The majority of us take our dogs to as many different places as we can, but even the occasional trip to the vet or the daycare involves a car ride. How many times have you seen little Fluffy sitting on mom’s lap in the driver’s seat, or big Fido standing halfway out the rear window soaking in the sun? Probably pretty often, but unfortunately these aren’t exactly the type of scenarios we want to see. Restraining dogs in the car, whether by doggy-made seat belts or crates, is extremely important for not just their safety, but yours as well. Below are some of the better reasons you should keep your pup restrained:
- Dogs can interfere with our driving, both physically and mentally. A dog in your lap can limit your ability to steer and see properly, and there are reports of smaller dogs crawling under the brake pedal or stepping on the accelerator and causing accidents – both of which are bad news for dog and owner alike. I’ve been driving down the street and stopped at a light next to a Labrador barking his head off inside the car on the front seat. Both of our windows were up – imagine how loud it must have been sitting next to him! How can one expect to be fully capable of driving when your attention is constantly taken away from the road?
- Accidents happen – even when your dog wasn’t a part of the cause. A loose dog holds just as much risk as a loose person – he can and may fly right through that windshield. He can also fly right into you – and even if he’s a small dog this can cause some serious injury to both of you. If he manages to be able to run away, he probably will. Car accidents are just as scary for him as they are for everyone else…except he isn’t going to be watching out for other cars. A dog that escapes can be hit by another car, or run so far he isn’t ever found again.
- Some dogs are very protective of their owners, especially when they know they are hurt and distressed. What happens if you are incapacitated and emergency response teams are unable to get to you because your dog is aggressively protecting your body? We’d like to think he’s being a hero here, and while he’s trying to be, he’s likely to get hurt or killed. EMT’s and other first responders have a duty to save you, and if that means moving Fido out of the way, they are going to do just that.
- Remember that a dog with his head out the window can also get hit with debris and other objects outside the car – this can cause damage to the eyes and other parts of the body.
- It’s also important to realize that some dogs just do not like being in the car – ever. These dogs do much better when restrained, and they are far less likely to hurt you or themselves in a panic.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you take your pup for a ride in the car. Whether you’re using seat belts designed specifically for dogs (using human seat belts will likely not provide any safety) or crates (which should also be secured to the vehicle to prevent them from flying around in an accident), keeping your dog safe in the car is keeping you safe as well. Accidents happen – that’s why they’re called accidents. So let’s try and keep them to a minimum and make sure we are all kept safe and sound.
About the Author
Katie is a professional dog trainer located in Southern California, with a background of experience as a veterinary assistant as well. She has trained and competed with multiple breeds in AKC Obedience and Rally, agility, herding, Schutzhund/IPO, French Ring and conformation. She has been involved in dogs since she was a child, and specializes in protection dogs, working dogs, and aggression issues. You can visit her website, Katie’s Dog Training, to find out more information about her training and accomplishments. When she’s not helping others and writing, she’s out on the field with her Belgian Malinois and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
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