By Tracie Korol
For most dogs, the words “go for a ride?” elicit the thrill of the hunt, the excitement of adventure, special time with Best Friend and possibly a snack all rolled into one. How we orchestrate that ride is what will keep it a joy-filled activity or turn it into a tragedy that will haunt for years. The good car ride gets you and your dog where you want to go, safely. Whether through legislation or education, vehicle safety is ultimately up to you. It is your job to protect your Best Friend. Our dogs can’t protect themselves.
Using a crate is a terrific option for car safety. Not only does it protect your dog from injury in the event of a crash it keeps him secure and contained just in case you do crash. The high-impact plastic airline crates are the best. They won’t collapse on impact unlike wire crates plus they will protect from flying debris and broken glass. Buckle the crate into be back seat/cargo area of your vehicle to prevent it from flipping or shooting forward. A handy trick is to cushion the bottom of the crate with an old yoga mat, doubled or tripled up. Not only does the mat grip the floor of the crate, it gives your pet Four on The Floor confidence.
Another great option is to secure your dog in the back seat with a dog seat belt. Available at pet stores or online, these set belts are designed as harnesses with padded chest protectors. These are secured onto the car’s seat belt and most will allow your dog to sit, lie down, or even stand, but otherwise keep your dog in place.
Small dogs appreciate booster seats so they can see out the window or otherwise “help” you drive. (You know how they are.) Find one that attaches to the car seat, strapping to the headrest and is equipped with a tether to attach to the seat belt harness. A dog friend of mine, a distinguished rough coat Jack travels in full comfort and safety in a matching plush booster seat and faux Sherpa-lined harness. He also has goggles in case he wants to scent the wind. Too cute and very safe.
Pet barriers are made of steel and either bolt into the car’s framework or wedge in position with tension springs. They are intended to keep your dog contained behind the front seats. While these make keep Reynaldo from wandering around the car or crashing through the windshield in case of a crash, a barrier doesn’t prevent other disasters. Reynaldo may still become a projectile upon impact or may be a danger to you and emergency personnel attempting to help you and your family. Seat belts are a better option.
And what about the dog that loves to hang his head out a partially opened window? Don’t do it. Dogs have been known to flatten themselves like cockroaches to squeeze out a window opened only a couple of inches when what’s outside is more interesting than what’s inside.
If your dog is riding En Crate, then a window lowered an inch or so, will give your dog the opportunity to scent the on-coming breeze. But better, if you feel you’re depriving your dog of one of life’s pleasures; indulge him in another of his favorite pastimes once you reach your destination. A tongue-dragging game of fetch or a long run in the waves will be a safer reward for a car adventure. Plus, he’ll be a safer, healthier dog for it.