Most dogs love to ride in cars. All it takes is hearing the jingle of the car keys or someone saying, “Hey, want to go for a ride?” and their ears prick up and their tails start wagging.
Unfortunately, many pet owners think it’s okay to let their beloved pooch roam the car at will during vehicular excursions. Not only can this lead to injuries to the dog, it can also cause accidents by distracting the driver. That’s why dogs should be restrained at all times while going for a ride in the car. And, that’s only one aspect of driving safely with pets. Here’s what you need to know to keep your dog safe and sound while on the road.
Seat your pet in the right place.
Dogs belong in the rear seat – for their safety and yours. Riding on your lap may seem like fun, but it’s risky for both of you. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of serious auto accidents, and few things are more distracting than having a dog squirming around in your lap.
The same goes for riding in the lap of front-seat passengers. Even if you drive safely, another driver could slam into you from behind, causing the airbags to deploy. You may come out of it with only a few bumps and bruises, but an airbag can easily kill a dog.
Keep your pet contained.
Letting your dog wander around in the car greatly increases the chances of serious injury, even in minor accidents. There are several ways to keep your pet safely restrained.
- Pet carrier. These small carriers keep dogs safely contained, but still allow them to experience the joy of riding in the car. They are ideal for small dogs and those that get nervous or agitated in a car. They are also good for long trips because they provide a safe place for your pet to sleep. Be sure to secure the pet carrier so it can’t slide around or get tossed about in the event of an accident.
- Dog harness. This acts like seatbelts, securing your dog in the seat while allowing some freedom of movement. Large dogs may need a combination doggie seat belt and harness to keep them safe. Harnesses also keep your pooch from bolting out the car door as soon as someone opens it.
- Dog barrier. Some dogs are too big and some cars are too small for pet carriers or harnesses. Installing a dog barrier between the rear and front seats will keep your pet in its proper place. These safety tools come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. They work well in cars where the rear seat folds down, thereby giving larger dogs some freedom of movement.
No heads out the window!
If there’s one thing dogs love, it’s sticking their heads out the window in a moving car.
It looks cute seeing a canine with its tongue hanging out and its ears flapping in the wind. But, the rush of wind dogs love so much can force small particles into their eyes and ears. Open windows can also tempt them to jump out of the car in traffic, especially if they spot a cat or some other temptation nearby.
Keep your pet cool.
One of the most dangerous things you can do is leave a pet unattended in your car. Even if the day isn’t a scorcher, it’s surprising how quickly temperatures can climb inside a car, especially with the windows closed. Don’t try to rationalize by saying, “I’ll only be gone a couple of minutes.” It doesn’t take long for the interior of a car to heat up and your dog to succumb to heatstroke. Either take your pet with you or leave it at home.
Safety Tips for Long Trips
Dogs may love riding in cars, but on long trips that can get tired and worn out just like their owners. You can keep them safe and make the trip more enjoyable by doing the following:
- Keep the inside of the car cool. Put shades on the windows where the sun shines directly on your pet.
- Provide snacks and water. Water is especially important, as dogs can easily get dehydrated on a long trip.
- Take frequent breaks. Pets need to relieve themselves on long trips just as humans do. Regular breaks also provide an opportunity for both of you to stretch the legs and get some fresh air.
- Bring toys. Toys help keep your pooch occupied by giving them something to do. Chew toys and rawhide bones are especially good because it allows your pooch to burn off some energy.
A little planning and preparation will go a long way toward keeping you and your pet safe on the road. Happy and safe travels!