Vehicle Safety for Dogs
The safest way for a dog to travel is in a secure crate or specially designed seat belt/harness. If you are involved in an accident, your pup is less likely to be injured than if he were loose. A crate or safety harness will protect your dog from injuries on impact and keep him secure in the aftermath. More than one dog has survived a car accident and then been killed on the road when he slips out an open car door. If you are injured in an accident, emergency personnel won’t have to worry about getting past your dog to help you if he’s crated or secured by a seat belt. Another important factor to consider is that a crate or safety harness will actually prevent accidents by keeping your dog from moving around in the vehicle and interfering with the driver.
The Wind in His Fur
We’ve all seen dogs hanging their heads out car windows or riding in the backs of pickup trucks. Dust and other airborne debris traveling at the speed of a moving vehicle can cause a lot of damage to sensitive eyes and ears. Worse, dogs sometimes jump or are thrown from a window or truck bed, either deliberately if they see something they want to investigate, or accidentally if you have to make a sudden swerve or stop. If they are very lucky and land safely, they still may be struck by another vehicle, or run and become lost.
A good alternative to crates and harnesses is a vehicle barrier, either mesh or tubular metal, which physically separates your dog into the back of the vehicle. Like a harness or crate, a barrier prevents your dog from moving around the vehicle, keeping your focus on driving and not what your pet is doing. In case of an accident, a barrier can also prevent your dog from becoming a projectile and being thrown from the vehicle. Most barriers are designed to be used in station wagons and SUV’s. Vehicle barriers are especially important if your car has front air bags. Dogs, like small children, should never be allowed in the front seat of vehicles with front airbags, as they can be killed or injured if the bags deploy.
Consider the Temperature
Before you decide to take your dog along for a car ride, be sure that he can go with you when you leave the car. In only a few minutes, the temperature in a closed vehicle can raise high enough to kill your dog or cause permanent brain damage, even with the windows partially open. A dog’s system is not as efficient at cooling as that of a human, so if you get hot sitting in the car, imagine what your dog is feeling. When the outside temperature is 25°C (77°F), a closed car will reach 32°C (90°F) in 5 minutes, and 43°C (110° F) in 25 minutes. A study from Stanford University shows that even on comparatively cool days, such as 22°C (70°F), a car’s internal temperature will rocket to 46°C (115°F) within 60 minutes. Keeping the windows open a crack hardly slows the rise at all.
We practice vehicle safety for our children and ourselves. Our dogs deserve the same consideration.