Car Safety and Your Dog
Dogs are wonderful travel companions. However, just like children, they can do some things that cause problems if not properly restrained and trained. With a little effort, you and your dog will arrive safely at your destination.
We will start with the problems. Then we will discuss the solutions to each problem.
Hanging out the window. First, dogs that hang their heads out the window while the car is speeding along are at risk for a number of hazards. They can get flying debris in their eye or nose, causing injury or even blindness. Second, they are at risk of falling or jumping out the open window to chase something they see. This usually severely injures or kills the dog. Even if he survives the jump, then he is loose in a strange place and may actually run in front of another car.
Bouncing Dogs. If your dog bounces between the front seat and the back seat, on top of you and under your feet, he is a distraction and a hazard. It is hard to pay attention to the road when your dog is jumping all over the place. If you do have an accident, the dog becomes a projectile that can injure anyone he hits, or can be ejected from the car and killed.
Darters. Does your dog dart out the second you open the door, before you can put a leash on him? Are you worried that he will dart right into traffic, or run off and disappear in a strange place? You have a darter. He really is at risk for traffic fatalities and getting lost. It is essential you find a way to keep him in the car until the leash is on and you are in control.
The solutions to all these problems, as well as many more, are a crate, a seatbelt, and a leash.
Crate. My dogs are crate trained. Until they stop chewing, usually about one year of age, they are crated when I cannot watch them. The crate is their room, with food and water and a blanket. When we travel, the crate goes with them. It is as if you could pick up your bedroom and take it with you so when you get tired, you can sleep in your own bed.
Crates go in cars and trucks just fine. The dog has a place he is used to so he is comfortable. The owner knows the dog won’t be bouncing around. When you stop, you can control the dog until you get the leash on him, so he cannot dart off.
Crates need to be tied in to the vehicle. Years ago I know a show dog person who rolled a motor home. Her crates were not tied in and many of her dogs were badly injured. Bungie cords or rope work best to secure the crates. This is your dog’s seatbelt in an accident, so it needs to be secure, but you need to be able to get it out again, too.
Seatbelts. I confess that my dogs ride in doggy seatbelts now. I leave them in my truck and the dogs know they have to be fastened in to go anywhere, so they cooperate when I put them on.
There are several brands of seatbelt. What you look for are:
- Whether the harness is padded in the chest and sides, which would be where the dog would be held in a collision,
- How difficult is it to fasten (and unfasten in an emergency)
- Does the part that goes to the car seatbelt give the dog enough room to sit up or does it force him to lie down
I use a four inch long traffic lead and thread the seatbelt through the handle of the lead, then snap the lead to the D ring on the harness. This gives the dog room to sit up and look around or lay down and go to sleep.
This photograph is an excellent illustration of the utility of seat belts. Victoria wants to go play with some other dogs. I had her restrained with a seatbelt and it kept her from bothering me while I was driving, but also kept her from bolting when I opened the door.
The third thing I mentioned, a leash, comes in here, too. I always leashed my dogs before I took off the seatbelt. That way, I didn’t have to worry about them darting into traffic or running off to play.
I love to take trips with my dogs. They are wonderful travel companions. Make sure that you keep them safe during travel by using a crate or seatbelt while moving. Never let them out off lead unless you are in a secure fenced area. Remember that many attractions do not allow dogs. Make provisions for a safe place for your dog to wait for you. Never, ever, leave your dog in the car. Finally, have fun on your trip, whether it is ten minutes or several days.