French Bulldog Car Riding Guide: Sickness, Harnesses, and the Law


french bulldogs cars

We often take Claude the Frenchie on walks away from the house. This means we have to use the car in order to get there. However, there are many do and don’ts we’ve learned from taking our French Bulldog on car rides and I am going to share those with you today.

It includes whether Frenchies like car rides, how some can get car sickness, what the law says you can and can’t do, plus advice on restraining and harnesses you should use in your vehicle.

Above all though, I want to share with you the best ways to ensure that your French Bulldog dog is happy and safe whenever they take a journey in the car… and how you can help that happen.

Before we get into the practicality and legalities though, I wanted to try to best answer a few questions that most Frenchie owners will want to know first. These are primarily around happiness and sickness when riding in vehicles.

Do French Bulldogs get car sick?

Many French Bulldogs can get car sick, although like children it can vary from dog to dog. It is best to keep a very close eye on your Frenchie when first introducing them to the car so that you can be aware of if and when they are going to be sick.

claude car
Claude is happy riding in a car, but will always be in a harness.

French Bulldog car sickness is caused by anxiety more than the actual movement of the car, so before you set off it is best that you make sure they are 100% happy and feel safe inside the car. Like most dog training, little steps over a period of a few days are the best approach.

Try to see it from the Frenchie’s perspective: A car is a giant, hot container that smells strange and makes lots of noise; it is only natural for them to be at least a little bit worried. However, once they know the car is a safe and even fun place to be, hopefully any car sickness will go away.

Younger dogs often suffer from it more than older dogs, due to an under-developed inner ear. Your Frenchie puppy will hopefully outgrow it and learn to like riding in a car.

Handy Hint: See which French Bulldog car seats I recommend if you want to make sure your little guy is safe, secure, and comfortable whilst you drive.

However, if your French Bulldog continues to get car sick then it is recommended that you ask your vet for advice. Prolonged sickness can make your dog associate the car with the feeling, making them anxious and making the sickness worse, so the sooner you get advice the better.

On a personal level, Claude the Frenchie has never been car sick. He took to riding in our car from a young age with no problems. Similarly, when looking after a Frenchie puppy for our friend, she’s also never become ill.

Do French Bulldogs like car rides?

Our personal experience of having two Frenchies ride in our car is that they have liked it (or at least been happy and comfortable) and neither have ever been sick as a result.

However, we did take him on an open top bus ride over the summer. We sat on the top deck, and for the first 20 minutes he really wasn’t sure about it. Thankfully, just like car riding, he soon got used to it and returned to his happy self.

do French bulldogs like car rides and buses
After 20 minutes Claude got used to riding on a bus. He now likes car rides and travelling on buses!

The reality is that Claude knows that when he gets in the car it means he’s going on a longer walk than usual. Based on that, our French Bulldog likes car rides, and yours could too over time once they associate it with something positive rather than scary.

French Bulldogs in cars: what the law says

Claude the French Bulldog has been riding in our car for 3 years with no problem. We live in the UK and abide by the law and Highway Code which states that dogs must be properly restrained whilst travelling in vehicles.

However, according to recent research by Confused.com, over 60% of UK drivers don’t know that they are breaking the law if their dog isn’t suitably restrained whilst driving. This means harnesses, crates, or guards should be used.

Penalties of up to £5,000 can be levied so it’s an expensive mistake if you get caught out.

The United States has similar laws depending on what are of the country you live in. Let’s take a closer look at the American law on dog car riding before I get into the specifics of how to take your Frenchie on car rides.

What the US law says

While it is totally legal to travel with your French Bulldog in a car, there are certain rules and regulations in place for the transportation of animals, including family pets in cars.

For example, states including Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have laws in place making travelling with an unrestrained dog illegal, requiring something like a harness or a crate in order to prevent the animal from running loose around the vehicle.

If you are found with an unrestrained animal in your car (including cats) you can face up to $1,000 in fines in certain states, as well as possible points on your license.

However, states including Montana, Nevada, Missouri, New York and Florida do not have any legislation in place to make it illegal, but if you are crossing over the state line into a state that does have this law you will need to have something in the car to restrain your dog.

Other states, such as Iowa, Arizona and Washington, are more ambiguous with the definition of law, being that there are laws indicating that you shouldn’t travel with an unrestrained dog but is not specific enough to say whether or not you can be prosecuted for it.

In cases like this, it is recommended that you do further research before riding in your car with your French Bulldog.

Handy Hint: If you live in the United States you can use this map to see what you need to do when harnessing your French Bulldog in your car so you stay on the right side of the law.

How to take a French Bulldog in car

When travelling in a car with your Frenchie, ensuring their safety and welfare is important not just for them but for you and anyone else in the car as well.

It is recommended that you find some way of restraining your French Bulldog, either through a harness or a crate (or a dog bag, thanks to Frenchie’s small size). By doing so, you can better ensure safety and also comply with driving legislation.

Here are my suggestions on French Bulldog car harnesses, crates, and safety gear that you might want to consider.

1. Dog car harness

I believe the safest dog car restraint on the market is the Kurgo Impact Harness (see Amazon prices). It is specially designed to secure your Frenchie inside a car, with a helpful instructional video also available on the Amazon page. Frenchies weigh 28 pounds on average so I recommend you choose the medium sized one.

But please do weigh your dog first as it has a range of sizing options, ranging from 10 to 105 pounds. The Kurgo car harness will help to protect your dog from any sudden impacts.

2. Dog safety vest

An alternative to the car harness is this dog safety vest on Amazon.

Personally I don’t think it looks as secure as the harness, but does have very good reviews. It’s a full harness and detachable seat lead.

It tends to be more affordable than the Kurgo and comes in a range of colours and sizes (for pets between 4 and 88 pounds) and is considered to be the best of Amazon’s products in that category.

3. Soft dog crate

If you don’t like the idea of your Frenchie being sat on a car seat in a harness or vest, you might prefer a crate option which you can fit in the rear of your vehicle.

This soft and folding dog crate on Amazon is ideal for a Frenchie.

Available in 10 different colours and with multiple doors allowing for ease of access and transportation, it is so much better than clunky metal cages which take up so much room. It’s comfortable and easily transported both inside and outside of a car.

4. Car seat cover protection

As an optional extra, you might also want to invest in a seat cover to protect your car against muddy paw prints and fur. This one is a best seller for dog owners the world over and works in perfect harmony when harnessing your French Bulldog into your car. See what the reviews say.

And what I really like about it? It’s perfect not just for dogs but also for kids! It’s made from waterproof and non-slip materials with quilting to make it comfortable whilst also being easy to clean. It comes with a lifetime warranty and a 100% money back guarantee.

How to use a car harness with French bulldog

A harness is like a seatbelt for your Frenchie. They are designed to keep them safe and held in place in the event of a sudden stop that could otherwise send them flying forwards and hurting themselves and other passengers.

It’s ridiculously simple to use a car harness with your Frenchie. It’s put on in much the same way as a normal dog-walking harness would be. All you do is pull it over their head, pull their front legs though the hoops, adjust the straps to fit, and then pull a seat belt through the straps before securing.

Because of the way seatbelts are designed, an impact will cause the strap to fix in place, holding the dog and stopping it from being propelled forward by the sudden stop.

To see this in action, watch this video which shows the Kurgo harness I recommended being set-up. They have a larger dog in the video, but it’s the same steps if you want to use a car harness with a French Bulldog.

Bringing French bulldogs on a car ride: Do’s & Don’ts

Now you know how to bring French bulldogs on a car ride. Or do you? There’s a little more to it in truth, and here are those tips for safe Frenchie car travel.

The Do’s

Do keep an eye on your dog

Dogs are a lot like children when it comes to travelling in cars, with many having different reactions from car sickness to boredom. Keep an eye on your dog during your journey, especially if they are new to cars, as this can cause anxiety and restlessness.

Always bring some toys and treats to keep your Frenchie occupied; although don’t overfeed them as this doesn’t help with potential car sickness. I also recommend that you stop off occasionally for a cool down if you notice your dog getting restless, over-hot or anxious.

If you see your Frenchie is about to be car sick, pull over and get them out as soon as possible. Don’t scold them if they are sick, as they can’t help it and it can even make it worse.

Do carry food and water

While I don’t suggest feeding your Frenchie just before you travel as it can make car sickness worse, long car rides can make your dog miserable. To help with this, carry water and treats to keep your Frenchie entertained during longer journeys.

Cars can get very hot, from both the outside weather and from trapped body heat, which can lead to dehydration and even heatstroke, so be sure to bring lots of water to keep your Frenchie hydrated and happy.

Handy Hint: If you do suspect your Frenchie has overheated in your car then please read these tips on how to keep them cool and get the heat back down again.

Do restrain your dog

Even if it may not be a legal requirement in your state or country, it is still recommended that you invest in some kind of harness or crate to contain your French Bulldog to ensure its safety and yours.

Harnesses are affordable, adjustable and easy to buy, strapping your dog in like a seatbelt, stopping them from running around the car and protects them in case of sudden braking.

Do make it fun

If you only use your car to take your French Bulldog to the vet, then they will begin to associate travelling in a car with possible negative emotions. This can make it harder for you to get them into the car and causing both them and you increased stress and anxiety.

Be sure to use your car to take your dog to fun place too, including walks. By doing so your French Bulldog will associate the car with good things and be all too happy to jump in for a ride.

Do have a window shade

Dogs don’t sweat as much as humans, instead getting their main heat release through panting. Also, their fur can trap heat and stops them from cooling down quickly.

Putting them in direct sunlight can pose a huge risk of heatstroke. Children’s window shades can help stop your dog from overheating in the sun and can be bought for very cheap in a lot of gas stations and road-side stores.

Do keep your car clean

Dogs make a huge mess in cars. Taking a dog to and from a walk can drag in a lot of mud and dirt. It can then be very expensive if you pay for a professional cleaning service.

Even if your dog is clean, hair does have a tendency to get everywhere. If you decide to have your dog unrestrained, or in a harness outside of a crate, then how do you keep your car clean?

I recommended a dog car-seat cover earlier to help prevent any muddy paws from getting all over your seats. They are easy to put on and remove and will also stop your Frenchie from sliding around inside the car.

If you don’t want to spend money, a blanket will also do the trick if you have one you don’t mind sticking in the wash every so often.

The Don’ts

Don’t fully open your window

While opening your window can help ventilate a car, a Frenchie’s small size makes it very easy for them to jump out and into the busy road or highway. Even larger dogs can easily escape through a fully opened car window, posing potentially fatal danger to themselves and other motorists.

If you want to open your window, either open your own window (as long as your dog is unable to climb out over you), or open one of the passenger windows slightly at the top so that air can get in without your dog being able to get out.

If you have a skylight, make sure that it is high enough for your dog not to be able to jump out (although Frenchie’s small size makes this unlikely).

Don’t leave your dog in the car

Dogs die in hot cars. Never leave your Frenchie in the car, especially on hot, sunny days as the humidity in the car can cause heatstroke and other issues that can cause a potential fatality.

Even if you have your windows open, leaving them even for a short time can pose a risk of theft, damage or even the risk of them escaping. Always take your French Bulldog with you when you leave the car.

Don’t leave the airbag switched on

If your Frenchie is travelling in the front car seat, remember to switch the airbag off. Airbags are designed to protect fully grown adults, so to a smaller and more delicate dog this can potentially cause more harm than good to them in even of an accident.

Also, remember to switch your airbag back on when you are next travelling with someone in that seat.

Don’t let your dog lean out of the window

It may be an iconic image, but it is actually incredibly dangerous. Especially on highways when you’re travelling at high speeds. There is a risk that your dog could be hit by passing or overtaking vehicles, causing terrible injuries and even death.

Train your Frenchie so that he knows that the window is a no-go zone, stopping him from poking his head out and causing risk to himself and other drivers. Or more easily, just keep a smaller window gap open that their head can’t fit through.

Related questions

I hope you’ve found this guide to French Bulldogs riding in cars helpful. Since I published it a few dog owners have reached out to me with additional questions. Here are those queries with my responses.

Is it illegal to have a dog in the front seat of a car?

It’s not illegal in the UK as long as harnessed or restrained properly.

Having your dog riding shotgun can be fun, and sometimes the only option if you have a 2-seater or a truck, but, like children, it can often be dangerous.

This can be because of the risk to the animal and the driver in the even of an accident, as well as being a potential distraction.

As mentioned above, front seat airbags can also cause serious damage to a dog if it goes off, designed to protect human adults rather than small dogs.

What can I give my dog for car sickness?

Aside from training and getting your Frenchie happy and accustomed to car journeys, there are some medicinal products that can help. But, most of the time, familiarity and regularity will cure car sickness problems.

However, with Frenchies where it’s prolonged and shows no signs of stopping, you can speak to your vet about the following solutions.

  • Canine anti-nausea drugs
  • Canine antihistamines
  • Prescription drugs

Conclusion

Cars are part and parcel of everyday life; getting you too and from work, activities, visiting relatives and to get to some decent dog walks. It is important that you know the best way of travelling in the car with your French Bulldog.

With the right restraint gear (possibly a harness), and a little practice and training, your French Bulldog should grow to like car rides. Whilst a little car sickness at first might happen, in most cases your Frenchie will soon get used to travelling on the road.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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