Dog Car Safety:
Seven Tips to Keep Rover Safe
on the Open Road

Here's a dog car safety story that you've probably heard. Do you remember the hysterical anecdote in “Marley & Me” when John Grogan recounts how Marley stopped traffic on a busy South Florida road when he climbed head first out of the car window?/

dog car safety husky behind wheel

Since I knew that Marley survived this ordeal, it seemed pretty funny. But this story also brings up an interesting point about dog car safety. Marley could just as easily not have been so lucky. For starters, he could have been hit by oncoming traffic. The outcome would have then been anything but laughable.

So before you open your car door and let Buddy jump in, think about whether you are jeopardizing his safety – and your own – by practicing poor dog car safety habits.

All it takes is a little forethought and planning to make sure that your journey – whether it’s to the beach, the mountains or the corner store – is safe and fun for all involved.

Follow These Dog Car Safety Tips Before You Hit the Open Road with Your Furry Passenger:

Begin Practicing Safety Even Before you Get in the Car
My baby, Chase, is a very exuberant passenger! He gets especially excited on his weekly trips to the holistic pet store to stock up on his favorite goodies. Since I know that Chase is going to bound out of the car as fast as his legs will take him, I keep a firm hold on his leash when unloading him from the car. Only when I have made sure that there are no moving vehicles around us do I give him enough slack to begin our walk across the parking lot.

Buckle up (Both you and your Dog)
A dog that’s left to roam free in a car can become a canine missile in the event of a sudden stop or accident. This can cause severe injury or even death for the dog, and can also pose a serious hazard to the human passengers. For starters, an unrestrained pet could fly through the windshield, out of an open window, or even into the driver, causing her to lose control of the vehicle.

Also, to practice good dog car safety, never let your pet ride in the front seat of the car. According to pet safety expert Melanie Monteiro, author of The Safe Dog Handbook: A Complete Guide to Protecting your Pooch, Indoors and Out, “Airbags are designed for the height of a human, not a dog. If an airbag deploys while a dog is riding in the front passenger seat, the force can kill him.”

According to Monteiro, a dog riding in the front seat could also bump you or the steering wheel, or get between you and the pedals. (Traveling by plane with your canine companion? Check out our expert Q&A with Melanie on dog air travel ).

To secure your dog, use an amply sized crate, a dog car safety harness or a vehicle barrier, advises Monteiro. “Never use a neck collar to restrain your dog wile driving, as this could cause a throat injury or even strangulation,” she says. If using a crate, make sure that it is secured so that it can not slide or roll over.

dog car safety dog hanging out of window

Don’t Let Fido Hang out of the Window
Sure, our furry friends get some kind of a “doggy high” when they stick their heads out the window and let the wind rush through their flopping ears, but allowing this is a serious breach of dog car safety. For starters, dirt, rocks and road debris can fly up and into your dog’s face, seriously injuring him or causing severe eye damage. A dog hanging out of a window is also a target for cars driving too close. Or, just like Marley, they can even lower the window with their paw and climb out and into traffic (when driving with your dog, be sure to set the child window and door lock switch as an extra precaution).

Pack Cold, Fresh Water
Often, before we even back out of the driveway, Chase wants a drink of water. It seems that just the thought of going for a ride makes him thirsty! For that reason, it’s a good idea to always bring along a bowl of cold, fresh water. I pack Chase’s in a small storage container with a plastic lid and I also put in several ice cubes to keep the water cold longer.

Keep a Dog First Aid Kit on Hand
An essential part of dog car safety is to have a first aid kit in your car in case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance. Keep the first aid kit in your glove compartment or other area easily accessible from the passenger seat, rather than in the trunk. Read more on the items to include in your

dog first aid kit.

Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car
My boyfriend and I have a weekend routine where Chase, he and I pile into the car to do errands, but either my boyfriend or I stay in the car with Chase as the other runs in to whatever store we’re at. Chase is just too precious for us to take any chances leaving him alone in the car. For starters, we live in a climate where it is virtually always too hot to leave a dog unattended in a car. In addition, leaving a dog alone in a car exposes him to the tragedy of potential theft.

Always Make Sure Your Dog is Wearing His Collar and Tags while Traveling
Even if you’re only driving around town, don’t overlook a common sense aspect of dog car safety – making sure your dog is wearing ID tags with up-to-date contact information. At least then – if the unthinkable happens and he does somehow get loose – you will have a much better chance of finding him.

Just follow these tips to dog car safety and you’ll be well on your way to happy trails (or, I should say, happy tails)!

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