Motoring journalist, ex-racing driver and dog lover, John Swift, looks at what it takes to find the pawfect vehicle for your furry-friend and finds that it may not necessarily be a car!

There’s no denying that we’re a nation of dog-lovers, so finding the pawfect vehicle for the four-legged member of the family is a big consideration for many of us when choosing our next car.

Dog looking out of a car window

What do we need to look at to make sure Fido is safe and comfortable on our journeys?

Well, consumer magazine What Car? asked a panel of pet owners and with help from the Battersea Dog and Cats Home devised a list of questions to think about the next time you change your car.

There is the obvious one, of course:

There should be enough room for them to have their own space and that it should be easy for them to either jump into or be lifted up or down from it.

For perhaps equally logical and very practical reasons:

Your next vehicle should have upholstery and trim that is both durable and easily washed out and cleaned.

Unfortunately, just as with humans, doggies can get car sick but unlike us they can’t tell you; until it’s too late…

One way to get around this is to make sure there’s a good flow of fresh air all the way around the car and ideally there should be vents somewhere near the very back.

Nathalie Ingham, Canine Behaviourist and Training Manager at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said,

Road trips with your dog are part of the fun, whether that's going cross-country on a weekend break or a short trip to the park. However, you need to make sure your dog is safe and feels secure in the car so we would always recommend ensuring any new vehicle has the appropriate features to give your furry friend a pleasant travelling experience.

"Not all dogs enjoy travelling; just like humans, some can get frightened or even car sick so it's worth taking time to make sure your car is a familiar and cosy place for them to take a safe and enjoyable ride with you.”

Dog in car
Joey dog

It's always important to keep the doggie do's and don'ts of car travel in mind; but, my personal experience proves that a true dog-lover will stop at nothing to keep their dog by their side!

I faced the problem of having an Alsatian, Joey; he was a very large Alsatian indeed and at the same time I had a very small Lotus Elise. How would I fit the two together.

Joey, who’s sadly no longer with us, was the size of a small donkey. My sports car was the size of something not much bigger and when I climbed down into it, Joey’s nose was at about the same height as my head, his furry face wearing that look of longing which dogs are so good at and which clearly meant he wanted to come with me. I tired of feeling guilty every time I drove off somewhere without him.

The solution was simple – get a van.

Actually, it killed two birds with one stone because I was also motor-racing at the time and my little van provided a good tow car, where all the tools and spares could be loaded, and also, most importantly, transport for Joey.

I’d only to rattle the keys and he perked up, knowing there was a good chance of a trip out. We used to go to a nearby forest together; if I went for a run and he got muddy and dirty, so what! A quick wipe and brush down afterwards and the van was as good as ever.

It was also invaluable for trips to the tip, to take the rubbish which every family seems to accumulate over time.

Tow car, tip transport and dog-mobile. That little van did thousands of miles and most of them happy ones. I missed it when it was finally sold and still wish I had something half as practical. It’s surprising how a van can become such essential family transport.

One final thing.

Many years ago I worked as a delivery van driver and of all the vehicles I’ve tested over the past 30 years or so, from Ferraris to Fords, vans still stand out as being among the most fun ways to travel.

Especially if you’re a dog!

Front view of a orange volkswagen caddy



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