Bringing a Puppy Home : Best Travel Options
Updated: Nov 6
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UPDATED : SEPTEMBER 2023 We’ve updated this review to include both the Sliding Door Crate from Lords & Labradors and the Ellie-Bo Sloping Crate as picks.
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?
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.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that dogs must be restrained with a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard, so they cannot distract the driver or cause injuries to themselves or others in the car.
So don't let your dog or puppy wander around the car's cabin or stick their head out of the window.
Drivers breaching the rule are deemed to be driving carelessly which means that they can be hit with three to nine penalty points and receive a fine of £1,000 that can go up to £5,000 if taken to court.
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 outlines the pros and cons of your various options and gives you some top tips to make that first journey relaxed and trouble-free.
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Advice for Bringing a Puppy Home
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!
Ideally collecting a 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.
Plus, your puppy will begin to bond to the people they encounter early on, so this is a great opportunity to start bonding whilst you bring your new puppy home.
You also want to make the experience as relaxing as possible so they are comfortable going on car rides in the future.
Barking or crying is normal for a puppy during this new and potentially stressful experience, so you simply reassure them calmly.
To help you decide how to transport your pup, let's take a look at each of your options for bringing puppy home in your car and explore the ease and safety of each. Ultimately it's down to you how you choose to bring your puppy home.
Best Options for Bringing a Puppy Home in the Car
1. Soft Dog Car Crates
The first thing to say is that 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.
Most have large top openings, so you can reach in and reassure your pup should they become anxious. In the event of a crash they offer more protection than a cardboard box or your lap and ultimately they are considerably less distracting to the driver. So it's win-win.
Image by Dez Ezekiel on Unsplash
Not only that, fabric crates are collapsible for storage, 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 some of the the noises and sights before those all important 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 your front seats.
If you're on a solo mission and need to travel with the puppy on the front passenger seat, don't forget to disable the airbag.
If you like the idea of a soft crate, we have two recommendations for you.
AmazonBasics Premium Folding Soft Dog Crate
Our top pick is the AmazonBasics Premium Folding Soft Dog Crate.
It's a great value and nicely designed soft crate with a strong PVC frame so it can hold its shape whilst you're on the move.
It is extremely lightweight so you can carry it to and from the car.
We love the large mesh windows on all sides which have been designed to ensure maximum ventilation to reduce the chance of dog car sickness which is unfortunately quite common in puppies.
The windows also ensures that you and your puppy can see each other at all times.
Better still, the large top opening along with the front 'door' provide very easy access for you to keep puppy calm throughout your journey.
The crate's fabric can be hand-washed in case of the odd accident and the crate even includes a cosy fleece mat for comfort.
Padded carry handles, and several storage pockets complete the thoughtful design and if you're not keen on the black, don't worry it's available in a range of five colours.
Available in a wide range of 5 sizes from the smallest at 53cm to a whopping 107cm.
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
+ Mesh ventilation
+ Rigid frame
+ Easier to use than a harness
+ Collapsible for storage
- Pricier than a cardboard box
- Doesn't have anchor points
Morpilot Pet Carrier
Our second recommendation for you is this super stylish pet carrier from Morpilot. It's a great alternative to the AmazonBasics soft crate.
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 moved.
The side walls are padded and the front and back walls unzip to open fully for easy access.
What's more, the stylish design incorporates mesh windows on the top and sides to improve ventilation and visibility.
The carrier does include a couple of thoughtful extras including a washable fluffy mat for comfort and a collapsible water bowl.
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 puppy will probably outgrow it quickly.
It could be really useful for vet visits and socialisation trips before puppy is fully vaccinated. Available in a black, blue and purple
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
+ Stylish design
+ Cosy mat for comfort
+ Includes shoulder strap
- Small sizes only
- Not as safe as a harness
2. Metal Dog Crates
If you're looking to invest in a long term solution, then we would recommend looking into a metal crate for your boot.
We have two different designs for you to consider depending on your car and boot size.
Lords & Labradors Sliding Door Crate
Lords & Labradors are renowned for offering high quality puppy products and kits.
From their extensive range of crates is a sliding door crate which is ideal for cramped spaces including your car boot. Instead of opening outwards, the main door slides to save space.
This Lords & Labrador crate has two doors, thicker bars than a standard crate and comes with a removable metal floor tray. Available in 2 sizes, they both fold flat for easy storage.
Whilst not the cheapest option available, potentially you could look at a sliding door crate doubling as a house and car solution.
Reasons to Buy
+ Could be a long term solution
+ Sliding door
+ Double as a house crate
Reasons to Avoid
- More expensive option
Ellie-Bo Sloping Car Crate
Known for their simple, durable and well designed crates, Ellie-Bo offer the best value crates on the UK market.
Their sloping range designed specifically for car boots, comes with a non-chew removable tray for easy cleaning and a soft fleece mat.
These crates also fold flat for easy storage when not being used.
Both the Ellie-Bo standard and deluxe sloping crates have a full set of measurements available online so you can check that your chosen crate will comfortably fit your boot before ordering.
There are three sizes available so there should be a suitable option depending on car size and puppy size.
Reasons to Buy
+ Could be a long term solution
+ Designed for car boots
+ Folds flat for storage
Reasons to Avoid
- More expensive option
3. Cardboard Box
Although not the safest option, many new puppy owners choose to use a cardboard box. The driver is far less likely to become distracted if the puppy is in a box on the rear seat than seated on someone's lap.
If you opt for this method of transport, make sure to line your box with some newspaper to deal with possible accidents. We'd also recommend taking along a blanket to make the base more comfortable and ideally something that smells of mum for comfort.
As with the soft crate, try to use your car seat belt system to strap the box securely in place or wedge it behind the front seats.
For some measure of control, consider fitting your puppy with a collar and a lead. You will then have something to grab quickly, as puppies can easily cause all sorts of issues if they manage to escape their cardboard box.
If you find that the collar you've brought with you 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.
Whilst a cardboard box is a very cost effective solution, be aware that the high sides will limit your puppy's field of vision which may lead to car sickness.
+ Easy to cuddle
+ Less driver distractions
+ Could add collar and lead for safety
- Not a rigid enclosure
- Limited field of vision for pup
- Not particularly safe
4. Dog Car Seats
For small breeds and puppies, you could opt to use a dog booster seat, but remember your puppy should be directly restrained with a harness, not just placed in the seat.
Available in a range of elevated and non- elevated versions, they are a perfect solution for travelling in the car and help reduce the possibility of car sickness developing.
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 feature this totally gorgeous blue Dog Pod from Luther Bennett.
A soft, comfortable enclosed space, it boasts extra strong travel handles. Made from a durable nano-nylon fabric it not only protects your seats from rips, tears and scratches, it washes extremely well.
Attaching to your car seats to keep it secure round corners, amazingly when you reach your destination, it can unzip to make a travel bed.
Smart Bark readers can enjoy 10% OFF the Luther Bennett range
Discount automatically applied at checkout
4. Laying on your Lap
Many people, for understandable reasons, simply want to cuddle their new 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.
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.
As with the cardboard box option, we would strongly recommend a collar and lead to give you some control if your puppy wriggles, bites, jumps etc.
You could consider investing in a car seat cover to protect your seats. We test and review a range of the best car seat covers available in our popular article - Best Car Seat Covers
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.
Lesure Dog Blanket
Ideally you need to look for a blanket that's easy to clean, comfy, warm and waterproof to protect yourself and of course your car seats.
We think that this reversible, super cosy blanket from Lesure definitely ticks all the boxes.
It features warm, cream coloured Sherpa on one side and a velvety, soft grey microfibre fleece on the other.
Plus this dog blanket can stand up to some rough treatment. It has a waterproof inner layer which is urine and drool-proof, meaning that it stops liquid from seeping through.
This feature makes it a great option for puppies, crate training, and protecting surfaces - like your lap.
Easy to clean it can be machine washed in cold water and tumble dried at low temperature.
Suitable for a variety of breeds, it comes in four sizes: small, medium, large and extra large - which will completely cover your back seat !
+ Cuddles - obviously
+ Easy to reassure puppy
+ No additional cost
- Most unsafe option
- Driver distractions
5. Puppy Harness & Tether
A harness is generally considered to be the safest choice of car restraint for dogs but may not necessarily be 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 haven't we featured this option in first place ?
The main disadvantage of opting for a harness for the initial journey home is that your young pup won’t be accustomed to it, and may become 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.
If you do choose a harness, we recommend two great alternatives which are both crash tested.
PetSafe Happy Ride Harness
First up is the PetSafe Happy Ride Harness. It's fully certified crash tested to keep your pup extra safe.
Crucially, it's available in four sizes to suit puppies through to adult dogs.
There is a handy Sizing Guide available online which takes into account the chest, neck and the weight of your puppy to help you select the best fit.
It's worth noting that a car seat belt tether is included when you purchase the harness, which attaches to the back of the harness and the other end clicks directly into your car seat belt system.
+ Safe option
+ Seat belt tether included
+ Puppy can sit safely on your lap
- Harder to fit correctly
- May cause additional stress
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 exceptionally 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. A sizing guide is available on Amazon with chest, neck and weight guidelines.
Instead of a car seat belt tether, this harness comes with a carabiner included to attach the harness to your car seat belt system.
+ Safest option
+ Adjusts to fit
- Initially harder to fit
- May cause additional stress
What to bring when you pick up a puppy?
Be prepared for any eventuality. We suggest taking the following -
blankets for comfort
some newspaper if you use your lap or box
paper towels for cleaning
poo bags for any accidents
collar and lead
water bottle and a treat
How do I make my Puppy's first journey stress free ?
Although it's tempting, try not to let children or adults handle your puppy too much if they're nervous. Hopefully your puppy will sleep for most of the journey as this is a tiring and stressful time for them.
Keep your car well ventilated this should reduce the chance of travel sickness.
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.
What time of day is best to collect a puppy ?
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.
Thanks for stopping by and we hope you found our article on
Bringing a Puppy Home useful.