Tips for keeping your dog safe while driving

Whether you’re taking your pooch with you on a long road trip or just heading over to the local park, driving with your pet can be challenging experience, depending on how your dog feels about being in a vehicle. Not only are you thinking about your own safety, you’re also going to be concerned for the welfare of your furry friend too.

That’s why it’s important to plan ahead, and make sure you are well prepared for the unexpected. Keep reading for our tips on how to have the safest and worry-free drive possible with your pet.

Checklist for going on a long drive

If you’re planning a long trip (three hours or more), you don’t want to forget anything your dog may need while on the road or at your destination. That’s why it’s important to pack a travel kit that includes the following:

  • A leash.
  • Food and water. You can bring these in their regular bowl, or in a travel bowl.
  • Health records including proof of any immunizations and your vet’s contact information.
  • Medications your pet may require plus a first-aid kit in case of emergencies.
  • Supplies needed to clean up after your pet like poop bags.
  • A few of your dog’s favourite toys to help keep them occupied.
  • A crate or carrier, or a blanket, bed or anything else they can sleep on, to help make them comfortable during the ride.

While on the road, it’s important to stop for regular breaks, especially if your pet is used to being very active. Depending on how far you’re going, try to stop at least every two hours at a rest stop or park. Let your dog roam around and stretch its legs – which is where the leash comes in handy.

If you’re travelling with a dog, consider taking it on a long walk before you embark on your journey. This will help tire it out and hopefully help it sleep for a good portion of your trip.

Choosing the right travel product

While your vehicle is in motion, your pet should not be sitting in the front seat or on your lap. It is a major distraction to you as a driver plus, if an accident occurs, having your pet in the front could result in either its death or severe injury from the airbag, ejection, or from the sheer impact.

Pets are part of the family, so it’s important to consider their safety, just as you would a child or a friend travelling in your vehicle.

There are three main methods of securing your cat or dog while your car is in motion:

  • Carrier or crate
  • Harness or seat belt
  • Car seat

Each method has its benefits, which are explained below, to help you make the most educated choice.

Crates or carriers

This option is a great choice if you are travelling with dog of any size. Your pet may also have a harness on while in the crate so that in the event of a crash, the harness can provide extra protection from the frame of the cage and prevent them from running loose if someone other than you let them out. It’s important to note: some dogs experience anxiety when locked inside a crate or carrier. Test it out with your pet before deciding if this is the travelling option for you.

Harnesses

Harnesses are lightweight and work with your existing backseat hardware. A harness allows your pet to roam around in the backseat, but will keep them secure in the event of a crash. It’s vital to accurately measure your dog (chest circumference, height, and weight) before purchasing a harness. However, some pets don’t like harnesses. It’s best to condition your pet as early as possible with any safety devices. Start when they are young if possible. If you have an older pet, using a little Pavlovian psychology (lots of treats) during smaller rides to help them get used to it.

Car seats

This piece of safety equipment can be used mainly for very small- to medium-sized dogs, since they often need “extra padding” while travelling. These booster seats may or may not come with a built-in harness. Some dogs get motion sickness when the car is moving, and dog car seats can help with this. For this option, make sure the sides of the seat are high enough to prevent your dog from falling due to sudden stops.

Once you’ve decided which travel product works best for your fur baby, do is some online research, and try to find reviews from owners with a similar dog breed to yours. It’s also important to remember to check that you have room in your vehicle for the chosen type of product, especially if you want a car seat, as they can be quite bulky.

Pet training for car rides

As early as possible in your pet’s life, take it on regular, short car rides to fun places. This creates positive associations with riding in a vehicle. If the only time your pet ever gets in the car is to go to the veterinarian, they may develop an aversion to car travel. Keep them calm and happy with treats and reassurance during these short trips. Over time, they’ll come to enjoy being in the car, and you’ll both be ready to take longer trips.

To help your dog feel more at ease in your car, have them sit in your car while it is parked in your garage or driveway. If you can, place them in their restraint. However, if that makes them too uneasy, place them in the backseat without the restraint. Keep them calm by sitting with them, petting them, and giving them a few treats. Make it a habit to do this several times a week.

Once your pet is comfortable sitting in the parked car with their restraint on, you can try driving with them, but keep your trips short. Perhaps take them up the street and then back home. Roll the backseat windows down a crack so that fresh air can flow in – but be sure the windows aren’t open so much that your pet could escape.

If there are no protests, you can extend the trip by driving them around the neighborhood. To add variety to their day, take your pet to a place they enjoy, such as the park, the beach, or to visit one of their furry friends. This will help break the association between your car and the veterinarian.

Are accidents involving pets covered under car insurance?

Unfortunately, your pet may not be covered if you’re involved in a car accident. Depending who is at fault, it’s possible liability coverage will kick in. Alternatively, your pet could be covered under your home insurance policy. However, it’s very likely if you’re involved in a car accident and your pet is injured, they will not be covered. Pet insurance can offer coverage for your furry friend.

FAQs on tips for keeping your pet safe while driving

How can I deal with my dog’s car anxiety?

If your dog has extreme anxiety and starts to stress before it gets in the car, try easing the anxiety outside of the parked car. When it looks at the car, offer a treat and praise! If it takes a step towards the car, treat and praise. Do this daily, or every other day, for a few weeks. Your dog will gradually become more comfortable around the car, and will be able to get in without all of the anxiety.

How do I clean dog hair in my car?

There are so many different tools and products available to help keep your car clean after a ride with your furry friend. Vacuuming your car is the first step. After vacuuming, you can get rid of the rest of your pet’s fur by using a rubber glove, duct tape, brush or even dryer sheets.

Are soft-sided travel crates safe for travel and are they better?

Soft-sided crates are lightweight, ultra-portable crates that are usually made of a soft material or fabric such as mesh, fleece or PVC. Soft-sided dog crates are not recommended as car crates to keep your dog safe while driving or while on the move, as the soft sides provide no protection at all. They’re far better for simply giving your dog a safe hangout space to call his own.

 

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