Volkswagen Magazine


calm down!

Sleepless nights, nervous owners, anxious dogs? It doesn’t have to be like this. We show how everyone can stay relaxed during car trips and when going on holiday. If in doubt, take three deep breaths, keep calm and carry on.

Text Sabrina Künz
Photos Cem Guenes
Illustrationen KircherBurkhardt Infografik

Would you take an elephant in the car without buckling it in? It’s a silly question of course. Well, how about an unsecured load of logs? No? The idea of these being set loose while braking and injuring your family would have you anxiously grabbing the safety equipment. Driving with a dog seems different, though. Open the door, let your treasured animal in and just hope for the best. And you do this even though an emergency stop at 50 km/h would actually transform a fluffy Collie weighing 25 kilos into a lethal 1,250-kilo projectile. The same weight as a young elephant.
This extreme example shows how important it is to secure dogs properly in the car. Always. Even on short trips, and even if time is tight. There are different systems to choose from: mesh or grid, fixed and portable carriers or straps. The right choice depends on the temperament and size of the animal and on the type of vehicle. The dog needs enough air while you’re driving. A member of the family shouldn’t be squeezed between the luggage in a stifling boot. Many four-legged friends hate not having their family in view, or missing out on the passing scenery.
How happy your dog is while in the car is a matter of routine and habit. As dog trainer and psychologist Julia Neuen knows, for many dogs it isn’t riding in the car that’s the actual problem. Lots of dogs won’t even hop into the car. To avoid this, advises the trainer, it’s best to get your puppy used to the car and to riding short distances, so it becomes an everyday routine for him. Many breeders lay the foundation by making puppies familiar with the car and the carrier.

But even if you get your dog later or he has had a bad experience, this doesn’t mean that cars must have negative associations. “Dogs live in the here and now. You can convince any dog to see nothing negative about travelling by car,” says Julia Neuen. It is important that you don’t make too much fuss about the matter and take enough time. This way no nervousness or excitement arises in the first place. Even quiet-tempered animals should get to know the car in peace. Just put them in, let them sniff around and wait until they relax. Praise them and let them out, and then repeat. Deep breaths and composure are the order of the day. Finally, extend the practice to short trips. Having their own place in the car provides reassurance.

With proper practice, travelling by car can be much more than just a necessary evil. Many dogs feel so comfortable in their carriers that they use them as a bed, both at home and on the road. That way they always have their familiar place to retreat to. 

the unknown creature.

As soon as the topic of “dogs and cars” comes up, countless helpful voices start nattering away, providing you with well-intentioned advice and dubious taboos. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience with dogs or long trips, you don’t need to drive yourself crazy here, advises Julia Neuen. It’s not as if a car trip will overnight turn your dog, who you know and trust, into a mysterious creature who reacts completely unpredictably. You should trust your gut feeling when it comes to feeding before departure, taking breaks and the like. The main thing for owners is to stay relaxed and not verge on having a nervous breakdown – otherwise your passengers are definitely going to pick up on this.

Volkswagen Accessories

The partition grille protects against abrupt braking. Located between the seat and the roof, it divides the luggage compartment and the passenger compartment. The steel grating is easily attached behind the back of the rear seat, without any drilling. For small dogs, space dividers additionally allow the luggage compartment to be split.

A boot liner can be combined with either option. It is washable, non-slip and comfortable. Alternatively, there are reversible boot mats of velour and plastic. These are as soft as they are sturdy. The boot sill protection film helps against scratches. The transparent film is easily applied to the sill of the rear bumper.

Sunshades for the rear window and the side windows of the luggage compartment help against heat and sun. Sunshades are easily inserted and removed, and don’t impair rear visibility.

countdown to your holidays.

Of course, a trip together requires preparation. It’s important for you to get acquainted with the holiday destination ahead of time. What activities are there for two-legged and four-legged creatures? Is there a leash law? Are muzzles required? They are mandatory in many European Union countries. If holidaying abroad, you should ask your vet in good time whether your dog needs to be vaccinated and what you should take in the first-aid kit.
Dogs must have a pet passport when travelling within the EU. This must designate the dog clearly – and it must be ID’d with a tattoo or microchip and the passport identification number. Since 2011 it is mandatory for newly marked animals to have a microchip. In addition to information on the dog and the owner, the passport must include evidence that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies. A country’s entry requirements can be obtained from its embassy.
Then all that remains is to find a destination that is fun for everybody. But above all, dogs are deeply attached to their human companions. As long as their loved ones are with them, nothing can stand in the way of a great holiday. A tip from us: active holidays taken on the beach, in the forest or in the mountains are an adventure for animals. If such experiences are waiting at the end of the long drive, the drive itself will be a source of good memories.

Partition grilles between the passenger and luggage spaces prevent dogs being thrown forward during heavy braking. These grilles safeguard the occupants and are convenient because you don’t have to lug around a carrier. The disadvantage of this protective device is that primarily it just protects people. It is important that no loose objects are left lying around that can hurt your dog. When you buy a grille you need to make sure that your dog can’t slip past at the sides.

Carriers are very popular. There are two kinds: those that are permanently installed, and the portable version. The former are individually tailored to your car. This is a very safe and comfortable solution especially if you have two dogs or regularly travel with your dog. The disadvantage is that, even if you are travelling by yourself, the carrier blocks the loading space. Portable carriers are convenient, mobile and secure when you ensure that they are stably constructed. The key factors are the appropriate size in which your dog can be comfortable, and the placement. Carriers for small dogs are placed into the footwell in between the front and back seats. The varieties for large dogs are placed in the luggage area – preferably at right angles to the direction you’re driving in – and set against the back of the rear seat.

off we go!

A walk before departure is good for everyone. As you set off, you should have a favourite toy, blanket or basket in your luggage to provide some familiarity. In the summer, when it’s hot you should also have enough water in your bag. Traffic jams may make journeys longer. It’s important for everybody’s mood to take enough breaks. The dog can take care of its business while all the other passengers get a chance for a short stretch. A break helps fight fatigue and boredom. Here again, different dogs have different requirements. Animal trainer Julia Neuen’s two four-legged friends sleep on long trips and sometimes even stay more than four hours in the car without a whimper.

One thing the trainer now makes sure to have is a heater. It keeps the car at a comfortable temperature for humans and animals. So in the winter Neuen can just leave the dogs in the car and know that they’ll be fine. She’s just bought a Sharan for her family and the dogs, and is looking forward to some adventurous trips together.

Seatbelts We learn from a young age that we need to fasten our seatbelts. The natural idea is to do the same for our four-legged friends. There are safety belts for dogs, but these are equipped with a harness which secures the belts in the back seat. You should seek advice from a Retailer, regarding which strap is appropriate for the size and weight of your dog. The harness should be well padded and sufficiently stable. The decisive factor is the fit – the belt should not allow too much play, yet your animal’s movements must not be restricted too much either. If your dog is very fidgety, you are better off with another transport system.