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Published on April 18, 2016

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Keeping Your Dog Safe when Traveling in the Car

Does your dog love a trip in the car? Mine certainly does.  Car rides for her usually mean play time with other dogs, exploring the woods, or accompanying me to work for veterinary care.  Until recently I didn’t put much thought into how my dog traveled in the car – she would jump in and we would be on our way. After seeing a few fender benders on my way to Pender one day, I started wondering why I let my dog travel unrestrained in the car when I would never allow myself or my human passengers to ride in the car without a seat belt.  That led to a little research where I stumbled upon some dog dummy crash test videos performed by the Center for Pet Safety –http://www.centerforpetsafety.org/ .They were scary.  They involved a 30 mph collision and even properly restrained, the dummies clearly would have suffered life threatening injuries if they had been alive.

Different Types of Restraint

There are several different types of restraints for dogs. A good restraint system should ensure your dog is both safe and comfortable.  Some harnesses and seat cover hammocks are intended to simply prevent dogs from distracting the driver of the car.  Although they do not address the dog’s safety in a collision, they may make it less likely for you to be involved in a collision since you can focus more closely on the road.

Crates or carriers are another type of restraint. When traveling with your dog in a crate it is important to remember that the crate needs to be secured to the inside of the car.  It is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to secure your particular type of carrier or crate.  Remember, if you don’t attach the crate to a fixed object in the car, it can become airborne during a collision and seriously injure your dog and other passengers in the car.

There are several harnesses available that are designed not only to restrain your pet but also to keep them safe during an accident. Although several harness brands claim to be crash tested, I would recommend looking for a brand that uses an independent company to perform the crash tests. It might also be wise to contact the harness manufacturer directly to get details about how crash tests were performed including the weight of dog dummy they used, which size of harness was used, at what speed they performed the crash tests, and what criteria they used to decide that the harness passed crash testing.

Safety Rules

Whatever type of restraint you choose for your dog , it is important to remember that they should not travel in the front seat. Airbags in the front seat can be very dangerous even for a properly restrained dog since they are designed to stop a human, not a dog, during a crash.

It is also important to remember, especially with summer approaching, that it is NEVER safe to leave your dog unattended in a parked car.  When temperatures are warm or the sun is shining, they may suffer from life-threatening heat stroke in just a few minutes. The cold is also dangerous, as many dogs that are accustomed to living in a warm home are not adapted to the cold temperatures outside and can quickly become chilled.

Many people, including myself, love taking their dogs with them on adventures that involve traveling in a vehicle. Whenever your dog is with you in the car, let’s make sure they are as safe as we would want ourselves and our human passengers to be.

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