Does the thought of the car make your dog’s tail go into
overdrive? Or do they become a drooling bundle of nerves? Whether they
love or hate the car, it’s up to owners to make sure pets ride
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 isn’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 passenger’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 doesn’t hurt you can still cause the air bag to
deploy. Air bags can crush pets in the front seat even if
they’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 won’t be lost or end up as projectiles through the
Buy a barrier
Some cars can’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
Belt your dog in
You can also find canine seat belts that attach to the dog’s
harness. That’s very helpful for large dogs that don’t fit
inside carriers, or for cars that a barrier won’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 dog’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. That’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 won’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 it’s a gradual learning
Entice them inside
Once your dog feels less intimidated by the car’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
Take short trips
When a dog has felt sick or scared during a car ride,
it’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
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
sister’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 dog’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.