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Whether you're going on an extended road trip or for a short drive, car travel with a dog can be a lot of fun. However, travelling with dogs in a car can pose a lot of safety risks. Read on for tips on how to safely transport your dog and minimise the dangers inherent when riding in the car with them.
When travelling with dogs in a car, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends securing dogs of all sizes in travel-rated crates or carriers, both for the dog's safety and to prevent distractions while driving. If possible, crates should be secured in the back seat of a car or the cargo area of an SUV, station wagon, or minivan, and strapped in so that the crate won't slide around during sudden stops. The crate itself should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, sit and lie down comfortably, while not so large that they can get tossed around inside the crate while the car moves. It should also provide plenty of ventilation. You can make the crate more comfortable for your dog by lining the floor with blankets, and even go a step further to safeguard against injury by padding the sides with foam. Just be sure your dog won't try to eat or chew any material you use for padding.
If a crate is not an option, look for a safety harness that buckles directly into the seat belt buckle, and strap your dog into the back seat. Another commercially available option for safer car travel with dogs is a mesh or metal barrier made to place in minivans and SUVs to keep your furry companion confined to the back seat. While these options are great for keeping your pup from distracting you or getting underfoot while you're trying to focus on the road, they're not designed to protect them from injury during a crash. Although it might seem like these options provide your buddy with more freedom and make their ride more enjoyable, for their own safety, a crate or carrier is still best.
While the back of the car is generally safest for your dog, due mainly to potential injury from front-seat airbags, sometimes there isn't a back seat or cargo hold. In this case, it's best to secure your dog in a crate or carrier in the passenger seat and turn off the passenger-side airbags. If your dog is too large for a crate to fit in the front seat, use a safety harness to buckle them in. Under no circumstances should the dog be allowed to ride in the back of an open pickup truck.
On an extended road trip, it can be tempting to drive as far as you can as fast as you can (while still obeying the speed limits of course), but don't forget about your four-legged passenger in your haste to get where you're going. Plan to stop every two hours or so to give your pup a break, let them stretch their legs and do their business. It's also a good idea to bring fresh water and give them a drink whenever you stop. If your dog is not prone to getting car sick, this is also a good time to feed them a small meal.
Remember that these guidelines for travelling with dogs in a car are for your dog's safety as much as for yourself and your passengers. As such, dogs of any size should be safely restrained. Your tiny dog might be perfectly content to curl up in your lap during the trip, but just as it wouldn't be safe to hold a child in your lap while driving, it's not any safer for your dog. Securing your pup in a crate or restraining device during your trip, regardless of breed or size, will make it much more likely that you two will reach your destination safely.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent and pet blogger from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.