With countless images of dogs poking their heads outside of car windows, pet owners may not realize traveling with pets isn't as pretty as it looks like in postcards. There are several more things to look out for besides letting a window down.
Here are several tips to prepare for to make a dog owners car pet-friendly.
1. Purchase a secure carrier or harness.
While a pet owner may be a bit uncomfortable seeing four-legged family members in a cage, it certainly beats the risk of getting caught underneath the seat or possibly flying out of the car should a collision occur. Net barriers keep dogs from jumping over the seat, distracting passengers and drivers. Universal bar barriers do as well. Pet harnesses also can securely fit most seat belt buckles. However, pay special attention to more active, aggressive pets to make sure they don’t try to fight their way out of the harness. While some pets may just not like the feel of the harnesses, other times it may be as simple as relaxing the restraint to prevent discomfort and possible strangulation.
2. Avoid letting pets sit on driver’s or passenger(s)’ laps.
Just as auto insurance is purchased for “just in case” incidents, the same thought process should go into pet safety. It may sound pessimistic to assume the worst, but if a car collision happens and a pet is sitting on someone’s lap instead of being properly restrained, that pet could risk being hit with an airbag, glass hitting the animal from the windshield or be thrown from the car. Consider the weight of a dog just strolling in the backyard. Now imagine that same weight flying in the air, possibly risking other car damage, bystanders being hit and most importantly the impact of the pet once it lands outside of the car, either in oncoming traffic or any hard objects nearby.
3. Keep pets away from the floor.
While small dogs creeping around eating crumbs from the floor may seem like a funny story for later, the naturally adventurous animals may creep their way to the front of the car. For auto owners who have car alarms installed under the passenger seat, this could possibly make for an electrical nightmare or at the very minimum, the alarm could be disconnected. Should the dog make its way under the seat to the front of the car, the driver could be at risk of the dog innocently pushing its way near the brakes or accelerator, making it impossible to control the car or even stop it.
4. Make sure the automatic window locks and door locks are on.
If a dog leans on the down option of a window, this means the dog may possibly hand its head out of the car. This could lead to letting unwanted debris and other items in, in addition to possibly injuring the dog. The same goes for any kinds of buttons that could automatically unlock and open the doors. Keep child-proof locks on backdoors as well.
5. Keep the dog's head inside of the car.
While dogs definitely need to be able to breathe comfortably inside of an automobile, especially on a hot day, letting a dog hang its head out of the window also could lead to flying debris getting into its eyes, nose and mouth. It is no different than a car owner sticking his or her head out of the window and can become a bigger problem when traveling at higher speeds. While a car owner may be able to control his or her own automobile, other drivers may fling cigarettes, throw trash out of the window or even brake suddenly. And if that dog has its head hanging out of the window at an abrupt stop, the dog is at risk of window cuts if flung around.
6. Keep water in the car.
Emergency car kits always include dry snacks and water bottles as two items to keep in the trunk or in the backseat. One of the main reasons for that is people never know when they may be stuck in traffic for long periods of time, possibly get lost or make more stops than originally expected. While it may be easy enough to stop at the nearest fast food restaurant for snacks and drinks, dogs cannot go that long without water. Keep a water bowl around to pour the water inside of. Cupped hands also work, but if no one else is in the car, the driver may be forced to stop traveling in order to take care of the dog's thirst if no one else can. It's generally a good idea to stop every hour or two to let the dog get out, stretch its legs, drink and (if need be) eat. Dogs were never meant to be in confined spaces for hours the way people can when going on road trips. Some dogs may need more restroom breaks, but owners should generally be aware of how often their dogs relieve themselves at home to get a better idea. For dogs who are not trained to stop submissive urination, especially around strangers or when scolded, check with veterinarians first before traveling. It may be a better idea to leave that pet at home if possible.
7. Keep dogs out of the bed of pickup trucks.
Initially, it may seem like a great idea to let a dog freely roam around back. If the dog makes a mess or needs to relieve itself, there's plenty of room to do so. However, a dog traveling on a pickup truck is nowhere near like running around the backyard. The driver is in control of all movement, braking, turning and bumps. That animal will quickly find that it doesn't have the same footing that it would on land. Even a dog bed can end up flipped over or flung to another side of the truck by the time the trip has ended. And if the dog has had enough of being thrown all over the back of the truck and decides to leap off while the truck is moving, that could lead to other cars colliding while trying to get out of the way of the dog. Or, the dog could break its own legs or injure its paws if it over-calculates its ability to land from a high distance. Jumping from stationary steps is one thing. Jumping from what looks like a treadmill or an elliptical step machine is altogether different.
If the owner is not confident in the dog being able to safely make a short or long commute, consider asking a reliable, trusted loved one to watch the dog during the owner's absence. Make sure to check with the veterinarian for any possible health risks as well for dogs who are more easily excitable in automobiles or trucks.