As dogs have become valued family members, it is more and more common to see dogs riding in their owner’s cars. On any highway excursion you will witness dogs riding in the driver’s lap, hanging halfway out the window, pacing nervously back-and-forth in the second seat or riding “shotgun” in the front seat. All of these situations put the driver, the dog and the other passengers in a perilous position. If the car swerves or stops abruptly, the dog becomes a 20 to 80 pound missile flying around the inside of the car, striking other passengers, smashing the windshield or launching out an open window. Dogs riding in the front passenger seat will be killed instantly by the inflation of the airbag in the dashboard (That’s why young children must ride in the backseat!). If you love your dog enough to train him and to take him on errands and excursions to dog parks, what is the best way to keep him for keep him safe?
Three options for securing your pet significantly increase the chances of your dog’s surviving a collision and decrease the potential for distracted driving and injuries to the other passengers. First, move the dog out of the front seat and lower car windows only 2 inches for air circulation. Now put your dog in a chest harness and attach a 2-foot leash. Run the car safety belt through the leash handle and latch the safety belt. The dog will be able to sit, stand or lie down, but he will not be able to jump around the car. The second option is to put the dog’s crate in the back of the car and have him travel in his crate. If your dog is nervous about riding in the car, feed his meals in the car for a week. Take the dog for short 10 to 15 minute rides (on an empty stomach) until he stops panting, lip licking, pacing and generally appears more relaxed. When you are going on longer road trips stop every 1-1/2 to 2 hours to exercise the dog and delay feeding him until you reach your destination. For a dog that tends to get carsick, give him a couple peppermint candies before you start to settle his stomach and make sure there is plenty of circulating air on curvy roads. Park your car in the shade and never leave the dog in the car if the outside temperature is above 70°F.
Written by Jean Cary, the Service Dog Tutor. Jean Cary’s in-home dog training program for companion dogs and service dogs, Service Dog Tutor (www.service-dog-tutor.com), serves clients from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale. She helps clients adapt their dogs to do specific service tasks for them (or just tune up their behavior) and to train them for public access. Her 25 years of experience with Pet Assisted Therapy make her uniquely suited to work with seniors, disabled owners, and their dogs.