Dog in boot

Auto Trader's Canine Car Report

From the Highway Code to survey research and expert advice, our Canine Car Report reveals all you need to know about sharing your car with a dog

We have come a long way from letting our dogs in the car only when they have an appointment at the vet's. Now, our furry friends travel everywhere with us. From cross-country road trips and driving to staycation cottages to simply joining us to meet friends for a pub lunch - our pet dogs are spending more time than ever with us in the car.

However, as much as we want to take our four-legged companions on all of life's adventures, there are important things you need to consider before taking them in the car with you: there is the Highway Code to follow to ensure you're safely travelling with a dog; dogs can be prone to car sickness; some dog breeds adjust to car travel much easier than others and, if you don't clean up after your pup properly, you could be putting off potential buyers when it comes to selling your car.

We've spoken to professional dog trainers, car cleaning experts, dog-owning motorists and the general public to create a useful guide of information all about travelling with your dog in your car.

Almost 25% of dog owner drivers said that they don't restrain their dogs when travelling

What Does the Highway Code Say About Travelling with Dogs?

Dog in front

For many drivers, the Highway Code is something that you spend a lot of time pouring over before your driving test, and then rarely revisit. However, it's super important to keep yourself familiar with the information in the Highway Code, especially if you travel with your pet in the car. There are certain rules that need to be followed, otherwise, you could be at risk of facing a £5,000 fine.

The Highway Code states that dogs must be suitably restrained when travelling in a car so they cannot distract the driver or cause injury to either themselves or the motorist. It says:

When in a vehicle, 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. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

If you aren't aware of the Highway Code regarding travelling with dogs, you aren't alone. We surveyed 700 British drivers who own dogs and discovered over a third are unaware of the Highway Code's requirement to properly restrain dogs in cars.

If you cause an accident due to not safely travelling with your pet in the car, you could be fined up to £5,000 for careless driving.

Our survey of British drivers who own dogs also revealed:

  • One-third of British drivers who own dogs, admit to not knowing the Highway Code regarding travelling with dogs
  • Almost 25% of dog-owner drivers said that they don't restrain their dogs when travelling
  • Of those that said they are aware of the Highway Code, only 56% correctly selected the correct answer; 33% believe the rules are that you cannot seat your dog in the front seat and 30% thought it was against the law to allow dogs to stick their head out the window
  • Women follow the Highway Code more than men: over 60% of female respondents said they always restrain their pets accordingly compared to just 45% of male respondents
  • 12% of dog owners do not have car insurance that covers accidents involving pets and over 50% aren't even aware if they have the appropriate cover (which could lead to paying a large bill for invalidating your insurance, should you have an accident involving your pet)

How To Train Your Dog to Travel Better in The Car

If your dog struggles with car journeys and presents disruptive behaviour such as crying, panting, barking or just generally seems uncomfortable, then it's likely to impact how stressed or even distracted you become whilst you are driving the car.

If this is the case for you, then you should not be dissuaded by your pet's behaviour. Like anything with dogs, some things come easily while others need more training and patience. As riding in a car isn't a natural thing for a dog to do, it's something you shouldn't take for granted and something you should be prepared to help teach your dog to master.

Dog in front

We worked with Adam Spivey, Director and Master Trainer at Southend Dog Training, to share his most reliable training tips to help prepare your pup for travelling in a car:


Make sure your dog is calm: Adam's key advice to encourage a calmer attitude to the car is to only invite your dog into the car once they are in a calm state, and only let them out of the car from the other end if they are calm. This is so your dog associates being in a calm state (with the reward being the fun waiting at the other end of the car ride).

He explains “One thing I always do is make sure the dog is calm before it gets in the car. The car can represent excitement to a dog, which can get them worked up, leading to barking, whining and other stressful behaviours. That is usually because in the dog's brain, the destination always results in something fun. So, to counteract this, I would teach the dog that it is calm behaviour that actually leads to the fun they are excited about.

I will make sure the dog is sitting by my side when I open the car door, I'll ensure they are waiting to be invited into the car and then I would put them into an impact crate, as that is the safest way for a dog to travel. I will then make sure the dog is calm as I set up the journey and when we get to the other end - you should not allow them out of the car until they are calm.


Give them plenty of exercise before a journey: Whilst a crate-trained dog will already be familiar with a car crate, it's important that any dog can work off their pent-up energy prior to a car journey so that they are more likely to relax and rest in the car crate.

Adam explains: “For long journeys, frequent stops are recommended but it is also essential to exercise the dog as much as possible before the journey to help them exert some excitement. A tired dog is much more likely to sleep and switch off. Your dog should be travelling in an impact crate, as it is the safest way to travel with a dog. If your pet is already crate trained at home, this can help your dog to settle down in the car and it also helps to reduce some visibility. Dogs that aren't suitably restrained and are constantly up and down, looking out of the window, are most likely to get overwhelmed and overstimulated. So, the crate not only ensures safety but also helps them to relax.”


Take regular breaks on a long ride: It is incredibly important to factor in frequent stops to allow your dog a chance to take a break. Most dogs will travel better if they have regular exercise breaks on a long car ride.

Adam explains “For puppies, you must take as many breaks as necessary to help with their bladder control; for example, eight-week-old puppies can only hold their bladders for up to an hour. But if you are travelling with an older dog then it is more down to common sense and aligning it with how often you take breaks, but I would recommend every couple of hours so you can both stretch your legs.”


How to solve car sickness in dogs: Some dogs are more prone to car sickness than others. For example, in Adam's experience, he finds that a lot of Rottweilers struggle with sickness in the car.

Here are Adam's top three tips to help remedy motion sickness:

  1. Allow plenty of time between feeding the dog and beginning your car journey
  2. Speak to your vet as they might be able to give your dog medication to help prevent motion sickness during a car ride
  3. Gradually build up the journey distance - start with small trips and get your dog used to the car's movements and motions before increasing the length

The importance of restraining your dog: For your dog's safety, your own safety and the safety of others, keeping your dog suitably restrained in your car is of utmost importance.

Adam explains: “The reality is, if you have a crash or have to slam on the brakes and the dog is not suitably restrained, then your dog is going to act as a projectile, which could result in a horrible scenario, even causing fatalities. We understand the safety regulations of a baby being properly seated in a car; we must understand the same applies to dogs too.

A crash-tested impact crate is the safest way for any dog to travel, it is something you see the police use with their dogs. However, if you can't do that for any reason, then at the very least you must use a very secure seatbelt attachment for your dog.”

How to

Clean A Car
Used By Dogs

If you want to boost interest when selling your car, our survey proved that a clean car with no visible signs of dogs and children is the best way to attract buyers. In fact, almost 30% of people said just the sight of dog hair would prevent them from purchasing a car altogether.

We asked Iwan Lloyd Jones of Lloyd Jones Detailing for his best cleaning routine when it comes to eliminating the smell of dogs, dog hair and any other traces of your pup to make it sale-ready.

  1. Clear the obvious trash and debris: Before you start vacuuming and pulling out the cleaning supplies, you must clear out all the obvious trash. Check everywhere thoroughly, as there will likely be rubbish on the floor, under the seats, and in the seat cracks.
  2. Remove and clean floor mats: Pull the floor mats out of the vehicle and shake them out as much as possible to get rid of any loose dirt, as this will make vacuuming easier. Scrub the mats with soap and hot water, or a foaming carpet cleaner, and allow them to air dry completely before reinstalling them. This will help to completely revamp the look of the interior and help create a fresh odour.
  3. Vacuum interior car seats and floors: It's not the most exciting task, but you must hoover everywhere to remove both the small debris and the doggy smell. Vacuum the front and back seats, the floor and, if necessary, the boot area. Vacuum every area of the vehicle where you can get the nozzle, including places like under the pedals and along the side door panels - dog hair can get everywhere!
  4. Wipe away grime and dust: Now that the car is vacuumed, grab a soft cloth or a cleaning wipe to buff away all that dirt, sticky residue, and dust that comes with travelling with pets, kids, or even just friends and family. You can also spray a small amount of car-specific cleaner over the console, steering wheel and the area between the seats to restore that new-car look and banish any off-putting scents.
  5. Clean cup holders: This one is often overlooked, but cup holders can harbour grime, spilt coffee, dead hair and skin cells (yuck), and of course - 'dog hair'. To tackle this, try using a cotton swab dipped in a little cleaning solution to reach those difficult areas and help them look brand new. In some vehicles, the entire cup holder is removable for easier cleaning so you can soak them all in one go.
  6. Remove stains: Purchase stain remover to get rid of anything that will be off-putting to those looking to purchase a car; doggy toilet accidents, or muddy footprints all need to be eliminated. Spot-test the product in an inconspicuous area to make sure the upholstery fabric is colour-fast.
  7. Removing the final rogue pet hair: If the vacuum doesn't remove all the fur hair, try using a car dog hairbrush to really pick up the hard-to-get hairs. Even if you're not selling your car - it's worth investing in waterproof seat protectors to protect your car's interior from any future pet damage.
  8. Clean interior windows: Brand new cars always come with sparkling new windows, so it's important you clean them before reselling. Spray a window cleaner solution on windows and wipe clean with a microfibre cloth.

Could Your Dog Affect the Sale of Your Car?

Dog carrier

Although dog owners will never understand those who don't like furry friends, many people find dogs unhygienic and off-putting. Our survey of over 1,100 people reveals just how much a car that has been owned by a dog-lover appeals to (or repels!) the general public:

  • Nearly 80% of the public said that they are put off when getting into someone's car if the vehicle also transports dogs
  • When it comes to purchasing a second-hand car, a car used by dogs is more off-putting than a car used by children: nearly 44% of those surveyed said they would be put off purchasing a car that has been used by dogs, compared to 13% that said they would be deterred from buying a car that came from a family with kids
  • Nearly 30% admitted that dog-used cars would prevent them from buying a car altogether
  • 28% of people would rather walk than share a car with dogs and almost 30% would prefer to pay for a taxi
Nearly 30% of people admitted that dog-used cars would prevent them from buying a car altogether

The Best Dog Breeds for Car Travel

Many of us have our own opinions on the best dog breeds, but when it comes to car travel, we wondered if there were any canine breeds that tend to travel better than others.

By analysing which dog breeds are mentioned the most as being the best car companions, across 25 different pet websites, we can reveal that there certainly are specific dog breeds that tend to find car travel less stressful, providing you with the perfect road trip buddy.

golden retriever

Our analysis found that Labradors take the crown as being the most mentioned 'best dog to drive with' - being named as the most car-compatible breed by 22 canine experts. Known for being both friendly companions and excellent working dogs, Labradors are widely considered to be amongst the easiest dogs to train thanks to their gundog nature. Despite their high-energy levels, they are known for being compassionate and easygoing dogs that are always eager to please their owners - no wonder they are so easy to travel with!


The second-best breed named by pet experts is the Chihuahua. It is primarily due to the size of the world's smallest dog that makes them such great road trip buddies, as they are more likely to feel comfortable in the car as they will have much more space available to them. Despite having a feisty temperament, they are very quick-witted and easily trained, so even if your Chihuahua doesn't take well to cars at first, they will quickly get used to it.

Golden Retrievers are third on the list; like Labradors, they are also extremely well-natured and easygoing, making them trouble-free travel pets. Many other larger breeds feature on the list including, Poodles (joint fifth), Dalmatians and Great Danes (joint eighth), Clumber Spaniels (joint ninth) and German Shepherds (joint 10th).

Top 10

Top Dog Breeds
For Car Travel

Rank Dog Breed No. mentions by experts?
#1 Labrador 22
#2 Chihuahua 17
#3 Golden Retriever 16
#4 Maltese 12
#5= French Bulldog 11
#5= Poodle 11
#6 Pomeranian 10
#6= Dachshund 10
#6= Boston Terrier 10
#7 Yorkshire Terrier 9
#8= Dalmation 8
#8= Great Dane 8
#9= Clumber Spaniel 7
#9= Jack Russell Terrier 7
#9= Bichon Frisé 7
#10= German Shorthaired Pointer 6
#10= Beagle 6
#10= German Shepherd 6


Best Dogs For Car Travel: By scraping data from 25 reputable pet sources detailing the best dog breeds for car travel, we tallied the breeds mentioned the most. Data is sorted from the most mentioned by experts, to the least mentioned. The breed with the most mentions is crowned the best to travel with.

Survey Results: Using Censuswide, we surveyed 700 drivers who own dogs' questions relating to the Highway Code and the ways they restrain their pets. Again, using Censuswide, we then surveyed 1,156 British respondents about their feelings regarding dogs in cars and how it would affect their decision to purchase a car that had been used by dogs.

Other Sources

Adam Spivey, Southend Dog Training
Iwan Lloyd Jones of Lloyd Jones Detailing
The Highway Code