Dog trains man

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travelling by car with two Hovawarts

One of the challenges we faced with Viva joining the family as our second Hovawart was how to travel safely by car with two 90 lb dogs.

I did some research on blogs and resources on-line and also got some great advise from Rod Burket from, by commenting on his guest post Show Some (Car) Restraint! on Edie Jarolim's blog Will My Dog Hate Me?.

Rod advised in our case to go for the crate solution. Mainly because of the size of our dogs. And I agreed with Rod on that. But things turned out easier said then done.

You can't always get what you want

The crating solution gave us some short term challenges, as the crates we would need for our Hovawarts are the XX-large kind. And they don't fit into our current car. We went looking for a car that matches the size of the crates, but buying a bigger car in Denmark is not something you do lightly. Just a hint: you pay 180% tax on cars in Denmark. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

But something needed to be done. When we only had Kenzo we used a harness and seat belt system. Just putting Viva next to him in her own harness seat belt system made me worry that they could hurt each other by smashing into each other, would an accident occur. Like the big dogs they are, the chances of them hitting the side of the car or the front seats on impact seemed too high. The seat belts would protect us from them becoming a projectile in the car, but I felt their own safety was at risk.

Putting Kenzo restrained on the rear seats and Viva restrained in the back of the car would not leave enough room for much else. We tried that once and it didn't work.

Down to the car repair shop

What could we do to improve our current car while waiting (and saving) for the final solution? This is what we came up with:

We let the car repair shop rebuild the back of the car into a dog safe area. A steel safety grill has been set up between the back and the front of the car which will prevent them from becoming a projectile in the car. A steel compartment divider splits the back in two so they will not smash into each other with an accident. There a sun screens for all the windows protecting them from direct sunlight. And finally, a load compartment mat in plastic, resistant of any dirt their paws may bring in and a smooth surface like Hovawarts prefer. There is a harness for both dogs which we will attach with a long leash to a belt system in the back. The only function this will have is to prevent them from walking out in traffic, would an accident occur.

Test driving

Viva ready for a test drive
It might look like a lot of space on the picture but it is not for our Hovawarts. They are able to just turn around in each of their space. They can sit, stand up or lay down in reasonable comfort. When we make enough stops they should be alright. We are going to do some test drives to see if they can enjoy the ride and if there is enough space. One of the great things with this solution is that I can re-arrange the steel compartment divider in the middle to the left or right and create more space for one of the dogs. The other can then move to the rear seats in our good old harness and seat belt system. So we would still be able to do some fine tuning down the line.

Roof box

To create some more space and not to have all the luggage laying around in the rest of the car, we also bought a roof box. Which should be able to contain most of our luggage if we would travel light (hope my spouse is reading this too). Whats wrong with buying some new clothes and dining out a lot on your destination? We are on vacation!

For the moment this is as good as we can do, to travel safely with Kenzo and Viva. But we are looking forward to the crates, and the car that would fit them.


Here are some great resources with information on safe travelling by car:
Dog Jaunt
Dog Cars, see also the car review section by make and model



  1. What a fantastic and creative solution! All the safety and comfort bases are covered and I'm sure that you're going to have a blast on your travels. Thanks for letting us know how things turned out, and when you do get out on the road come on over to our Facebook page and post some photos. We'd love to see what you and the dogs are out enjoying.

  2. Thank you Amy!
    Means a lot to us you can approve our temporary solution, being the travel guru's you and Rod are.

    We are going to make a lot of pics and video's when we are travelling and when we are out at our destination. We will look you up on Facebook and post the best ones. Looking forward to hit the road!

  3. That is a creative solution. I hope it works long term. We ran into a problem transporting our big dog, when I bought a MUCH smaller car last year.

    Thankfully, I had the option/ability to keep my older, bigger car for the few times a year he needs a ride.

  4. @RoxanneHawn
    There are still a lot of options. Buying an older/bigger car is also one of them. We don't expect this to be anything more then a temporary solution.

    Looking ahead we expect more and more business trips as our company grows. And I like to take my whole family with me on those trips, no matter what. After summer we will also start driving to the beach weekly, but those as shorter trips so no problem there.

    Eventually, secured crates is the best option. We will go for that, whatever car would fit around them will do.

  5. You never cease to surprise me with your dedication and willingness to work with/for your dogs to find a solution that works for them.

    I mean.


    I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but I'm taken aback, impressed, and just crazy about this idea.

    I don't know many other people that would take their car to have this kind of work done just so they could take the dogs on vacation, too. They'd just leave them behind.

    This is kind of inspiring - just in case anyone tells me it can't be done, I now know that a little planning and creativity are all you really need. It can so be done.

    How do the doggies like it so far? Viva looked pretty ready to go in that picture. =]

  6. Wow -- great solution. But when you say "the workshop" do you mean an auto repair shop? If so, that's really impressive. I can't imagine anyone in a U.S. garage being able to do anything like it.

    Be careful about that clothes buying though -- unless you plan to ship everything back by mail...

    I'm not going to tell Frankie about this post, incidentally. He thinks if I provided him with a smoother ride -- say, an Escalade -- he wouldn't have a problem with cars. If he hears that someone else is buying a larger car just for their dogs, he'll be very jealous.

  7. @JJ
    ... and you always make me *blush* :) Thank you for your kind words.

    I don't want to judge people finding a good place to stay for their dog while on vacation, but also for me it is difficult to see any benefit in it. We did think about it with Kenzo a couple of times, but eventually decided to take him with us. Knowing he would miss us and not sure how he would react to spending time away from us. I also couldn't miss him for one single day, that would just be horrible. Sunset beach walks would be boring. No buddy to do some tracking. So for us, it just won't work.

    For Viva we don't even consider it. She has been traumatized twice being left in a shelter by her family and no way we are going to leave her behind and re-open old scars. I am no behaviorist and don't know what it will do with her, but my feeling says it just can't be good.

    So adding all those things together, you can see we had to find a way, there is no other option :)

    Viva jumped in right away and was waiting to leave. Anticipating a car trip to some fun place. Kenzo was, as always, reserved. He jumped in to check those new things out and jumped out again. It was a short test drive, we try again tomorrow.

  8. @Edie
    Ah, a car repair shop! Thank you for finding the correct English term. I will correct it in the text.

    For me it was also pretty amazing all that gear was ready available and even existed. We just browsed through some different catalogs on internal websites from wholesellers they had access to and ordered it for the correct car type. You would be amazed what more I even could even ordered. And it just took them 2 hours to set everything up.

    The clothes buying thing is not the smartest. But I was thinking, if my spouse would read it, it could be a good idea to hint a little bribe.

    Frankie would be hard to bribe I can see, it is best you don't tell him :)

  9. I think it would take a lot of work to get Viva to a point where you could board her and have her be fine with it - not worth it if you have the option or the want to take her with you, in my book... =]

    We plan to board when we go to conferences - have not done it yet, and plan on doing an overnighter as a test-run beforehand. So long as the dogs are kept busy and everything, they are usually okay. I work, once in a while, at a doggie daycare/boarding facility... and even the dogs with separation anxiety do okay when they are being played with and loved! (Though they'd prefer to be with their parents, that's for sure!)

    Glad you are taking Kenzo and Viva with you, in any case. =] I'm sure they will have lots of fun - and that's worth it!

  10. @JJ
    Of course I forgot. Facilities are a lot better in the US.
    In Denmark they are best compared with shelters, usually no fun and entertainment for the dogs, just a walk.

    There are some exceptions, but they are difficult to come into.

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  12. Kenzo and Viva look really awesome. Just it was another travel to your pretty much interesting, fun loving and informative blog. Today I experienced a new challenge how to manage a car system to suit our big dogs. It's really incomparable and knowledgeable too. Happy to see you got the final solution and rebuild the back of the car into a dog safe area. Anyway, for installing any car system, I would recommend Acura Dash Cam Installation for the guys in the respective area. Thank you very much for sharing such a helpful project.


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