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Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Car

Car safety for dogs Most people wouldn't let their kids or themselves ride in a car without the safety of a seat-belt, but it's still common to see dogs unrestrained in the car. Dogs have just as much chance of being injured or even killed in case of an accident - and they can also injure the driver or passengers too. Dogs need to be safely restrained, just as much as we do. In some places it's even the law! Car safety for dogs is important for everyone who travels with their dog.

Why secure your dog in the car?

  • Unrestrained pets can distract the driver and cause an accident. We've all seen dogs frantically running from side to side or front to back in the car ... or dogs who are licking the driver, trying to get into the front seat, or barking in the driver's ear. Distracted driving can easily lead to an accident.

  • A loose dog can be ejected from car during an accident or sudden stop. Dogs can become 'catapults', and get thrown through the windshield, or even over the seat and collide with the the driver or passengers. This can cause serious injury to both the dog and the humans.

  • A loose dog may escape in case of accident. They may escape through a broken windshield or through a window or door that popped open during the accident... and a scared dog will often run and become lost, sometimes running through traffic and endangering other drivers.

  • An restrained dog can become a threat to rescue workers. It's frightening when an accident occurs, and frightened dogs may bite or threaten rescue workers who are only trying to help.

  • Other items in the car could injure the dog. During an accident or even something as simple as a sudden stop, loose items in the car may become airborne and end up injuring the dog (or you!).

Options for Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Car

  • Kennel or crate. A well-made, hard-sided kennel or travel crate is a great way to secure a dog in the car. It should be roomy enough for him to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Lots of ventilation will help to keep your dog comfortable, as will some soft bedding.

    Kennels and crates offer good protection from flying objects in the car (eg. as a result of sudden stops or accidents), and will also prevent your dog from becoming a dangerous projectile. A securely latched kennel door will prevent the dog from escaping just in case the car door pops open in an accident. And of course, a crate will stop a dog from running around the vehicle and distracting the driver.

    Soft-sided travel crates can also be used although they obviously don't offer the same level of protection as a hard-sided crate.

    Kennels and crates can also be tied down in the vehicle for extra security.

  • Seat-belt / safety harness. There are many different styles and brands of seatbelts and safety harnesses for dogs. The harness includes a loop at the back or some other mechanism through which you can thread the strap from the car's seatbelt. The car seatbelt is clicked into place like usual, and thus the dog is secured in place.

    Dog seat-belts are made to work with nearly any type of car seat-belt. They are easy and convenient to use and many different styles are available. Look for wide straps and/or padded chest pieces for more comfort. Ideally, the tether - the piece that's attached to the car's seatbelt - is short so that the dog can't be propelled too far forward in case of a sudden stop or accident.

  • Dog booster seat. For small dogs, the car seat / booster seat allows them to see out the window while providing some safety features. Look for a dog car seat that clicks into your car's existing seat-belt, while also providing an additional harness for the dog. This is basically a modified seat-belt / safety harness for small dogs and has the same benefits.

  • The dog barrier. These are barriers that are installed between the front and back seats, or between the back seats and the cargo area of a vehicle. They help to prevent dogs from catapulting over into the front seat, but dogs can still escape out of the vehicle if the back door opens during an accident. It's still preferable to use a crate or safety harness if possible.

    Barriers also help to stop dogs from climbing into the front seat and distracting the driver.

Leashes should never be clipped into a dog's collar and then into the car's seat-belt - a sudden stop or accident can cause the dog to choke. Always use a harness. And finally, remember to make sure that your dog is wearing up-to-date identification tags just in case.

Some dogs will need time to get used to being restrained while traveling. That's okay. Take it slow and keep the experience positive. Keeping them safe in the car is the ultimate goal.

Travel safe!

"Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods." (Christopher Hitchens)

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