A SAFE RIDE (Musings on Dogs Riding Safely in Vehicles)

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Once, while on an outing near our home, I was suddenly forced to slow down quickly. Though I hadn’t needed to slam on the brakes, the cessation of motion was strong enough to cause Tessi to almost join me in the front seat. I hadn’t bothered restraining her—something I’ve been guilty of on occasion on our short jaunts. (I should know better, the two accidents—both minor—I’ve suffered happened close to home.)

You never know when a collision could occur or when a sudden stop needs to be made. Our pets should be buckled-in just like any human member of the family. Like everyone else, your dog can just as easily become seriously wounded or worse. To add, he can quickly become a projectile with the potential to strike anything and anyone.

Straps and Harnesses

I restrain Tessi with a specific type of strap...

Generally, I restrain Tessi with a specific type of strap that attaches to her harness on one end and clicks into the seat belt’s buckle at the other. (I attach the strap to Tessi’s harness, as opposed to her collar, to keep any abrupt force from choking her.)

Previously, I had used a special travel harness with a piece that connects to the seat belt strap—this is the most common set-up I’ve come across; however, I found it cumbersome, especially in hot weather, with its heavy straps and its padded chest piece (though it does offer better protection).

When Helen travels with us, she fastens Missy’s leash from her harness to a metal loop on the top of the back seat in my car.

Back Seat Preference

Tessi and her canine friends always ride on the back seat, since generally the front seats in vehicles feature air bags. Their forceful deployment is not only dangerous to children, but also to pets.

Crates and Barriers

Another option for keeping your dog confined is a crate. Since there’s potential for him to be tossed around inside it, it should be fastened down and padded.

Some people install a pet barrier between the front and back. Though you’d have the same issues as you would with a crate, a barrier would at least prevent a roaming pooch from distracting the driver, which could prove unsafe for everyone. (Many dogs tend to roam in their excitement of being out for a car ride.)

Other Reasons to Consider

  • Being restrained will prevent a dog from jumping out the window. Back in our early days together, I wasn’t sure if Tessi would make such an attempt, so I kept the window partially rolled up when I didn’t tether her. Sure enough, the first time she spotted a squirrel, she launched herself at it, but hit her head on the ceiling in the process. At least she was discouraged from ever trying it again.
  • A restrained canine is less likely to be able to stick his head out the window, depending on how he’s restricted. Though our furry pals seem to love to experience the world at full blast, the indulgence can be hazardous. Anything that can smack into your windshield—bugs and birds, or dirt and small debris—is just as apt to hit your pooch’s head.
  • In an accident situation, a loose canine can hinder rescue and first aid attempts by acting aggressive towards or even just bothering the attendants, or could even cause another accident.
  • I cringe when I see a dog roaming free in a pickup’s open back. He can easily jump out; or be tossed, thrown or hurtled out.

From the sudden need to brake to actual collisions, unexpected occurrences can lead to injuries to any member of the family, including the four-legged ones. If I need to be buckled-in, so does Tessi.

For Further Reading

 © Cheryl Smyth, 2014

Dr. Michael Fife, DVM and CVC, Fife Animal Hospital, Chatham, Ontario confirms much of what I stated above: A concern for him is "the proper restraint device be used to ensure the dog's safety in case of a collision, sudden sharp turn or the like.  The one's that I favour are made using seat belt equivalent materials and lock into the seat belt buckles.  I would also warn against keeping your dog in the front seat if they are heavy enough to trigger the airbags to deploy."

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