Why We Need to Talk About Keeping Dogs Safe in Cars
Making sure your dog's safe during car rides is as important as guaranteeing the safety of human passengers. As loving dog owners, it's our responsibility to create a secure environment for our furry companions while on the road. This blog post will guide you through several aspects of dog car safety, including driving tips, safety laws, dealing with dog anxiety, types of restraints, other safety equipment, and dealing with accidents.
Car safety is a topic most dog owners tend to overlook. However, unrestrained pets can pose a significant threat to your concentration, increasing the risk of accidents. Even minor mishaps can lead to serious injury for an unrestrained dog. Understanding dog safety while driving is essential for every pet owner.
Safety Tips When Driving With Your Dog
Traveling with your dog can be a joyous experience if you follow some simple safety guidelines:
Schedule Plenty of Stops
Just like humans, dogs need breaks to stretch their legs, hydrate, and relieve themselves. Scheduling rest stops every 2–3 hours can help keep your dog comfortable and prevent restlessness.
Start with Shorter Journeys
If your dog isn't used to car rides, begin with short trips to get them comfortable with the movement and sound of the vehicle. Gradually increase the length of your rides as your dog becomes more comfortable.
Don't Let Your Dog Hang Out the Window
Although dogs seem to love sticking their heads out the window, it can be dangerous. Debris and other hazards from the road can injure their eyes, ears, and nose. Additionally, an unexpected swerve or bump can throw them out of the car.
Don't Give Them Treats on the Journey
Feeding your dog during the trip can cause motion sickness. It's better to feed them a light meal 3–4 hours before the journey.
Always Have the Air-Conditioner On
Cars can get hot quickly, especially in summer, causing distress or heatstroke in dogs. Always keep the air conditioner on and make sure your dog is cool and comfortable.
Dog Car Safety Laws
Dog car safety laws vary by state, but most jurisdictions require dogs to be safely restrained while in a moving vehicle. Non-compliance may lead to fines. Always check and follow the local laws about pet travel.
Here's an example list of dog safety laws that may apply in different areas:
- Restraint Laws: Some states, like New Jersey and Rhode Island, have laws requiring dogs to be restrained or confined in vehicles. Specific requirements can vary, so it's crucial to check the local regulations in your area.
- Riding in Pickup Trucks: Some states, such as California, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, have restrictions on transporting pets in the bed of a pickup truck without proper protection.
- Distraction Laws: In several states, although not explicitly written for dogs, laws that prohibit distracted driving can be applied to drivers who are distracted by their pets.
- Unattended Pets in Vehicles: Multiple states, including California, Illinois, and Nevada, have laws that make it illegal to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle under conditions that might endanger its health or well-being, such as heat, cold, or lack of ventilation.
- “Good Samaritan" Laws: Some states, like Florida and Wisconsin, have enacted "Good Samaritan" laws that allow individuals to break into a car to save a distressed animal without being liable for damage to the vehicle.
Remember, this is just a broad overview and not an exhaustive list. Always check with local laws and ordinances in your area or any area you may be traveling through with your pet.
Safely Placing Your Dog in the Car (Where you put your dog matters)
The location of your dog in the car significantly impacts their safety and comfort during the journey.
Unsafe Seats for Dogs
The front seat is a danger zone for dogs. In case of an accident, an airbag can seriously injure your dog. Similarly, the rear window ledge isn't a safe place either, as it's not designed to restrain a dog during a sudden stop or crash.
Where should a dog sit in the car?
The safest place for your dog is in the back seat or the cargo area of an SUV, securely fastened with a safety restraint.
Coping with Dog Anxiety in Cars
Some dogs may experience anxiety during car rides. This can be due to motion sickness, unfamiliarity with car rides, or past traumatic experiences.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Crying In the Car?
Training, desensitization, and counter-conditioning techniques can help reduce car anxiety in dogs. Comforting items such as favorite toys or blankets may also help. For severe cases, consider consulting a vet or a professional dog behaviorist.
Types of Restraints for Dogs in Cars: Carriers, car seats, and safety harnesses
The type of restraint you choose for your dog depends on your dog’s size, behavior, and your car's interior space.
Carriers are an excellent choice for small to medium-sized dogs. Make sure it's well-ventilated and secure enough to prevent your dog from escaping. It should be large enough for your dog to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around.
Car Seats for Dogs
Dog car seats are suitable for small breeds. Look for a dog car seat that's crash-tested and has a secure attachment to your car seat.
A harness should secure your dog without restricting their movement or causing discomfort.
Top Crash-Tested Harnesses
Some top-rated crash-tested dog car harnesses include brands like Sleepypod Clickit and Kurgo Impact.
Are Harnesses Safe for Dogs? Are There Cons
While harnesses provide safety during car rides, they may cause discomfort if they're not the right size or not properly adjusted. Some dogs may also resist wearing them.
Other Car Safety Equipment for Dogs
Besides restraints, some other items can enhance your dog's safety and comfort in the car.
Dog First-Aid Kit
A dog-specific first-aid kit can be invaluable in case of an emergency. Include items like bandages, tweezers, a digital thermometer, a muzzle, and emergency contact numbers.
Dog Poop Bags
Carrying poop bags is essential for maintaining cleanliness during rest stops. Ensure you dispose of the waste responsibly.
Grooming wipes are handy for cleaning your dog after a rest stop or in case of motion sickness.
Can I Leave My Dog in the Car?
Leaving your dog alone in the car can be life-threatening.
Hot & Cold Temperature Concerns
Even with windows slightly open, the car can quickly become too hot or too cold for your dog, leading to heatstroke or hypothermia.
Studies have shown that even on a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 90 degrees within ten minutes and over 100 degrees within 20 minutes. In cold weather, cars can rapidly drop to the outside temperature and increase the risk of hypothermia for your pet.
Dealing with Accidents
Despite taking all precautions, accidents may occur. Knowing how to handle them can be lifesaving.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Being Hit by a Car
Keeping your dog leashed during rest stops, training them to wait before exiting the car, and teaching them the 'stay' command can help prevent them from darting out into oncoming traffic.
What to Do if Your Dog is Hit by a Car
Call a vet immediately if your dog is hit by a car. Try to move them as little as possible to prevent further injury. Your vet is the best person to guide you about the treatment required for car-related injuries. Be patient and follow the recommended treatment plan.
Keeping Your Dog's Safety in Mind
Ensuring dog safety in cars can seem overwhelming, but with careful planning and the right equipment, it's achievable. Your dog's safety and comfort should always be a priority when you’re behind the wheel.
Remember to always check local laws, choose the right restraint for your dog, keep your car cool, and never leave your dog alone in the car. Happy and safe travels!