4 ways to keep your dog safe while driving

Published: March 18, 2021

Dog traveling in a car seat the front seat of a car. Dog with a map.

You would never think of heading to the cottage without your dog. But travelling with a dog in the car isn’t as straightforward as letting them hop in the back seat before you leave. A loose dog is distracting and dangerous. Instead, appropriate equipment and a little planning will ensure your car trip is safe and fun for everybody involved.

Never let your dog roam free in the car

First, you need some method of securing your dog inside your vehicle. They should never ride in the bed of a pickup truck. Nor should they sit in the driver’s lap or be free to wander about. Not only will that pull your focus from the road, but it’s incredibly dangerous if you must stop suddenly or are in an accident. Your dog can be thrown around the vehicle sustaining serious injuries. Or they can act as a projectile, hurling into you or a passenger. Also, consider the panic and chaos after an accident. If your dog escapes from your vehicle, they might run into traffic or be lost.

Secure your dog inside your vehicle

Instead, place your dog in an appropriately sized crate or car-safe carrier. Your dog should have just enough space inside the crate to stand up, lie down, and turn around. Then attach the crate to the vehicle or, with a smaller carrier, secure it to the seat with the seatbelt. There should also be adequate ventilation. Don’t pile luggage or groceries around the crate as it can block your dog’s access to fresh air.

If your dog’s crate is too large for your car’s interior or your dog isn’t comfortable in a crate, you can use a harness attached to the seat belt as an alternative. Do not use your dog’s regular walking harness. Look for a safety-tested car harness that will evenly distribute pressure across your dog’s chest. And although your dog might want to sit with their head out the window, this can lead to injuries if debris flies into your dog’s eyes or ears. You can crack the windows for air, but don’t roll them down far enough for your dog to poke their head out.

Don’t forget ID tags

Another essential piece of equipment for car travel is an ID tag for your dog’s collar. When you stop to give your dog a potty break, they might escape the car before you can fasten their leash. Once they’re lost, an ID tag is your best bet for getting them back. At the least, the ID should contain your cell phone number with area code and any medical conditions or behavioural issues your dog has. You might also consider travelling with a first aid kit for your dog as well as their medical records.

Plan rest stops

Finally, plan your meal breaks and rest stops to accommodate your dog. Choose dog-friendly locations like picnic spots so your pet can leave the car with you. Or travel with another person so you can take turns staying in the car with your dog while you run the air conditioning. You should never leave your dog in a parked car, particularly in the summer. Even with the windows open, the temperature can rise to dangerous levels in minutes. Always carry a water dish and water and frequently offer some to your dog.

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