5 Steps to a Safe Drive with Your Dog Keeping Fido Safe in the Car

5 Steps to a Safe Drive with Your Dog

The same way that we make sure our children are strapped in their car seats nice and tight, pet parents should take care when going on a car ride with their dog. Here are ways to keep your dog safe and sound.

Does the thought of the car make your dogโ€™s tail go into overdrive? Or do they become a drooling bundle of nerves? Whether they love or hate the car, itโ€™s up to owners to make sure pets ride safe.

Even well trained dogs can become overwhelmed by nerves or excitement while in the car. Since the owner must have both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, it can be hard to keep pets safe while you drive.

A number of hazards can injure your dog during car rides that you might not know about. A dog that isnโ€™t properly restrained could also injure you or cause an accident. To keep you both safe, here are 5 tips for safe driving with your dog.

Back seat riders

The best place for your dog to ride is the back seat. Riding on your lap or even the passengerโ€™s lap may seem cute but is dangerous for both you and your dog. A front seat dog can distract the driver and potentially cause an accident. A fender bender that doesnโ€™t hurt you can still cause the air bag to deploy. Air bags can crush pets in the front seat even if theyโ€™re inside a carrier.

Keep them contained

Small dogs are best protected when inside a pet carrier. That keeps them from running from the back seat to the front, or interfering with the brake or gas pedals. For dogs that are nervous, this also keeps them from howling in your ear or climbing in your face as you drive. Should the worst happen in an accident, containing your dog inside a carrier helps ensure they wonโ€™t be lost or end up as projectiles through the windshield.

Buy a barrier

Some cars canโ€™t accommodate a big enough crate to contain large dogs. You can install pet barriers that separate the front seat from the back. These come as adjustable metal bars or grates, or as canvas slings that double as comfy travel beds for big dogs.

Belt your dog in

You can also find canine seat belts that attach to the dogโ€™s harness. Thatโ€™s very helpful for large dogs that donโ€™t fit inside carriers, or for cars that a barrier wonโ€™t fit. Seat belts also keep dogs inside the car when you open the door to load groceries, for example, so they don't dash off and become lost during rides.

Keep heads inside

Dogs love sticking their heads out the window. The rush of air that brings exciting smells along the way must be exhilarating. But that same wind can throw sand or other foreign matter into canine ears and eyes, and a window open too far tempts dogs to leap out. Keep dogโ€™s heads inside the car to prevent injury.

Take Your Dog for a Drive

Dogs can be very different in their opinions of car rides. While some love going for rides, others act terrified or become car sick.

It makes sense for dogs to be leery of going for a drive. The first time they hop in a car may be their drive away from mom to reach a new home in a strange place. Thatโ€™s followed by frequent trips to the vet for puppy shots.

All dogs need to go for a drive now and then. You can improve their driving experience so they wonโ€™t get nervous when they do need to visit the vet. Most dogs can learn to at least tolerate car rides, and these 5 tips will help.

Change their attitude

Dogs that hate the car need an attitude adjustment. Figure out what your dog loves (toys, mealtime, a favorite game) and connect that to the car. For instance, feed your dog special treats but only next to the car. Do this every day for a week before they ever get into the car, so itโ€™s a gradual learning process.

Entice them inside  

Once your dog feels less intimidated by the carโ€™s presence, open the door. Then start tossing treats into the back seat so they only get them once in the car. If your dog is more interested in games, try playing with their favorite toy in the car.

Take short trips

When a dog has felt sick or scared during a car ride, itโ€™s best to start with short trips. Put your dog in the back seat in their carrier, or secured behind a barrier or in their carrier, and give them a treat. Start the car, and give a treat. Pull out of the garage and give a treat. Drive around the drive and back into the garage, praise, and give your dog a treat.

Choose fun destinations

If the only place your dog's been driven are scary places, change your destination. Maybe your dog loves the kids at your sisterโ€™s house, or adores playing with the other dogs at the dog park. If your dog's most favorite treat happens to be French fries, find a drive-through restaurant to take them to during your drive. A pleasant outcome helps your dog associate good things with the trip so they will anticipate the next drive you take together.

Settle their tummy

Feeling car sick takes all the fun out of the drive. Ask the veterinarian for help to settle your dogโ€™s stomach before long trips. Withholding food may help, or placing a cover over top of their carrier to block the movement. Ginger is a natural remedy for car sickness, so ginger snap cookies might help your dog feel better as well as associate the trip with a treat.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.

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