On the Road With Your Pooch: Car Travel Risks and Safety

Whether youre taking your pooch along with you to run errands or on a cross-country road trip, here are some risks and safety precautions to consider when traveling with your dog in your car.

Restrain your dog

Unrestrained dogs are at risk of injury or death in an accident, and they can even injure human occupants of the car. In a 30 mph collision, your dog can exert a force 20 times that of his body weight! This means that if your dog weighs 25 pounds, he suddenly becomes a 500-pound weight being hurled at your head in an accident. After an accident, your dog will be scared and may flee the scene. Prevent losing your dog by restraining him in the car.

A dog that is not restrained can also cause distractions. In fact, the Automobile Association of America (AAA)  rates pets as the third worst distraction in cars (after radio/CDs and kids).

Either use a harness, put your dog in a crate that is also restrained (because you dont want the dog and crate flying at you), or use a barrier between the rear and front of the car.

Note that the type of harness you use must be specific for dogs. A human seatbelt is made for our anatomical structure, not a four-legged dog. A dog restraint/harness protects your dog by absorbing force and distributing the load evenly across the stronger areas of his body.

Check this out: Use wireless dog fences to restrain your dog

Dont let your dog hang his head out the window

He may look like hes having the time of his life – mouth wide open, fur swept back. But this really is a danger to your dog. Other vehicles, especially larger ones like buses and trucks, may pass very close to your car, and hit your dogs head.

Your dog is also at risk of debris such as stones, sticks and trash hitting him in the face. Think of a pebble shattering your windshield, and then imagine the damage it could do to your dogs eye. If your dog is unrestrained, he could even jump out the window if he gets spooked or sees something to chase (an instinct thats hard to resist).

Its okay to have your windows down a fraction to allow fresh air to blow in the car, but not enough to let your dog get his head out.

Keep power windows locked

Another window risk involves power or electric windows. If your dog has his head out the window and his paws on the arm rest, he will likely step on the button, raising the window and trapping his head, with terrible consequences. For this reason, be sure to keep the child safety window lock in the locked position.

Help your dog into and out of your car

Your dog is at risk of injuring his spine or other joints if he has to jump a long distance to get out of or into your car. This can apply to small dogs getting in and out of any type of vehicle, or big dogs in SUVs. Be sure to help your dog get in and out of your car, or buy a ramp to help them up and down.

Dont break the law

In some states, you will be breaking the law if your dog is not tethered in your vehicle.

Keep your dog safe in pickup trucks

If you drive a pickup truck, put your dog in a crate in the truck bed. Secure the crate with bungee cords or something similar to prevent it from sliding or rolling. A crate will also protect your dog from flying debris and the weather.

Tying your dogs leash to the truck bed can be deadly if he jumps or falls overboard.

More safety tips:

  •  Dont play with, feed or pet your dog while youre driving.
  •  Never drive with your dog on your lap.
  •  Dont leave your dog in the car with the keys in the ignition, since he may activate the door lock and lock you out.
  •  Try to position your dog in the car so that he does not block your view.
  •  If your car has airbags, dont let your dog sit in the passenger seat since he could be injured or even killed if the airbag is activated.