If you love taking Fido anywhere you go, chances are he’s a frequent car “rider”. While having him stick his head outside the window, ears flopped back, taking in the overload of smells is reminiscent of canine freedom, I’ll have to hit the “buzzer” button right about now.
The Danger of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars
Did you know that unrestrained dogs who are allowed to roam around freely inside a moving car pose an incredibly high risk of distraction? Any driver who has to tend to a dog barking uncontrollably or climbing around in the car is accident prone.
It is simply impossible to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel, AND keeping track of your dog’s whereabouts at the same time.
One of the worst distracted driving situations is the one where Fido sits on your lap in the driver’s seat, maybe even has his front paws on the steering wheel, or stretches himself in direction of the window.
Here’s some truly crushing news: Should an accident occur right then and there, your lap dog would get crushed by the deployment of the airbag.
If you had to hit the brakes suddenly, Fido would become a first class projectile and go flying through the car, possibly even through the windshield depending on his size and the speed you were traveling at, and face serious injuries, or even death.
Some unrestrained dogs have been known to jump out of crushed car windows and follow their flight instinct ~ in other words: Take off, most likely in a puzzled and disoriented manner ~ which may get them hit by another car, or cause them to get lost for an uncertain amount of time.
Precautions to take to keep your dog safe in the car
Thankfully, as with most things in life, precautions can be taken in order to avoid the super scary scenarios mentioned above!
The safest way of going for car rides with Fido is placing him in a well secured, sturdy crate that is secured with tie-down straps. The securing and sturdiness factors are really important, because a generic plastic crate will NOT survive a crash.
Sturdy aluminum crates are the safest option. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive and will cost several hundred dollars.
The ProLine Crash Tested Crate I found on Amazon.com costs a hefty $749 – it is, however, tested by the German TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein), an association responsible for performing security checks.
It is created by swiss engineers and also made in Switzerland.
The Heavy Duty Gunnar Kennels performed great in the Subaru Car Safety Test, and are a little less expensive than the ProLine ones at $500.
Unfortunately, the crate option for larger dogs is usually only feasible if you drive an SUV. There are good alternatives, however, such as the Ruffwear Load Up Harness which attaches to the seat belt buckle.
According to the Ruffwear website, their Load Up Harness “has been successfully tested to withstand the rigors of a vehicle crash test.“
I have to admit that the harnesses I currently use have not been vehicle-crash-tested, which worries me and will therefore be replaced with the Ruffwear ones very soon.
Update 2019: I have since then purchased a Ruffwear Load Up Harness.
It is also a good idea to have an extra set of leashes and collars on board, in case your regular ones break or get torn for whatever reason. They also come in handy when spotting a lost dog while out and about 🙂
In addition to having a human First Aid Kit in your car, you should also consider having a K9 version of it. I invite you to come check out my post about what it should consist of!
Other things to consider when traveling with your dog
Make sure your dog is up to date on his vaccines and look into the climate and its potential health risks you are traveling to. If you travel to the northeast and upper Midwest of the US, you may want to consider vaccinating your pup(s) against the tick borne Lyme disease, as those regions harbor ticks that carry the disease.
Always be considerate of others and pick up after him, so pack a sufficient amount of poop bags, and remember to bring along enough water & his regular food, as well as his favorite toy(s).
Also have copies of vaccination records in the car, as well as pet insurance info and a current picture for identification purposes should Fido get lost. Make sure that he’s wearing his ID tags at all times.
Riding around with an unrestrained dog in your car is asking for serious trouble sooner or later. It may even be prohibited by law depending on where you live!
That’s why I recommend to keep car adventures safe for all parties involved and to invest in a car harness/seat belt attachment for your pup, or to keep him safe in a travel crate.
What’s left is to enjoy a safe trip with your pack!
How do you keep your pup(s) safe when traveling by car? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!