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Riding in Cars with Dogs

So you’re headed on a trip into town and think you’d like to bring the dog, and of course Fido would like to join you, but what’s your go-to driving set up? A lot of people let their dogs ride loose, but there are tons of reasons this isn’t a great idea.

Let’s start with the most serious concerns. If you’re in a vehicle accident and your dog is not secured, then much like a person not wearing a seatbelt, they can be flung around the vehicle or even straight through the windshield. Injuries from the accident are one thing, but injuries are just as serious from getting thrown around the interior. According to a fact sheet from Kurgo and AAA, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force. That’s a lot of force on your dog, and potentially dangerous to you as well. Dogs riding in the front seat can also be injured badly by airbags. While designed to save the life of an adult human, they’re likely to do significant injury to a dog in an accident. And let’s not forget after the impact, when your dog is panicking and scared. If any of your windows have broken then it’s very likely that your pet will try and run as far away as fast as they can. If they go out the window and you’ve sustained any injuries, you could be on your way to the hospital and not able to look for them for hours or days.

An additional serious concern about loose dogs riding in vehicles comes while your vehicle is still moving. Lots of people put the window down for their dog (I do as well!) however, the number of dogs that will jump out of a moving car window in chase of something they’d like is much higher than most people think. Injuries sustained from jumping out of a moving vehicle can be serious and in some cases lethal.

Literally the worst thing ever, don't be this guy.

Loose dogs in cars can also distract drivers. They can climb all over the interior, get into things they aren’t supposed to, bark incessantly, or even (if they’re small enough) get under the pedals. And if you have to leave your dog in your car for any reason while you’re not in it, they can get into all kinds of trouble! From chewing the seats, to eating found food or car contents, to messing in the vehicle, or stepping on the door locks or horn, dogs can cause a lot a of problems without meaning too. Luckily, there are some pretty easy ways to solve a lot of these issues.

Crate your dog! Crates aren’t just a home décor item, they’re essential travel gear. A dog in a crate can’t get loose and chew your seats, and is much more difficult to distract you from the road. Crates are also beneficial in case of a car accident. Not all crates are made equal, and many don’t have a safety or crash rating at all, however at least you stand a fighting chance of containing your pup and not have him flying all over the place. My advice is to do the best you can with what you can afford. I don’t recommend wire crates at all, but an airline crate might be a solid all around option. It’s good for in the house, airline approved, and is probably safer than a wire crate in any level of car accident. (However, if you have the money, there are absolutely excellent crates that have been impact tested and rated by car crash test centers. Gunner Kennels is a popular brand, although is slightly more difficult to order in Canada.) If any of this actually interests you, here's the link for the Center for Pet Safety website and you can read up on all the crates they’ve tested!

If you have a vehicle too small to fit a crate for the size of your dog, or for whatever reason can’t do a crate, another option you could look at are seat belt harnesses. They’re sold in almost all pet stores, and while it’s debatable if they provide any real safety during a collision, they certainly cut down on the dangers of a dog jumping around the interior, possibly out the window, or climbing into the drivers seat with you. There are only a couple crash approved harnesses, but as they’re a popular item, I’m sure there are more companies working on this.

I know it can be a pain to move a crate back and forth from your house, or have to mess with the seats going up or down, but at the end of the day the safety of your pup should be a top concern. Crating or restraining your dog in your vehicle really could be the difference between life and death for your pet!

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