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Bringing a Puppy Home : Transporting your Puppy in the Car

Updated: May 27

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Most vets agree that 8 weeks is an ideal time for puppies to leave their mother and go home with their new human parents. So, what do you need to be aware of when bringing your puppy home in your car for the first time?

Puppy in car looking out of the window

Essentially a new puppy is really no different from a new-born baby so they can definitely be a distraction to the driver. As a dog owner, when it comes to car safety the legal obligations are not as strict as transporting children, but the dangers involved are similar.


So what options are available for bringing your puppy home in the car safe and sound on that all important first journey?


This Buying Guide explores you the pros and cons of your various alternatives and gives you some helpful hints and tips to make the journey relaxed and trouble-free.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to Transport Your Puppy in the Car

1. Soft Dog Car Crate

AmazonBasics Dog Crate

Morpilot Pet Carrier

2. Cardboard Box

3. Puppy Harness & Tether

PetSafe Happy Ride Harness

Kurgo Tru-fit Crash Tested Car Harness

4. Dog Car Seats

5. Laying on your Lap

Tips for a Stress Free Car Journey



How to Transport your Puppy in the Car


Ultimately, how you bring your puppy home in the car for the first time is up to you, but obviously you will want to keep your puppy and the rest of your family as safe as possible.


Some breeders may discuss how they want you to take your puppy home and will only release the puppy to you if they are happy that your new puppy will be safe and secure. It may well be worth checking ahead of time with your breeder - you don't want surprises on Gotcha Day!

cockapoo puppy in a cardboard box in the car

Ideally collecting your puppy from the breeder is not a solo mission, it’s a really sensible idea to take someone with you.


A friend or family member can then provide the much needed reassurance for your puppy, leaving you to can concentrate on the driving.


You want to make the experience as relaxing as possible so they are comfortable going on car rides in the future.


Plus, your puppy will bond to the people they encounter early on, so this is a great opportunity to start bonding whilst you bring your new puppy home.


Barking or crying is normal for a puppy during this new and potentially stressful experience, so you should reassure them calmly.


To help you decide, let's take a look at each of your options for bringing puppy home in your car and explore the suitability, ease and safety of each.



1. Soft Dog Car Crate

Best option for most people


A soft, fabric dog crate is an ideal solution for safe travel. These crates confine the puppy in a cosy den-like space to help them snooze the journey away, whilst providing some views and air circulation through mesh windows.


In the event of a crash they offer more protection than a cardboard box or your lap and most importantly they are considerably less distracting to the driver. So it's really win-win.


Not only that, fabric crates are collapsible, ideal for future vets visits and can really help you to socialise your puppy before they are fully vaccinated.


We used ours for trips to town to let our puppy experience the noises and sights before the second puppy vaccinations.


Your soft crate can be secured in the car with the seatbelt to stop it shifting around during the journey or better still, place it on the floor behind the front seats. If you do need to travel with the puppy in the front passenger seat, don't forget to disable the airbag.


Here are two popular options if you decide to use a soft dog crate to bring your puppy home.


AmazonBasics Premium Folding Soft Dog Crate

There are lots of fabric crates to choose from but our top pick is the AmazonBasics Premium Folding Soft Dog Crate.

Designed to ensure a comfortable and safe first ride home, this soft crate is available in 5 sizes from the smallest at 53cm to a whopping 107cm.


Better still, this soft crate incorporates a strong PVC frame so it holds its shape but is extremely light to carry to your car.


We love the large mesh windows on the sides which have been designed to ensure maximum ventilation and views for your puppy.


These mesh windows can certainly help reduce the chance of dog car sickness which is unfortunately quite common in puppies.


The fabric exterior can be hand-washed in case of the odd accident and the crate even includes a cosy fleece mat for comfort. The large top opening along with the front 'door' provide very easy access for you to keep puppy calm throughout the journey.


Padded carry handles, and several storage pockets complete the thoughtful design and if you're not keen on the blue, don't worry it's available in a range of five colours.


We recommend this premium soft dog crate from Amazon as it ticks all the boxes at a very reasonable price.


Dimensions - L x H : 53 x 28cm | 66 x 36cm | 78 x 43cm | 91 x 53cm | 107 x 66cm

Reasons to Buy

+ Mesh ventilation

+ Rigid frame

+ Range of sizes

+ Easier to use than a harness

+ Collapsible for storage

Reasons to Avoid

- Pricier than a cardboard box

- Not as safe as a dog harness

 

Morpilot Pet Carrier


This super stylish pet carrier is a great alternative to the AmazonBasics soft crate for transporting your puppy. It has padded carry handles along with an additional shoulder strap to make light work of transporting puppy.

Made from polyester, the base is strengthened with a support board to help maintain its shape whilst being carried.


The sides are comfortably padded and the stylish design incorporates mesh windows on the top and sides to improve ventilation and visibility.


What's more, both ends open completely and there is a large zippable mesh window on top for easy access.


We feel that the only downside to this stylish designed soft crate is the limited sizes available. There are two options, both of which are small and only suitable for puppies or small breed dogs.


So whilst it may be perfect for the initial journeys, a larger breed will probably outgrow it quickly.


The carrier does include a couple of thoughtful extras including a washable fluffy mat for comfort and a collapsible water bowl.


It could be really useful for vet visits and socialisation trips before puppy is fully vaccinated. Available in a range of three colours.


Dimensions -

M - 44 x 31 x 34 cm up to 6.8 kg

L- 45.5 x 32 x 35.5 cm up to 9 kg

Reasons to Buy

+ Stylish design

+ Cosy mat for comfort

+ Includes shoulder strap

Reasons to Avoid

- Small sizes only

- Not as safe as a harness

 


2. Cardboard Box

Budget friendly option


Although not the safest option, many new puppy owners choose to use a cardboard box. If you opt for this method make sure to line it with some newspaper (in case of accidents) a blanket for comfort and ideally something that smells of mum for comfort.

Puppy travelling by car in a cardboard box

Try to use your car seat belt system to strap the box securely in place. The driver is far less likely to become distracted if the puppy is in a box on the rear seat than on someone's lap.


For some measure of control, consider fitting your puppy with a collar and a lead. You will then have something to grab as they can easily cause all sorts of issues if they escape the cardboard box.


If you find that the collar is too big, simply unclip it, twist it around once or twice and refit it. It's not ideal but it's a temporary solution to the problem.


But be aware that using a cardboard box with high sides does limit your puppy's field of vision which may lead to car sickness.


Reasons to Buy

+ Easy to cuddle

+ Less driver distractions

+ Could add collar and lead for safety

Reasons to Avoid

- Not a rigid enclosure

- Limited field of vision for pup

- Not particularly safe

 

3. Puppy Harness & Tether

Safest travel option


A harness is generally considered to be the safest choice of car restraint for dogs but may not necessarily the right choice for your first car journey.


Choose a comfortable harness with plenty of padding for their delicate puppy frame, as poorly made harnesses can rub. Once your dog is fitted with the harness, the harness then attaches to your car’s seat belt system with a tether.


So if it's so safe, why have we featured this option in third place ?


The main disadvantage of opting for a harness for the initial journey home is that your young puppy won’t be accustomed to it, and may become confused or distressed whilst wearing the harness for the first time.


So you need to weigh up the safety offered by a harness with the possible distress it may cause your puppy.



PetSafe Happy Ride Harness

Dog wearing a Happy Ride harness from Petsafe

If you opt for a harness, we recommend this Happy Ride harness from Petsafe as it is fully certified crash tested.


Crucially, it's available in four sizes with a handy sizing guide available online.


It takes into account the chest, neck and the weight of your puppy to help you select the best fit.


A car seat belt tether (included when you purchase the harness) attaches to the back of the harness and the other end clicks directly into your car seat belt system.


Reasons to Buy

+ Safe option

+ Seat belt tether included

+ Puppy can sit safely on your lap

Reasons to Avoid

- Harder to fit correctly

- May cause additional stress

Buying Options

 

Kurgo Tru-fit Crash Tested Car Harness


An alternative to the Petsafe harness, is another crash tested harness this time from Kurgo.

Importantly, it has been designed as a dog safety harness, not a converted walking harness.

The all-steel nesting buckle system is based on the engineering for harnesses used by rock climbers so is very strong and safe.


With five adjustments points, it's easy to get a near custom fit for any puppy, regardless of size and proportions.


It's available in 5 sizes including an extra-small which is ideal for puppies and the harness comes in a choice of either black or red.


Instead of a car seat belt tether, this harness comes with a carabiner included to attach the harness to your car seat belt system.


Reasons to Buy

+ Safest option

+ Adjustments to fit

Reasons to Avoid

- Initially harder to fit

- May cause additional stress

Buying Options

 

4. Dog Car Seats

Best option for car sickness


For small breeds and puppies, you could opt to use a dog booster seat, but remember your dog should be directly restrained with a harness, not just placed in the seat.

a puppy in a dog car seat from PetSafe

Dog car seats and boosters can be used to raise your puppy up to the perfect height to look out the car window.


Available in a range of elevated and non- elevated versions, they are a perfect solution for travelling in the car and definitely help reduce the possibility of car sickness developing.


They connect to your car seat belt or headrests and often include a safety tether which attaches to your puppy harness.

We test and analyse this Happy Ride dog car seat from PetSafe and it's ideal for dogs up to 11kg and even has a pocket for toys.


If you're interested in dog car seats, we test and review 10 of the best dog car seats and boosters available in the UK in our article Top 10 Dog Car Seats.


We explore the safety measures, price, size and the features you should consider before purchasing one. If this is a potential option for you, why not take a look.

 

5. Laying on your Lap

Easiest but most unsafe option


Many people, for understandable reasons, simply want to cuddle the puppy on their lap. Just be aware that this is by no means the safest option for the puppy in the event of a crash and can so easily cause the driver to become distracted.

Puppy travelling by car on owners lap

If you decide to do this, then definitely sit in the back of the car where it's obviously much safer for puppy and is less of a distraction for your driver.


Consider comfort and how to minimise the impact of puppy accidents. Place a blanket on your lap, if you have something with mum's scent on, this would be perfect to help calm your puppy as this can be an anxious time for them.


Add a few old cloths and newspapers in case of the odd puppy accident.


As with the cardboard box option, we would recommend a collar and lead to give you some control if your puppy wriggles, bites, jumps etc.


Reasons to Use

+ Cuddles obviously

+ Easy to reassure puppy

+ No additional cost

Reasons to Avoid

- Most unsafe option

- Driver distractions

 


Tips for a Stress Free Car Journey


Whichever method you choose to bring your puppy home, here are a few tips to help keep the first journey as stress-free as possible :-

Try not to let children or adults handle your puppy too much if they're nervous.

If puppy sleeps, don't wake! This is a tiring and stressful time for them.

Keep your car well ventilated.

Make sure you take water and food for longer journeys.

If you must stop on the way home be very careful where you place puppy on the ground. As your puppy isn't vaccinated yet, carry them to a remote area before placing on the ground. Don't forget to scoop the poop especially as new puppies poop can contain parasites.

Consider collecting your puppy in the morning so you arrive home during daylight, this allows you to spend time together before the first bedtime comes around.


 

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Bringing Your Puppy Home useful.

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