Are you aware of the dangers of unrestrained dogs in cars?
Here’s why I ask…
If you love taking Fido anywhere you go, chances are he’s your loyal furry co-pilot.
Here’s the thing though.
Of course it’s super cute to see your pup sticking their head outside the window, ears flopped back, taking in ALL of the smells.
Unfortunately, doing so unrestrained is also super dangerous. Have a read of this Volvo study about unrestrained pets in cars.
Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to keep your pup safe(r) in the car AND to avoid a fine, so read on to find what you can do!
The Danger of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars
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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’s simply impossible to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel WHILE 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. Possibly even with his front paws on the steering wheel, stretching in direction of the window.
Here’s some truly crushing news: If an accident happens right then and there, your lap dog will get crushed by the deployment of the airbag.
Do you really want to risk that?
Also, if you have to hit the brakes suddenly, Fido will become a first class projectile and go flying through the car.
Possibly even through the windshield depending on their size and the speed you’re traveling at.
The consequence would be serious injuries, or even death.
Some unrestrained dogs have also 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. That may get them hit by another car, or cause them to get lost.
The Dangers of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars: Precautions That Keep Your Dog Safe
Thankfully, as with most things in life, you can take several precautions to avoid the super scary scenarios I just described!
The safest way of going for car rides with Fido is to set him up in a sturdy crate that’s secured with tie-down straps.
The securing and sturdiness factors are really important, because a generic plastic crate will NOT survive a crash.
Sturdy aluminium dog crates are the safest option. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive and will cost several hundred dollars.
However, if you have enough space in your car for them, it’s (literally) a solid investment.
The ProLine Crash Tested Crate is one option and costs $749. It is, however, tested by the German TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein), an association responsible for performing security checks.
That crate is designed and made by swiss engineers.
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.
However, there are good alternatives!
For example, 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.“
Update 2022: I have since then used a variety of a tools to keep my dogs safe in the car, such as:
- Ruffwear Load Up Harness
- Mighty Paw Sport Harness 2.0 & their Headrest Seatbelt
- Crash tested car crate (German make, not available on the US market. I bought it after our move to Germany in 2021)
It’s 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 you’re spotting a lost dog while you’re on the road.
In addition to a human first aid kit, you should also consider a pet first aid kit for your car.
I invite you to check out my blog post “What’s In Your Dog First Aid Kit”?
It helps you create your very own DIY pet first aid kit or purchase premade ones.
Other Things to Consider When Traveling With Your Dog
Make sure your dog is up to date on their 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. That’s because those regions harbor ticks that carry the disease.
Always be considerate of others and pick up after your pup, so pack a sufficient amount of poop bags.
Also, remember to bring along enough water dog food, as well as their favorite toy(s).
Last but not least, have copies of your pup’s vaccination records in the car, as well as pet insurance info and a current picture for identification purposes.
Make sure that your pup’s wearing their ID tags at all times.
The Dangers Of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars: Bottom Line
Driving 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 in the US!
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 them 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!
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