by John Wade
Ready to hit the road with your dog? Before you put the car into drive, it's important to make sure that your dog is safe.
Some options for properly restraining your dog while in the car are in a crate, a harness or a seat belt.
Using a Crate
If you decide to keep your dog in a crate for the duration of the car ride, and your vehicle has enough room to stow it, the crate should be large enough for your dog to lie down or stand up and turn around. Bill Rabenberg, owner/trainer at Red Iron Kennels of Manor, Texas explains: "You must also ensure the crate is not so large that the dog can easily be tossed around inside," he said. "It's helpful to include a soft crate-bed to provide padding for the dog to lie on, but torn newspapers or cedar shavings also provide a soft spot for animals still learning to ride without getting carsick, and these make cleaning up a snap."
Keeping your dog in a crate stops your pet from moving around the vehicle while it's in motion, and also prevents him and you from injury during a sudden stop or accident.
Where to Let Them Ride
The safest place for your dog is in the back seat of the car. You can easily install a harness or dog seat belt to keep your pet from climbing into the front seat. "Some pets are difficult to manage when nervous, and may suddenly climb onto the driver's lap, interfere with driving or jump down below the driver's legs, obstructing his ability to reach the gas and brake pedals and possibly causing an accident," Rabenberg says.
Another reason to keep your pet in the back seat is the danger from the force of a deployed airbag.
Dealing With Fear and Car Sickness
Many dogs are afraid of riding in the car or are apt to get carsick, but there are steps you can take to teach your dog that car rides are fun. Rabenberg suggests allowing the dog to sit in the car in the back seat while you sit in the front seat until he relaxes and then you can pet or reward him. After trying this for a few days, you can turn on the car but not drive anywhere. "After several successful attempts on several days, go for a short drive, just around the block," Rabenberg says. "When you arrive home, take some time to pet and talk to your pet before getting out of the car, so he knows his reward comes with remaining in the vehicle, not rushing to get out. Repeat this several days in a row, then slowly expand your trips, making them a few blocks longer, and finally take him to a fun location, gradually increasing the distances."
Allowing your dog to feel more comfortable in a moving car will lower his stress level and prevent accidents in the car.
Dogs enjoy the feel of a breeze coming from the car windows on their faces, too, so feel free to leave the window open, as long as your dog is properly restrained. If not, keep the windows closed to prevent him from falling or jumping out.
Your dog may be unhappy at first, but with a little time and patience he will soon become used to the restraint and look forward to your next car ride adventure.