Most dogs get very excited by the sound of car keys. I’ve had friends with badly trained dogs who’s only means of getting their dog to come when called was to shake their car keys. Riley isn’t quite so car-crazy, but he does love to sit in the back and keep on the lookout for any new dogs we might come across. He’s never been one to stick his head out of the window to sniff the wind, but maybe that’s because I am pretty careful not too open the windows too far.
When I was a kid, seat belts were a novelty. We rode in the back of the station wagon with the rear window down, feet out the window, sucking in exhaust fumes as we sang B-I-N-G-O driving my father crazy. These days, things have changed and as parents we should be just as concerned about the health and safety of our fur units as our other children, right?
Here are some things to think about before hitting the road with BINGO:
1. Seat belts vs crating?
This will depend on your dog as well as your vehicle. If your dog is used to being crated and feels safe and sound while traveling in his crate, then that’s probably the best way to go. If you don’t use a crate in the car, then restraining your dog with a proper seat belt is essential. Even in a sudden stop or a minor collision, an unrestrained dog could be thrown into the dashboard, windshield, or even into other passengers. Excitable or fearful dogs have been known to escape through open windows or doors, which can put them in a very in a dangerous situation. And remember, you could be miles from home. Finally, an unrestrained dog is a distraction to the driver. The folks at canineauto.com have a great selection of restraints for most dogs and vehicles.
2. Where to sit?
The safest place for a harnessed dog to sit (or an unharnessed one, for that matter) is in the back seat. Airbags can be dangerous to dogs. Think of your dog as a small child (as if you didn’t already) and keep him out of the front seat. Many people travel with their dogs in the cargo area of their SUV or wagon, but did you know that many rear cargo areas in wagons are crumple zones? Check out your vehicle’s crash test specs before you decide. The Car Guys recommend “the far back of your wagon or SUV with a secure gate installed between the back seat and the cargo compartment.”
3. Heads out the window?
Call me overly protective, but I do not let Riley stick his head out the window, unless we are driving in our own neighborhood at about 20 MPH. Yeah, lots of dogs love to do this and it’s fun to see, but think about how you would feel if your dog got hit in the eye with a piece of gravel or a rock that someone’s tire kicked up while driving down the interstate. Flying debris of all kinds can cause eye injuries, get stuck in ears, nasal passages or even throats. Or worse, your dog could be seriously injured or killed if he decided to jump from the vehicle if a cat or a squirrel took his fancy. Remember, just because your child likes riding with his head out of the window isn’t a good reason to let them do it, so why would you treat your dog any differently? The guys at howstuffworks.com have posted a great article about this debate.
4. Truck vs Car?
Never transport your pet in the cargo area of a moving truck, even if they are restrained, they are inhaling dangerous levels of carbon monoxide for the duration of the trip. Unrestrained dogs can be thrown from the back of a moving truck, if the truck hits a bump or a pothole. (The Humane Society of the United States doesn’t think that dogs and pickup trucks are a great mix either.)
5. Unattended in a Parking Lot?
Would you leave your child in the car in the mall parking lot? I don’t know about you, but I always think twice about leaving Riley alone in my car. I have seen posters in local supermarket lots asking for help in finding pets that had been stolen from such cars. And while we’re at it, do I really have to remind you how quickly temperatures can rise inside a car on a hot day? Check out mydogiscool.com for some terrific advise.
A little common sense goes a long way in keeping you and your dog safe and happy as you hit the open road. And remember, be sure to pack some treats and some water, along with your ScooPup Pocket, (the best poop scoop and carry bag there is) so that you can pick up after your dog if he needs to make a rest stop along the way.
PS. If you love cars as much as you love dogs, check out my friend Casey’s blog and phenomenal artwork at: http://artandcolour.blogspot.com/