Car safety for dogs is so important. Whether it is a quick trip to the store or an epic cross-country family road trip, if you plan on bringing your dog there are a number of things to consider. The first question you need to ask is “does my dog need to come?” When your dog does need to join you, that leads to the next question: “How do I keep Fido safe?” Whether in the car or the back of a truck, it is important your dog is securely contained for everyone’s health and safety. Just as you would never consider allowing your toddler to roam freely around the car while driving down the highway it is important to remember that dogs that are allowed to run free can be a distraction. In the case of an unfortunate accident, they can also be thrown around causing harm to the dog and anyone in its path.
Methods for keeping your dog safe in the car
There are several methods available for containing your dog in the main part of your vehicle or even the back of your truck. Below are the most commonly accepted methods. All methods have their pros and cons and it is important to decide which method will work best for your car and your dog.
Barriers are widely available for most makes and models of cars. They work by keeping your dog in the back of your vehicle which is important as it will prevent them from interfering with your driving and prevent them from flying forward when you come to a sudden stop. Barriers do not prevent your dog from being thrown around in the back of the vehicle nor does it prevent them from running around the back while moving.
Crates are probably the most accepted and commonly used method of containment. They are useful for most vehicles, including trucks as they can contain your dog inside or outside safely and securely. As with a barrier, your dog can still turn around and move but this is safely contained within the crate. This crate should be safely secured either by a seatbelt or other form of a tether. This prevents the crate from being thrown around in the case of an accident and with it, your dog. This method is incredibly effective, and it is one of the reasons they are required by airlines for any travel by plane. For larger dogs and smaller vehicles, crates can be quite large and may take up most, if not all, of your back seat that may be impractical, particularly if you have children with you.
In recent years, there has been the reintroduction of safety harnesses. These are designed differently than regular walking harnesses as they are designed to are heavily padded to absorb some of the shocks of a sudden stop and to keep your dog in their seat. They are essentially seatbelts for your dog and should be considered as such. These come in all sizes, and there are many brands available. It is important to do your research, however, as not all brands are created equal as there are currently no laws standardizing testing for these products. Traditional harnesses do not have this padding, and if your vehicle comes to a sudden stop, catastrophic consequences are possible depending on the materials. The unyielding nylon will stop while your dog continues their forward momentum that can cause broken bones or worse while leather harnesses will simply snap allowing your dog to be thrown around the vehicle. The other advantages harnesses have are that they will keep your dog in their seat yet allow them to look out the window, allow children to pet their beloved companion, and enjoy the comfort of the seat. While harnesses can be tethered to the back of a truck, this is often not advised. If the dog must be in the back, a harness will prevent them from jumping out the side, and prevent them from being thrown around but does not protect them from any projectile or weather.
Other considerations when traveling with your dog
When traveling with your pet there are other considerations you must make. Common things that are often overlooked are issues such as:
Where will my dog stay when I leave the vehicle?
Whether it is a quick run into the grocery store or overnight in a hotel it is important to know where your dog is going to stay. For long trips, it is important to arrange accommodations that allow pets and to know what the hotel rules are regarding pets. Some hotels have limitations on size, often limiting dogs to 20 pounds or less. Others require your dog to be in a kennel at night. All hotels will require your dog to be fully housebroken, and most will also charge a non-refundable cleaning fee on top of their usual rate.
What is the weather like?
Hot weather for dogs is deadly. Every year an untold number of dogs die due to overheating in cars. This is because these incidents are usually unreported by the owners of these dogs. 14 states have currently made leaving your dog alone in the car in either hot or cold weather illegal, and other states are looking at adopting this stance as well. While it may not feel warm to you, 85-degree weather can be fatal for your dog as your car will act like a greenhouse. The temperature can rise quickly to 102 degrees within 10 minutes and 120 degrees in a mere half-hour. Opening windows often reduce this by up to 10 degrees and that is simply not enough.