa, one of the best ways to protect yourself and your pets is to ensure that all occupants of a car, are properly buckled up at all times, and this includes the family pet. 

Here is our guide to driving with man’s best friend. 

1. Make sure your dog is accustomed to traveling in the car

It is a good idea to get your pooch acclimatized to the car well before you embark on a long-distance drive; as nervous or carsick dogs can make travelling uncomfortable for everyone.  For nervous dogs, start by training them to get in and out of the car, using treats as a reward.  

Take their favourite toy or blanket to keep them comfortable along the drive.  Practise driving with your dog often and gradually increase the distance in accordance with their comfort levels. The more often you are out on the road with them, the less nervous they will be.

2. Pack a pet travel pack

Pack essentials such as waste bags, water, bowls, grooming supplies, medication, first-aid kit, treats, lead, blanket, toys, food and any other items you deem necessary.  

3. Don’t let your dog hang its head out of the window

Although they may want to, hanging their heads out of the window can lead to injury or death from oncoming traffic or obstructions.  Also, hanging their heads out of the window can dry out their eyes, particularly when traveling at high speeds.  Instead, keep the car well ventilated by opening the window a crack or using the air con.

4. Know the signs of overheating / heatstroke in dogs 

Keeping the car well ventilated and cool is essential for your dog’s well-being and will help minimise health problems such as overheating and heatstroke. Signs of heat stroke and overheating include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy / Unwillingness to move / Dullness
  • Overly reddened gums  
  • Vomiting and or diarrhea 
  • Loss of consciousness 
5. Take breaks along the way

Just as humans need to refresh along the way, so too do dogs.  Plan your trip such that it includes rest stops in places that are large enough for your pooch to stretch its legs and get some exercise.   Remember to take some waste bags so you can clean up after your dog has relieved itself. 

6. Restrain your dog properly

We highly recommend that you restrain your dog when traveling, irrespective of how short the drive may be.  Depending on the size and energy levels of your dog, you could choose between utilizing pet travel seats, pet booster seats, safety harnesses, padded carriers, or you could simply secure them behind a metal guard – which allows them a little bit of freedom.

7. Other considerations
  • Ensure your pet is microchipped and that the information on it is up-to-date.
  • Visit the vet to ensure that your furry friend is in good enough health for the trip.
  • Feed your pet before your journey – at least 3 hours in advance, as this will help minimise car sickness

As responsible pet parents, it is your duty to ensure the safety of your pets and that of your family and other road users.  This will not only provide a comfortable ride for all but a safe and memorable one too.  

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