Is it Safe for Dogs To Ride in the Trunk?

Is it Safe for Dogs To Ride in the Trunk?

Pet parents everywhere know the struggle of traveling with your animals, especially dogs! You want your dog to be comfortable and happy in the car, but safety is always a priority. So, is the trunk of a vehicle a safe place for your dog to ride?

It’s safe for your dog to ride in the trunk, as long as it's not enclosed. This kind of trunk is referred to as cargo space. The cargo space of an SUV is perfectly safe for dogs, especially if the dog is in a crate or there's a barrier between the cargo space and back seat. However, always ensure there's air circulation to the back.

The rest of this article will discuss the safest ways to ride with a dog in the car, how to choose the right crate for your dog, and how to alleviate your dog's bad symptoms during car rides.

What Is the Safest Way for a Dog To Ride in a Car?

Although the best way for a dog to ride in a car might not always be the most convenient or even the most fun for the dog, it’s the best way to ensure your dog's safety. Like children, you want to protect your dog in case of an accident.

The safest way for dogs to ride in a car is in a crate in the cargo area. While a crate isn't always necessary, it does provide an extra level of protection in case of an accident. The cargo area of an SUV offers a separation between the driver and dog, minimizing distractions.

While putting your dog in a crate is a good idea, not all dogs are crate-trained or entirely comfortable in a crate. Many dogs have a lot of anxiety about being confined, so if you don't use a crate, I recommend using a cargo liner.

Our Plush Paws Cargo Liner is an excellent way to protect your vehicle from any messes or scratches from your dog. It’s waterproof, has side panels, and even a bumper flap. 

Not only would I recommend this for dogs who dislike crates, but it's an incredible way to protect your cargo space, even with a crate. Crates can be heavy and scratch up the interior, and if your dog has an accident in the crate, it could still get into the cargo space. Therefore, having the extra level of protection is always a good idea.

How To Choose the Right Size Crate for Your Dog

Ensuring your dog has the right size crate is crucial. Having a crate that’s too small can give your dog a lot of stress or anxiety, and a crate that's too big can be just as harmful and more of a hassle.

The best way to determine what size crate you need is to ensure your dog has enough room to move around. The American Kennel Club (AKC) states your dog needs room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

Is it Safe for Dogs To Ride in the Backseat?

Not everyone has an SUV-type car, and since vehicles with enclosed trunks are not safe for dogs, sometimes the backseat of the car is a better option. However, is it safe?

It’s safe for dogs to ride in the backseat as long as the proper safety precautions are met. Putting them in a crate or carrier on the floorboard is safest for small dogs. For bigger dogs, a seat belt and harness is the better option. You must secure dogs to one place in a car.

While you might see many dog owners allowing their pets to roam around the car when traveling, it's not safe. Your dog might want to go back and forth between the windows, but it's vital to consider their safety in case of an accident, just like you would with your children.

Therefore, if the backseat is the better option for you, it’s best to use a harness and seatbelt, especially if your dog is big or not a fan of crates. Along with a harness and seat belt, getting a seat protector is a good idea. Like a cargo liner, we offer a variety of backseat covers to fit each person's (and pet's) needs.

Some of these backseat covers include a complete rear seat cover, a bench seat cover, and even the choice of luxury velvet seat covers. We’ve made it a priority to supply you with various sizes to fit your specific car, making it all the better.

Is It Safe for Dogs To Ride in the Front Seat?

If you can't put your dog in a cargo-type trunk or backseat, the only option left is the front seat. For example, if you have a pickup truck and a single cab is your only option (please never put your dogs in a truck bed!), then that's what you'll have to do. However, is it safe? 

It's not safe for dogs to ride in the front seat, but you can take precautions to make it safer if it's your only option. Ensuring that your dog is in a harness and seatbelt is essential. It's also best to turn off the airbag, as it can seriously harm or kill your dog.

Dogs aren't usually creatures that sit still, especially in a car. That's why a harness and seatbelt are so important. Without it, your dog may try to roam the car, which can be very distracting. 

Your dog may also try to climb into your lap, which is not only distracting but risks the dog falling at your feet and stepping on the pedals. Thus, it's always best to keep your dog in the backseat or cargo area.

However, if your dog has to ride in the passenger seat, you might want to consider the Bucket Seat Cover. Like the other covers, this will ensure your dog won't mess up your car's interior while in the car.

Why Does My Dog Pant and Shake When Riding in the Car?

When you notice your dog reacting badly to car rides, such as panting, shaking, or whining, it probably makes you want to let it ride on your lap, which isn't recommended. However, why do some dogs pant and shake while riding in the car?

Your dog pants and shakes while riding in the car because of anxiety, frustration, or even motion sickness. If your dog has had a prior bad experience in the car, it's likely due to anxiety. While there are ways to alleviate motion sickness and stress, vets can prescribe medication.

Most people who have dogs that react badly to car rides try to avoid putting their dog in the car whenever possible. However, you can't always avoid the vehicle as your pet needs regular visits to the vet and groomer. Luckily, there are ways to make the car rides more bearable (and maybe even fun) for your pet.

How To Acclimate Your Dog to Car Rides

Many dog parents deal with their dogs having moderate to extreme car anxiety from either not being exposed to car rides as a puppy or a traumatic experience. Still, dogs will have to ride in the car at some point for different purposes. So, if you have a dog with extreme car anxiety that makes you not want to use a crate or seatbelt, there are ways to help relieve it.

Acclimating your dog to car rides is a training process. Therefore, it’ll take time and patience from you and your dog. The key to getting your dog comfortable with car rides is associating the car with fun and food.

If your dog has already had a traumatic car experience, this training will probably take even longer.

AKC recommends gradually introducing your dog to the car by counter conditioning, which includes changing your dog's emotional response to the vehicle from negative to positive. Therefore, do things that your dog enjoys, such as games, training, or just playing with toys in the car.

When you notice your dog is completely relaxed, move it a step forward. It can include shutting the doors to the car, starting the vehicle and leaving it running while you play, or even going on short trips. However, it's essential to ensure your dog is completely relaxed and comfortable before moving to the next step.

How To Help My Dog With Motion Sickness in the Car

Your dog being afraid or stressed in the car is something you can usually fix with training and plenty of treats. However, motion sickness is a whole other problem.

Dogs are hypersensitive creatures. So, the motion of the car ride can affect them more than others. Motion sickness can lead dogs to pant, shake, or even get sick in the car. However, there are several things you can do to make car rides easier for your pup with motion sickness.

VCA Hospitals recommends several things to alleviate motion sickness, some of which I'll discuss below.

Withhold Food

Dogs with motion sickness will feel nauseous and have upset stomachs. Therefore, withholding food before a car ride is an excellent idea to prevent vomiting. Withholding food for 12 hours is recommended, but not longer than that. It's best to ask your vet for advice.

Keep Your Dog in a Crate

A crate is a safe space for crate-trained dogs. Therefore, when they're experiencing motion sickness, having them in a crate will help make them feel safe and comfortable. Putting your dog in a crate, either on the floorboard of the back seat or in the cargo space, is the best thing for a dog with motion sickness.

Bring Along Toys or Blankets

Your dog's toys and blankets will smell like home, so bringing them along will help provide a sense of comfort when your dog is feeling ill. While they may not wholly alleviate motion sickness, they might distract your dog a little bit, and the blanket could even provide a barrier between your dog and your car's interior if vomiting does occur.

Give Your Dog Anti-Nausea or Anti-Anxiety Medication

Sometimes, medicine is the best option for dogs that deal with awful motion sickness. Giving your dog anti-nausea medicine can help with stomach upset, and anti-anxiety medicine will help with stressful feelings. However, always consult your vet before putting your pet on any medications, as some medicines may not work for certain pets. 

Is it Illegal To Have an Unrestrained Dog in the Car?

An unrestrained dog in your car is not only dangerous for your dog, but it's dangerous to the driver. The dog roaming around in the car can be a huge distraction, especially if it tries to get in the driver's lap. Even though it's dangerous, is it considered illegal?

Depending on the state, it’s illegal to have an unrestrained dog in the car. States such as Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all have laws prohibiting unrestrained dogs in the car. Several states have introduced bills for this, but they were vetoed.

According to Orvis News, some states indicate that you shouldn’t drive with an unrestrained animal, but the law isn’t specific enough to penalize you.

It's best to look up your specific state's laws regarding unrestrained dogs or animals in the car before deciding how to travel with your pet. Even if it's not illegal in your state, it's always recommended to ensure that dogs are restrained; for their safety and yours.

Final Thoughts

While it's not safe for dogs to ride in an enclosed trunk, putting your dog in the trunk of an SUV or van that has a cargo-style trunk is safe and even recommended. It's also best to put your dog in a crate because it offers an extra level of protection. 

If a crate isn't for your dog, I recommend checking out our product selection here at Plush Paws Products. Not only will a seat cover keep your vehicle's interior safe, but it will keep your dog comfortable.


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