When climbing into the car to hit the dog park, the dog beach, or for a trip to the vet, we need to remember to ask ourselves: is my dog safe?
Nothing makes me more nervous than seeing someone driving down the road with their best friend on their lap, head hanging out the window. While we may think that we are doing the nice thing by allowing the dog to be where she wants to be, we are actually putting our pups and ourselves in danger. One abrupt stop to avoid, say, the person that just stepped out in front of the car, is all it might take to send our furry friend flying into the windshield. Not only could she get seriously hurt, cause an accident, or worse, but this could be enough to make riding in the car a stressful, fearful situation for her for the rest of her life.
We have a couple of options for safe travel with our dogs. Probably the safest place for a dog in a car is in a crate. If you have the space in your vehicle to house a crate, this is the way to go. If not, there are other options. Safety belts/harnesses are relatively inexpensive and keep your pup from walking around inside the car and restrain her from being thrown in the case of an accident or sudden stop.
An option for small dogs is a car seat which performs the same way a child’s car seat does. Another option is a gate that mounts between the cargo space and the rest of the car, or between the front and back seats. This will keep your dog from climbing into the front, distracting the driver, and potentially causing an accident, but realize that the dog is not restrained and can still pace around, get banged around and really get hurt.
Back to the image of the dog in the front seat with her head hanging out the window & I know it is hard, but we need to reconsider the advantages to our pups of hanging their heads outside of the car. Yes, the dog loves it. Yes, it makes us smile. But the fact of the matter is that it is dangerous. Please don’t open the window so far that any part of the dog’s body is sticking out.
Besides the risk of falling out of the car, there is the risk of debris flying into the dog’s eye and scratching the cornea. And dirt and dust is one thing; can you imagine a stone or a piece of metal getting kicked up by the car in front of yours and shooting back at your dog’s head? Show your dog how much you love her by rolling up that window and taking her for a hike. She’ll get all of the fresh air, stimulation, and nose-to-the-wind time she needs – safely!
Last bit: Please don’t leave your dog in the car unattended. Temperatures in cars can rise and fall drastically within a matter of minutes. The car can quickly become a very dangerous place for your dog to be. If you are running around town, going in and out of places, leave your pup at home. Even if your dog loves car rides, no dog likes being left alone in a car with strangers walking by and staring in, tapping the windows all the while battling a rising temperature. It isn’t worth it.
We are responsible for keeping our dogs safe; they can’t do it on their own. It is our job to think through every situation we put our dogs in. So, strap Puppy in and hit the road – the possibilities for adventure with your safe, healthy dog are endless!
By Kate Campbell