Summer is a time for adventures. Whether you’re taking a small drive to the park nearby, or road tripping for a long camping excursion, warm weather is the time to get out and play. Dog lovers everywhere enjoy taking their canine companions on these trips. But if you’re bringing your dog along for the ride, it’s important to take certain precautions when driving with your pup. Read on for our 5 car safety tips that will keep your dog happy the whole way there.
- Use a Seatbelt or a Crate
We start this list with perhaps one of the most controversial pieces of advice: use a dog-friendly seatbelt or crate. Why is it controversial? Well to put it bluntly, most of the evidence used to “prove” the reliability of many vehicle safety products for dogs is bogus.
There are a lot of products on the market today that claim they have been tested thoroughly and meet safety standards for your pet. The unfortunate truth is that most of these claims are inaccurate. The thorough regulations for human safety products unfortunately do not apply to pet safety products. Therefore the pet vehicle safety products do not have to follow the same strict protocol for testing.
The Center for Pet Safety is an organization that takes the time to test these products thoroughly and rates them based on their effectiveness in a car crash. Any product that is approved by the CPS is deemed just as effective for a pet as a seatbelt is for a human. It is highly recommended that one of these safe products be used when transporting your dog in a vehicle.
- Keep Dogs Inside the Window
It’s quite common to see a dog happily hanging their head out of a window, catching the wind in their face and sun on their fur. But the Humane Society of the United States advises against this.
Branches, mailboxes, debris, or any other loose objects can potentially harm a dog whose head is hanging out the window. Something can get into a dog’s eye, nose, or mouth causing serious injury. Additionally, dogs should not be transported in the back of a pickup truck. Traveling this way is a danger due to flying debris, but it also increases the risk of a dog being hurtled out of the vehicle in an accident. Even something as simple as slamming on the brakes could cause a dog to be thrown from the back of the vehicle.
It’s also a good idea to disable any power windows in your car. A dog could accidentally open the window with the simple press of a paw. Not only could a dog harm themselves sticking their head out the window, but an over excited dog may even jump from the car. It’s best to keep the windows closed and keep power windows in lock mode.
- Dogs Should Stay in the Back Seat
A dog should always be seated in the back seat of a car or in a hatchback style trunk space. If a dog is seated in the front seat, there is a chance the airbag could be deployed and harm the dog. Airbags are designed with adult human safety in mind, not dog safety. Dogs are safest in a crash tested crate or harness in the back.
Dogs also should not be roaming around the car. If your dog is in a safe crate or harness, this will not happen. But if your dog is not using a harness or crate in a vehicle, be sure to encourage your dog to calmly sit or lie down. Constant movement from your dog is distracting and could cause the driver to pay less attention to the road, potentially leading to an accident. The Humane Society recommends always having at least two people in a car when traveling with a dog. This way, one person can devote all their attention to calming a dog if they are agitated and restless.
- Plan Ahead
When taking a short drive with your dog, there isn’t much planning that needs to be done. Simply get your dog settled into their safety device and be on your way. But for longer car trips, some planning ahead is required.
It’s important on long trips to first and foremost ensure your dog is ready for extended time in the car. If your dog is relatively unfamiliar with car rides, the ASPCA recommends taking your dog on a few, short practice drives to familiarize them with the vehicle. This will make the long trip easier for both of you.
Once you are both ready for traveling, it’s important to schedule a few breaks in the driving. Inevitably, your dog will need a bathroom break and will be grateful for the opportunity to stretch their legs. Most rest stops on the highway have designated dog areas where you can walk your dog and allow them to relieve themselves.
These roadside breaks are a great time to give your dog some water and maybe some treats or a meal if the time is right. Come prepared! Bring bottles of fresh water and a small bowl for your dog to drink out of. And don’t forget the leash and some poop bags! Leash rules and clean up rules are the same at roadside rest stops. Be respectful of the area by cleaning up, and keep your dog safe by keeping them on a leash.
- Never Leave Your Dog Alone in a Parked Car
Dog owners are reminded of this often, but the truth remains: never leave your dog in a parked car on a hot day. This rule applies to both short and long trips, and applies even if you are “just stepping out for a minute.”
The trouble is, a parked car on a hot day can heat up very quickly. And that heat poses a real danger to dogs. The Humane Society states that on a 72-degree day the interior of a car can reach a temperature of up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. And on an 85-degree day? The interior of a car can reach temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes – even with the windows slightly open! As the temperature increases, the dog inside the vehicle could be suffering from irreversible organ damage, which could even lead to death.
Thieves are another consideration when leaving your dog alone in a car. It may be tempting for someone who thinks they can resell a dog to break into a vehicle and take the dog before the owner returns. This problem is not just a summer issue, and should be taken seriously year round.
All these factors should be taken into consideration when driving with your dog. The car is meant to be a safe and comfortable place for both you and your canine. So plan ahead, and you both can sit back and enjoy the journey!