A NEW tool has been created to find the best pitstops for your pooch when embarking on longer journeys this Christmas.

Service stations across the country have been ranked by drivers to highlight where owners should stop – and where to avoid – when their dog needs to stretch its legs while travelling to visit family and friends over the festive period.

It follows research revealing the average dog owner plans to travel 111 miles with their furry friend to share festive fun with loved ones this Christmas.

Although, 74% of the 1,852 dog owners who travel with their pooches polled have concerns about where they can stop safely to let their four-legged animal burn off some energy.

The study was conducted by CarStore, which also created a useful Pooch Pitstop Planner tool that automatically generates potential pitstops.

Kim Costello said: “Our dogs are our family too, and making concessions for them while travelling is important.

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“We have no doubt that all stops on our list of motorway services cater in some way to the needs of our four-legged friends, but other factors such as a calm atmosphere, space to walk away from the road and, importantly, places to go to the toilet, make some stations more suitable than others.

“The service station voted the best by dog owners, Killington Lake near Kendal, Cumbria, boasts picturesque green space purposely situated far away from the motorway, a pretty picnic area, and a dog friendly approach.”

Of those respondents who plan to travel in the car with their dogs over the Christmas period, 72% will make at least one stop every two hours to let their pooch stretch their legs. 

And a conscientious 43% will plan their route with breaks in mind for their pups at reasonable intervals.

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This is above and beyond the planning they would typically need to do, with 61% admitting they stop more often with their dog in the car than they would if they were driving alone.

As for motorway services with the best facilities for dogs, Killington Lake on the M6, Telford and Oxford services were all voted as great stops for our four-legged friends.

Tebay, Reading and Wetherby also appeared in the top 10 dog-friendly motorway services.

Just over a third (34%) of drivers travelling with dogs this Christmas will make their trips with more than one furry friend in tow.

And almost two thirds (63%) admit they often put the comfort of their dog ahead of their own when travelling.

This level of care is unsurprising, given that 71% of all respondents in the survey consider their dog a treasured member of the family.

Of those who travel with their dogs, a third will make sure their pet is secured in the back seat, while one in six (17%) will let them ride up front – something that’s strongly advised against by experts, due to airbags and proximity to the windshield and driver.

The study, conducted by OnePoll.com, found 77% have concerns about stopping off with their dog at an unsuitable location.

A wary third are worried their pet might accidentally get hit by traffic on a stop, and a further 33% fear their pup might feel anxious at all the noise at the services.

A fifth fret that their dog might go to the toilet during a stop in an area where they cannot clean it up, and 25% have concerns about them experiencing sensory overload.

Kim Costello from CarStore added: “We hope that our tool can be of use to the millions of dog-loving Brits out there planning their travels over the festive season.”

The research follows the car sales brand’s partnership with the canine experts at Battersea to make their centres more dog-friendly by training their Personal Advisors accordingly – meaning drivers can find the vehicle best for them as well as their four-legged friend(s).

Rob Bays, canine behaviour and training manager at Battersea, said: “Christmas should be fun for all the family, including our pets whose comfort and safety should be considered amongst the festivities.

“When travelling with pets it's important to ensure you stop during your journey to allow your dog time for an all-important comfort break and chance to stretch their legs.

“Whilst each dog has their own specific needs, we recommend factoring in a break at least every two hours.

“Planning stops in advance will ensure your pets’ needs will be taken care of and will give owners peace of mind so they can enjoy the festive season.

“Christmas time is also often filled with lots of festive treats and sweets.

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"It’s important to make sure these are well out of your dog’s reach when in the car, as many of these treats can be harmful to our pets.

“Making sure that your dog has access to fresh drinking water throughout your journey – a travel bottle is great for this – is also important and don’t forget to ensure they still receive their regular meals.”

TOP 10 DOG-FRIENDLY SERVICE STATIONS

1. Killington Lake (M6)

2. Telford (M54)

3. Oxford (M40)

4. Tebay (M6)

5. Reading (M4)

6. Wetherby (A1 (M))

7. Chester (M56)

8. Norton Canes (M6)

9. Cherwell Valley (M40)

10. Northampton (M1)

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