Dogs & Cars


Cars can give your dog - peace, quiet, familiarity and safety

By far the best place for dogs to stay both before and straight after a training session is in the owner's car. The dog is very familiar with this environment and will feel safe from any "dangers" (eg. unknown dogs, strangers, etc) and feel able to relax and recall what it has just learnt (see Latent Learning). However, as the large notice above reminds us, if there is any possibility of your dog becoming overheated, dehydrated, or is in danger of any physical or mental distress, you must not leave your dog in a vehicle. There are alternative solutions in these circumstances (see Alternatives further down this page).


How to make the car relaxing and peaceful for your dog
Understandably, many dogs regard their owner's car as part of their home territory and feel compelled to guard it by barking at any dog or human that passes by. Obviously this not only causes the dog excitement and stress, it also is a major distraction to the dog and prevents it relaxing and latently learning. This is also true for those dogs that can see (and sometimes hear) the training area, making them frustrated that other dogs are being trained rather than themselves. To overcome both these problems of over stimulation of sights and sounds, here are a number of recommended options.


The car's windows can be covered with old bed sheets which not only act as a shield to prevent the dog seeing what is happening outside, they also provide shade for the dog in the summer. The sheets need to be thin enough for the wind to blow through them into the ventilation space they are covering, and white or pale in colour to deflect the sun's rays in the summer months. They can be held in place by trapping the edges of the sheets in the car doors, or by securing them to the vehicle using clips (eg. market stall clips, bull dog clips etc).


It is difficult to keep dogs in the shade when the car is moving and dogs can quickly overheat from the intense temperatures that they are subjected to. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invest in tinted window for the parts of the car where your dogs are transported in. Click here for a manufacturer of tinted windows - http://www.windowfilm.co.uk/supertint.aspx

  • REFLECTIVE SHEETS of different sizes and prices can be bought from various retailers (eg. Ventlock, Country Mun, Waggit Dog Products). They have a silver-coated surface which reflects the sun's rays away and is effective in keeping the car cool. However, there is one drawback of this type of product which I have seen many people overlooking when they fix these reflective sheets to their cars - they are windproof and therefore can prevent air flowing into the vehicle when placed over open windows and grills (see Ventilation further down this page). Therefore, I suggest that you place these reflective sheets over the windscreen, roof, and the tailgate of your car and then fix old sheets (see above) over the open windows and grills so that air can still flow through the car yet the dog cannot see out.
  • WINDSCREEN SHIELDS are another option to block out the windows. These folding cardboard windscreen shields can be bought at garages and car accessory shops. Some designs (eg. www.ventlock.com) are made with reflective silver coatings, similar to the reflective sheets described above.


Although they seem an expensive investment, solve many problems for transporting dogs in vehicles that once you have used one you wonder how you managed without it beforehand! Let me explain.

  • Firstly there is the safety aspect - if there is an accident and your vehicle stops suddenly, your dog will be thrown forward and either injure the humans travelling in front of it, or be hurled through the windscreen. Either scenario will almost certainly result in serious injury or death not only for the animal but for those traveling in the car.
    Secondly, dogs settle down and relax when confined to a car cage. When denied the option of jumping on and off the car seats, and running from side to side in an attempts to chase the moving objects around the car (particularly herding breeds who are very stimulated by movement) dogs enjoy the safe "den" feeling of the cage and show far less stress symptoms.
  • Another advantage of using a cage in a vehicle is that old sheets can be arranged around the sides of the cage so that the dog cannot see out while on the move (I do not recommend that any type of covering be put over the TOP of cages as this prevents the flow of air in to the cage and may seem too claustrophobic for the dogs inside it). These "curtains" are particularly helpful for those dogs that become overexcited or stressed by the constant visual stimulus from the windows of the car. By screening the cage the dog is able to relax, rest and arrive at your destination calm enough to concentrate and enjoy whatever you are going to do with your dog.
  • Finally, for those of you with more than one dog to transport, separate cages in the car enable you to place a screen between the dogs so that they do not become stressed by watching the other dog's stress symptoms (or calming signals as it tries to relax itself on the journey). Over the years I have seen some dreadfully stressed and overexcited dogs from multi-dog households pile out of their vehicles after a distressingly noisy journey, barking and rushing around in a mad frenzy as they try to release all the pent up adrenaline they experienced from the close proximity of the other dogs - dogs need their own personal space in order to relax. Even my three dogs shake themselves when they leave their curtained cage at the end of a journey (shaking - similar to shaking water off themselves after a swim - is a calming signal that some dogs use to not only calm those around them, but to "shake out" the stress-induced adrenaline that they have had pent up in their body from the journey).

There are a number of cage manufacturers on the Internet, many of which will be happy to make you a cage to fit your vehicle's specifications.


We highly recommend the cages
& car harnesses made by


as both products have been tested under proper car crash conditions.

Here are a few other suggestions -


Second hand cages are often advertised in local papers or in national dog magazines. However, it may take some time for a suitably sized cage to come along that will fit your vehicle. Here are a few Internet suggestions you might like to look at as well when searching for a second hand cage -

Before leaving the subject of cages, I would like to stress how important it is for the dog to build up strong happy associations when it is first introduced to it's new cage. If the dog builds up memories of feeling trapped and vulnerable in these first sessions, it will remember these deep negative associations every time it is put in the cage and will feel stressed despite you using the other options we have listed on this page. Therefore, when introducing the dog to the cage, you need to help the dog build happy associations and memories of this new place.

- Play lots of scent games (eg scattering tasty treats in the bedding for the dog to find; throwing or hiding a favorite toy for the dog to jump in the cage and and fetch, then jump out again so that it can give you the toy to play the game again).

- or give it high value treats such as a tasty bone to chew which it can only have when it is inside the cage.

- or put it's food bowl inside the cage at mealtimes.

Don't be tempted to try and shut the cage door in these early sessions, just let the dog feel safe and comfortable. Then shut and cage door for a few seconds, and then gradually build up the time that the door is closed. If the cage is in a vehicle, run the engine so that the dog can become used to the cage trembling as well. Eventually you will find that the dog will build up its own happy associations by being put in the cage before being taken on interesting walks and training sessions.




The importance of sufficient ventilation (combined with shade and water) cannot be stressed too much when dogs are in cars - particularly when the vehicle is not moving.
We humans often forget that dogs have very different ways from us of reducing their body temperature. They are only able to sweat through the eccrine sweat glands in their their paws, therefore their only other option to reduce body temperature is by either panting or licking their bodies so that their saliva evaporates the heat from their body.
There are a variety of different ways of providing ventilation for your dog while still keeping your vehicle secure. Window grills can be placed between the glass of the open window and the door frame (see Window Grills). These grills prevent thieves from reaching into your vehicle and opening the doors, while leaving plenty of ventilation for your dog to breathe and keep cool.


  • Ventlock also sells battery operated cooling fans that can be attached to the dog's cage, and also makes an ingenious device which locks your vehicle's back door far enough open for fresh air to circulate inside but stops intruders gaining access.


Dogs need access to fresh clean water in order to replace the water that is lost from their bodies from panting and drooling. Both excessive panting (even in cool weather) and drooling are symptoms of stress. Many dogs overturn their water bowls when they are left on the floor of the car or cage. To overcome this rather messy problem special bowl holders are available that hook on to the side of the dog's cage, keeping the bowl and its contents away from the dog as it moves around. Some of the suppliers listed above stock a variety of different sizes of "Hook-on-to Weldmesh" bowl holders.


Such as those used for camping or sitting on the beach, are another option for screening a stationary vehicle. They can also be used to screen dogs when they are tethered outside the car when the weather is really hot, and can provide welcome shade for the dogs. However, the drawbacks of windbreaks are that they can only be used in fields, where the ground is soft enough for the posts to be hammered in, and that they do take up extra parking space around the vehicles when everyone puts them up to screen their cars! D&T Screens, Jormax Windbreaks, and Windbreak Leisure are highly recommended.


It is an unfortunate fact that some dog owners do not take into account all the needs of their dogs when they park their cars (although many have the sense to try to park in shade, if they can, to keep the vehicle cool). For instance, some "lazy" handlers park their vehicles near the training/show area so that they do not have to walk too far. Although they may feel less tired by the shorter walking distance their poor dogs will soon be mentally exhausted by the sights and sounds of dogs and humans walking past; hearing the other dogs' barks of excitement or frustration; and then hearing (and even seeing) the dogs being worked in the show ring or training area. By the time it is the dog's turn to come to the training area it is so stressed from the frustration of not being able to join in, or from being in a state of continual anticipation that it will be their "turn" at any moment, that the dog will be unable to concentrate on the task in hand and the whole trip will have been a complete waste of time. It would have been far better for them to have parked their vehicle further away so that the dog could relax from all these sights and sounds and come to the training area/show ring in a far more focused and refreshed state of mind.


Some dogs are sound sensitive (this is often found to be a symptom of long-term stress) and can be over-stimulated by what is happening around the car, even if the windows have been screened to prevent them being stimulated by sights. In these instances a small portable radio (not the car radio as the car's battery will run down!) can be placed near the dog's cage and talk-based programs played to cover most of the sounds from outside. Don't play the radio too loud or this in itself will become stressful to the dog - and to your neighbours! Tape recorders are another solution for relaxing dogs as they can be used to play back the sound of your voice, making it seem as if you are just standing outside the car talking to someone and are not far away. Sometimes a piece of clothing with your scent on it also needs to be placed in or near the vehicle to deceive the dog that you are close by.


is another aspect that needs to be addressed when dogs are in vehicles. Stress and over excitement are very contagious in these circumstances as dogs are very susceptible to picking up the emotions and state of mind of other dogs nearby. Although screening the individual cages can help some dogs, the sounds and emotion based scent of their companions can sometimes be too much and make relaxation and sleep almost impossible. In these cases alternative arrangements (see below) can be very useful and a rotation system employed so that the dogs can have some rest time away from the others. If one of your dogs is very good at displaying calming signals they can sometimes be used to relax the overexcited dog by being visible in the next cage, or nearby. However, this dog must not always be "on duty" - it also needs time to rest and must be given sufficient time away from the other dog.

Alternatives to keeping dogs in a vehicle

As mentioned at the beginning of this web page, sometimes it is not possible to keep your dog in a vehicle when you are waiting to train. Here are a few examples that you can experiment with -

  • Put your dog in a cage in a peaceful cool place. The cage can be screened with old bed sheets, reflective material, or surrounded by a windbreak. However, it is important to make sure that the dog has plenty of ventilation, particularly in hot weather, as well as shade and fresh water. It must also be weatherproof on the "not so sunny days" so that the dog can keep dry and out of the wind. Remember that the cage prevents your dog from moving to a more comfortable position out of the elements.
  • Tether your dog either to the car or to a metal stake in the ground. Once again, make sure the dog is able to move into some shade (eg. under or beside a car; by a windbreak, building or hedge) but be aware that the sun will move across the sky throughout the day and either the stake or the shade needs to be moved to compensate for this.
    The type and length of the tether, as well as how it is fixed to the dog, are also important factors to consider - Leather, rope or material type leads can be chewed through if your dog is determined enough to escape; wire or cable can cut into a dog if they become tangled around a it's legs or body; chains (which I find the most suitable for my dogs when tethered) can have the disadvantage of being too noisy, heavy and cumbersome, particularly for small dogs.
  • The length of the tether is important point to consider, particularly from the safety angle. If it is too short the dog may not be able to move to the shade or out of the rain or wind, or it may choke if it is not able to jump from the back of the car to the ground. If the tether is too long the dog could get tangled around itself or objects around it, or be able to reach people and dogs who may be walking close by - I find pegging the bottom of windbreaks to the ground stops dogs escaping and getting too close to passers by.
  • Finally, how the tether is attached to the dog. Most dogs are attached by their collars - unfortunately some dogs are able to slip of of their collars while they pull against the tether (particularly narrow headed dogs). Another drawback of tethering a dog by its collar is that the dog can harm its neck if it suddenly runs to the end of its tether and stops suddenly, or can feel choked it is continually pulls at the end. Harnesses overcome these problems but must be extremely well fitted otherwise the dog will pull against the tether, wriggle out of the harness and escape. If your harness has been made to adjust to different sized dogs I recommend that you sew the harness straps to each other so that the buckles do not slide and make the harness looser.
  • Wait with your dog on its lead well away from the sights and sounds of the training/show area, and particularly other dogs that it does not get on well with. It is a good idea to bring a deck chair along so that you can sit and wait - dogs relax more when their humans are sitting down as they know nothing exciting will happen until they get up. Windbreaks, buildings, and vehicles can be used as barriers to obstruct your dog's view of what is going on around it. Another way of relaxing your dog is by silently exercising your dog on a loose lead where it can quietly sniff and explore the environment around it.
  • If you are camping at a show you have the option of putting your dog in your tent or caravan. However, if the dog is in the same situation as those found in the car - that is too much stimulation from sights, sounds and scents of other dogs stress; lack of ventilation; the tent or caravan becomes too hot - you need to resolve these issues as described in the first section of this webpage.
  • Finally, options already discussed (such as the radio, use of your scent, and screening) can be useful tools in managing how to keep your dog relaxed and focused both before and after it's training sessions, even when it is not in the car.
  • See also Safest way to travel with a dog?


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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