Road Trip Tips When Driving With Dogs

Driving with dogsDriving with dogs can be a lot of fun! Aahh. The wind in the fur. The nose out the window. Most dogs love to take car rides. Many prefer a seat right on your lap with the window rolled down and nose sticking out. Maybe a paw on the steering wheel too. But you wouldn’t pull out of the driveway with your child sitting on your lap with their arms, or worse, their head sticking out of the window would you? How about letting them hop into whatever seat they choose and then crawl from the back seat to the front seat and then back again? We shudder to envision scenarios of children not securely fastened in their car seats. So why do we not protect the four legged family members with the same concern?

What to Pack for a Road Trip:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have decided on road trips. Lucky dogs get to come along too. If your dog is tagging along for your road trip, you’ll need to bring along a few essentials. When driving with dogs, you should be prepared to handle messes and provide your dog with everything they’ll need during your journey.

Here are a few items you should pack:

  • Paper towels, stain and odor remover, and anything else you need to clean up after any accidents
  • Plenty of poop bags
  • A bowl, water, and some treats
  • A safety harness, crate, or barrier
  • Seat covers (an old sheet with plastic bags underneath works in a pinch) if you want to protect your car from stains and hair

Unsafe Conditions for Pets Riding in Cars

Many of us don’t think about the safety implications of the four-legged members of our family riding in the car unsecured. In the days before seat belt laws, our parents threw their right arm across the front seat when suddenly braking, as though that would stop an airborne child from contact with the dashboard. Car safety laws have changed, and automobiles are enormously safer with the advent of air bags and crumple zones and anti-lock brake systems, not to mention child car seat regulations and even seat belt laws. But with all of these advancements, there are no regulations or restrictions for pets riding in cars – do you think your outstretched arm will stop your pet from becoming an airborne fur ball in an accident? Even worse – think about an unsecured pet in the back of an open pick-up truck?

And what about the potential for a loose pet to cause enough distraction to cause an accident under normal driving conditions? Driving with dogs on your lap, trying to look out the window, or even just free to roam about the car, can be as distracting as putting on make-up, reading, eating or texting while driving. All are No-Nos. Not to mention the potential for the pet to accidentally hit the gear shaft, push the window or lock buttons, pit weight on the steering wheel, turn the windshield wipers on, simply make it difficult to maneuver the steering wheel – all sorts of diversion to the driver. So, before you hit the road with pet in tow, be sure to take these measures into consideration to make the trip safe for all the important members of the family.

Driving With Dogs Animal Safety Tips:

A properly secured pet does not present the potential to be a distraction to the driver, and even worse, become an UFA (unidentified flying animal) in an accident, possibly harming themselves, the driver and the passengers. If you love your pets, follow these simple tips to make sure that all the members of the family are safe and comfortable.

  • Secure Your Pet in a Crate: A well ventilated crate or carrier is one of the best options for keeping your pet safe and minimizing distraction. Make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in, and place a towel or sheepskin pad on the bottom (but not so small it slides around during normal acceleration and stopping). Position your pet’s crate as close to the center of the car as possible, facing forward, and secure the crate to keep it from becoming a pet-loaded projectile during an accident. If the crate is in the rear storage area, keep it as far from the rear door as possible to reduce potential from secondary impact in a collision.
  • Safety Harness: This option, which works as an extension of the car’s own safety-belt system has become popular in recent years. Look for one with a padded harness and safety-belt materials when choosing a harness. Just like children, pets should be restrained in the back seat to avoid impact from the dashboard air bag in the event of a collision.
  • Barriers: Although a gate or barrier keep the pet from roaming and helps prevent driver distraction, which is good, a barrier doesn’t offer adequate protection for pets and passengers in the event of an accident. Upon impact, a barrier can fall over and the pet become airborne, or the pet may be flung over the top, or even smash directly into a barrier. Better than nothing for reducing distraction potential, but not recommended for accident protection.
  • Leash Tether: While reducing the potential for roaming pets to cause a distraction, in an accident a leash tether can easily break and once again fur balls may fly, or the pet may suffer a serious neck injury from the whiplash, or even result in strangulation if the leash gets caught.
  • Other Restraint Options: Although you may follow the recommendation for crating your pet while en route, putting an unsecured carrier with a cat or small dog on the seat next to you is not a good idea, as the whole contraption has the potential to fly into the dashboard or windshield, thus tempting potential for the airbag to deploy and crush the carrier and pet within. Also, never use a child’s safety seat for your pet – it simply isn’t designed for a four legged child.
  • For Open Window Lovers: A pet with their head and even paws out the window to catch air is just not safe, even if restrained. Not to mention all the road debris that can deflect into their eyes, potentially causing injury.  Only open the window a few inches, your dog can still feel the breeze. Often adjusting the air conditioning vent to blow air your pet’s way can create an illusion of wind.

Does Your State Require Dogs to Be Harnessed in the Car? Find out here+

Contact Whitworth Animal Clinic to discuss pet safety in a vehicle and get their recommendation specifically for your pet.