5 Steps to a Safe Drive with Your Dog

5 Steps to a Safe Drive with Your Dog

Does the thought of the car make your dog’s tail go into overdrive? Or do they become a drooling bundle of nerves? Whether they love or hate the car, it’s up to owners to make sure pets ride safe.

Even well trained dogs can become overwhelmed by nerves or excitement while in the car. Since the owner must have both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, it can be hard to keep pets safe while you drive. A number of hazards can injure your dog during car rides that you might not know about. A dog that isn’t properly restrained could also injure you or cause an accident. To keep you both safe, here are 5 tips for safe driving with your dog.

The best place for your dog to ride is the back seat. Riding on your lap or even the passenger’s lap may seem cute but is dangerous for both you and your dog. A front seat dog can distract the driver and potentially cause an accident. A fender bender that doesn’t hurt you can still cause the air bag to deploy. Air bags can crush pets in the front seat even if they’re inside a carrier.

Small dogs are best protected when inside a pet carrier. That keeps them from running from the back seat to the front, or interfering with the brake or gas pedals. For dogs that are nervous, this also keeps them from howling in your ear or climbing in your face as you drive. Should the worst happen in an accident, containing your dog inside a carrier helps ensure they won’t be lost or end up as projectiles through the windshield.

Some cars can’t accommodate a big enough crate to contain large dogs. You can install pet barriers that separate the front seat from the back. These come as adjustable metal bars or grates, or as canvas slings that double as comfy travel beds for big dogs.

You can also find canine seat belts that attach to the dog’s harness. That’s very helpful for large dogs that don’t fit inside carriers, or for cars that a barrier won’t fit. Seat belts also keep dogs inside the car when you open the door to load groceries, for example, so they don't dash off and become lost during rides.

Dogs love sticking their heads out the window. The rush of air that brings exciting smells along the way must be exhilarating. But that same wind can throw sand or other foreign matter into canine ears and eyes, and a window open too far tempts dogs to leap out. Keep dog’s heads inside the car to prevent injury.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.