You hear about buckling up for safety in the car, and even about strapping in your children, but what about restraining your pets? Pet car safety while traveling with pets is an increasingly popular subject among pet parents—and with good reason! Having pets in the car can lead to distracted driving, which is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 15% of injury crashes in 2015 were a result of distracted driving. With almost 30% of pet owners admitting that their pets in the car causes a distraction (AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey, 2011), it's clear that strapping up your dog is an essential part of car safety.
We talked to Melanie Monteiro, a Los Angeles, California-based pet safety expert and author of “The Safe Dog Handbook," to find out how to reduce the risk of distraction and keep your dog contained and restrained on the road for both their safety and yours.
Car Safety Hazards for Dogs
According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, nearly 56% of Americans transport their dog in their car at least once a month. Traveling with pets can be fun, but remember to always be safe when you take a road trip with your furry friend. Here are a few things to consider when taking your pup out for a ride:
Each year, hundreds of pets are lost or injured when they dart out of cars uncontrolled, especially when they find themselves in a strange and busy environment that breeds stress and anxiety. To avoid such heartbreaking situations, make sure your pet is secured or restrained in the backseat.
Paws and Heads Inside
You wouldn’t let your child hang his arms or head outside the windows of a moving vehicle, and the same should go for your pet. Even though your dog may enjoy the smells from the outdoors, make sure you are practicing pet care safety and that your pup is secured inside of the vehicle so they don't run the risk of getting hit by a passing car or falling out.
Front Seat Is for Humans Only
The majority of accidents are caused by distracted driving, and nearly 30% of drivers admit to being distracted by their dog. With harnesses and tethers, you can ensure that your pup remains in the backseat, so that your full attention is on the road. For your own safety and for the safety of your pets, front seats should remain a human-only zone!
6 Car Safety Tips for Dogs
Follow these six tips to keep your pet safe in the car.
1. Choose Your Restraining Device
There are a wide variety of products to restrain your dog in the car, but not all are created equally. Some are more restrictive than others—and some are more protective in the event of a crash. Consider safety first when choosing a restraint for your dog.
Dog Safety Harnesses
Securing your dog with a crash-tested dog harness is the best way to keep him safe on the road—in fact, the Center for Pet Safety, a nonprofit organization that tests pet products for safety, encourages pet parents to use a harness during car travel to protect both the pet and themselves. That's because, even though a harness can be restricting on your pup, it will ensure that your furry friend says in place in the event an accident does occur. Without that protection, your dog could be tossed from their seat during a crash, posing a risk to both them and to others in the car.
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Dog car seats are designed specifically for smaller dog breeds, to keep them in the backseat but still offer them the chance to look out the window in a comfortable seat. This helps eliminate any distracted driving that may occur while pet parents are attempting to calm dogs who may get nervous without being able to see outside the car. Because these seats keep your dog off of your car's upholstery, you can expect less cleanup in the backseat, too.
Dog Seat Belts
Restraining your dog with a tether or dog seat belt will keep him in the backseat, but also give your pup some room to move, turn and lie down. If your dog is restless, this method may work best for you, as it minimizes your distractions, while still satisfying your pup’s mobility needs. Keep in mind that even though your pup is constrained to the backseat, he may not be fully protected against crash safety in the event of an accident.
Dog car barriers create a bit of separation between you and your pup, which can make you both a better pet parent and driver when it comes to your pup’s safety. These create a strong wall between the front and rear seats of your car to keep your pup in the back, reduce driver distraction, and protect your dog from launching forward during a sudden stop. However, they do not prevent your dog from moving around the rest of the car, and offer less protection than a harness in the event of a crash.
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2. No Riding Loose in Truck Beds
If a pickup truck is your only mode of transportation and your pal has to ride in the bed of the truck, do not let him run loose, Monteiro says. Instead, put him in a hard-sided crate that’s tethered down. “Never allow your dog to ride loose in the back of an open truck,” Monteiro says. “This should need no further explanation! If the truck bed is your only option, be sure he’s in a secure, tethered crate and the weather is neither too warm nor too cold.”
3. Pack a First Aid Kit
Along with your own travel first aid kit, Monteiro recommends including one for your pet. Choose one that includes the basics, like tweezers, bandages, alcohol pads, antiseptic wipes and tape. A pre-packaged, all-purpose first aid kit, like the Kurgo pet first aid kit, will help keep you prepared for any accidents that happen on the road.
4. Mind the Temperature
Your car might seem like a convenient place to keep your pet while you run errands, but temperatures quickly can become fatal for animals. Monteiro’s rule is to never, ever leave a pet unattended in a vehicle. “Even in the low 70s [Fahrenheit], your car’s internal temperature can rise to deadly levels for a pet in a matter of minutes, even with the windows cracked,” she says. “Conversely, in winter, your car can become too cold.”
5. Opt for Eye Protection
If your pal likes to ride with the window open, make sure he’s wearing goggles, like the Doggles original dog goggles, to protect his eyes from flying debris and the beaming sun. Another bonus: He’ll look super cool as you’re cruising down the road.
6. Make Sure Your Pet Has Proper ID
Should your pet escape or dash off while you’re getting gas, proper identification can reunite you, Monteiro says. Two common methods are identification tags and microchips. As a failsafe, however, it’s a good idea to use both.