Most dog lovers enjoy taking their best friend with them everywhere – whether that’s on a cross-country road trip or just a trip to the dog park, it is vital for dog owners to fully understand car safety for dogs.
However, many dog lovers don’t know the proper way to keep their dogs safe and secure in the car while they are driving.
Cars are designed to keep humans safe, but not our companions. It’s not safe to keep your dog on your lap or laying on the back seat while driving. I know that many people may have a general idea of the dangers that could possibly happen to you and your dog while driving, but there are a number of factors to consider that’ll help you keep you and your dog safe during car rides.
In this guide, I’ll go over the best ways to keep man’s best friend safe and secure while driving including a range of car safety tips for dogs like keeping the driver free from distractions or ensuring that your car is meeting the requirements from the center for pet safety.
DOG BEHAVIOR TIPS FOR CAR SAFETY
Whether you’re driving to a friend’s house or to another state, ensuring that your dog behaves during the ride is crucial. Dogs, especially large or active ones, shouldn’t be in the car longer than 4 hours without a doggy break.
During a road trip, take a potty break and let your dog stretch their legs. Give them water and a chance to reset from the drive. Dogs can get very anxious during the drive but allowing for stops gives them the opportunity to take a breather.
If your dog is not prepared to ride 4 or more hours without stopping, then try to take a break every hour to help them get used to driving in the car for long periods of time. Depending on how comfortable your dog is riding in the car, you may have to start training their behavior to get used to being in the car – whether that’s a ride in the driveway or a ride to the grocery store. It can be a lot for a dog to get used to being inside of a moving car.
Take it easy on your pup and find small ways to help them get acclimated to the car, like giving them a treat or reward each time they are quiet during the ride or when they behave and refrain from potty mistakes in the car. That way you are training them to behave during the ride.
DOG CAR ANXIETY
Car rides can be very stressful for dogs. It’s important to notice the changes in your dog’s behavior when they are riding in the car with you. That will help you gauge whether they are experiencing anxiety and how to address it.
If your dog is nauseous or urinates in the car frequently while driving, then they may be experiencing anxiety. A key to figuring out how to address the anxiety is finding a point of comfortability for your pup, then moving further and further away from that level slowly but surely.
So, if sitting in your driveway is the only way your dog will be comfortable with being in the car, then start that for awhile and gradually do things like starting the car or driving down the street. Over time, your dog’s anxiety should cease. If not, then you could try to give your dog anxiety chews that help them relax during the ride.
While I don’t recommend drugging your dog, simply using a stress relieving spray or calming chewable that helps them calm down during the rides can be a solution for some. Just like with humans, no matter how much training you do, sometimes a little assistance is needed for anxiety.
You can also consult your vet about motion sickness or anti-anxiety medication if none of the natural medication works. If you are against medication and chews to help ease your dog’s anxiety issues, you can also try spraying dog pheromones in the car or getting a collar with the fumes infused in it. Dog pheromones are even known to relax adult dogs who are experiencing anxiety.
DOG CAR TRAINING
So, by now, you’re probably wondering how you can train your dog to love the car or at least not loathe the car as much. The biggest part of the training is very similar to traditional dog training where you’re rewarding your dog with good behavior and making them feel comfortable in unknown spaces.
Part of making them comfortable is ensuring that they’re physically comfortable in the car. Later in this guide I’ll discuss techniques and dog crate mats you can use to ensure that your dog is positioned in a comfortable manner that will alleviate physical discomfort and fear and anxiety.
If you’re able to get your dog into the car, then do a search for a treat. That way they get comfortable in the car. Once comfortable and you get ready to drive, you must train them to sit so they’re not crawling the seats while driving. One way you can do that is by speaking commands or restraining your dog during the ride and rewarding them with a special treat or favorite toy after the ride is over.
I want you and your dog to be safe and secure during the ride, so in this guide I’ll also discuss ways to restrain your dog and the legal requirements for dog restraints.
DOG CAR RESTRAINT REQUIREMENTS
Not having your dog properly restrained in the car can be extremely dangerous. If you get into an accident, your pooch could really get harmed. In fact, in some states, it’s even illegal to not properly restrain your dog. You could be fined for allowing your dog to distract you while driving.
States like Minnesota and Maine have strict laws that prohibit driving with an unrestricted dog in the vehicle. “As of 2012, Rhode Island requires dogs being transported in a vehicle to be in an enclosed area and either secured within a crate, restrained with a harness or pet seat belt designed for use in a vehicle, or under the physical control of a person other than the driver of the vehicle. Violation of the law carries a fine of up to $200 depending on the number of offenses.”
So, what are some of the proper requirements for your dog while driving? Honestly, it depends on the state you live in. If you’re traveling out of state, then you should check ahead of time to ensure that the states that you’re driving through don’t have policies and procedures in place to restrain your pup. You don’t want to get a ticket!
And obviously, on top of the legalities, car safety for dogs should be at the forefront of every dog owners mind for the safety of their beloved pup. There are many dog travel accessories that can help ensure the safety of your dog while traveling by car.
DOG CAR SEAT BELTS
Dog car seat belts are one way that you can safely restrain your pup while driving. I know it may seem unorthodox, but once installed correctly, dog car seat belts will not harm your dog in any way. In fact, they will actually protect your dog from getting anxious and jumping out of the window, from your dog getting hit with unknown debris while hanging their head out of the window, and from being choked from a leash or tether in an accident.
It also protects your dog from being injured by an airbag or being flown from the car in case of an accident. So, finding the perfect dog car seat belt is key! Be sure that it’s adjustable to fit comfortably around your pup. Most dog seat belts have a loop for you to click into your seat belt to properly and safely restrain your dog.
I recommend doing research on the brand and type of dog car seat belts you choose to ensure that it passed testing either directly or indirectly through a third party. A useful resource is the Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting pets and the people who love them. So, when looking for a dog car seat belt, be sure to check their reviews out!
DOG CAR HARNESSES
Dog car harnesses are another way you can keep your dog safe and secure while driving. It’s important to measure your dog’s chest, neck, and length measurements to make sure that it fits properly and snugly.
There are a lot of different dog car harnesses on the market, so reading reviews and the options that come with each is crucial. Some harnesses come with a variety of options like dog car seat belts, padded chest plates and cushioning, and different materials. It’s important to choose what works best for you and your dog.
There are different dog car harnesses that are best for long rides or road trips and some that are best for shorter trips. Some that are multifunctional for the car and for walks in the park. Those dog car harnesses would be good for someone who takes long road trips and stops to walk their dog in between those trips.
I know that your pup is important to you, so be sure to read reviews before fully committing to one that won’t meet your standards or needs in the long run.
DOG CAR CARRIERS
By now, your head is probably spinning with all of the car safety options for dogs to keep them safe and secure during car travel. There are definitely quite a few more options available for pet lovers. One of those options are dog car carriers. If your dog is very active or too small for a dog car seat belt, then a dog car carrier may be an option for you.
Some car carriers double as a bed and latch onto the seat belt to keep your pup safe and secure during the car ride. Some dog car carriers offer a wide range of options depending on the brand and on the dog and even double as a dog carrier for the airport as well.
Some dog car carriers have exteriors that repel hair while some have interior that is machine washable. If you have a fairly large dog, then it might be hard to find a dog car carrier that doubles as a bed. If you have a smaller dog, then you might opt for a dog car carrier that doubles as an elevated bed so your dog can look out of the window during the drive.
You also must keep in mind the type of car that you have. Some dog car carriers may not be compatible with your car using a standard seat belt. It’s important to do your research to see what works best for you, your car, and most importantly, your pup.
DOG CAR BOOTS
A dog car boot is another way to keep your dog safe during car travel. Instead of having them in the backseat, you can have them anchored in the “boot” of the car if you have a truck, suv, or crossover.
If you decide to put your dog in the boot of your car, they’ll need to be secured in the boot using an anchor with a guard to keep out distractions or put them in a secured crate or cage in the boot.
If you’re using a harness to anchor your pup in the boot, it’s important that you ensure that it’s the right size and fit for your dog and your car. The last thing you want is a harness that doesn’t properly protect your dog.
When researching the type of car boot harness you need for your truck, suv, or crossover, be sure to get a specialized type of lease that keeps your dog from injuring themselves when you open the boot to take breaks during your road trip.
Dog car boot harnesses come in different sizes, designs, and lengths but with most of them, they’re adjustable and double sided. This is helpful so that you can attach one to the dog and one to the latch on the inside of the boot.
DOG CAR SEATS
Dog car seats are another way to keep your pet safe during car travel. While these are typically used for smaller sized dogs, you should be able to find one for your medium or large sized dog – just ensure that it’s proportional to your dog’s size, weight, and breed.
Depending on the breed, some dogs have a smaller waist-to-shoulder ratio so it’s important that the dog car seat fits properly and securely. That way you can prevent your seats from being ruined from anxious chewing or gnawing and nausea. It’ll also prevent them from getting into your belongings and potentially choking or poisoning themselves. For small and medium sized dogs, a dog car seat provides an extra layer of protection and keeps your dog safe.
So, what type of dog car seat is best? Well, that depends on your dog. There are endless models and types of dog car seats on the market. Some of the things to look out for to make sure that it’s a good fit for your dog is the sizing requirements (Is there a weight limit or restriction?), practicality (Will it fit in your car? How easy is it to use?), cleaning (Is it easy to clean? Is it machine washable?), and material (Does the material irritate your dog’s skin? Is it breathable?).
Also be sure to check the crash rating on the dog car seat you’re interested in and the reviews from people who have purchased the product. You don’t want to invest in a product that doesn’t suit you or your pup’s needs long term.
DOG CAR SEAT COVERS
Dog car seat covers not only help keep your dog safe and comfortable while riding in the car, they also help keep dirt and dog hair messes off of your actual car seats. Dog car seat covers can prevent your pup from creating unnecessary distractions while driving while also protecting your seats from dirt and permanent damage.
Car seat covers with a hammock option will prevent your dog from sliding onto the floor in case of an emergency or sudden brake. It will keep your dog safe and secure in the backseat. So, how do you choose a dog car seat cover and which one is best for you?
While many dog car seat covers have different perks, materials, etc., the main thing you should consider is if it’s washable or waterproof. These key things will make it easier for you to clean the mess your pup has made.
Another thing I would recommend researching is how durable the material is. Dogs can be a little rough, so ensuring that your pup’s nails don’t claw through the car seat cover is crucial.
The last thing I would recommend is reading reviews. We don’t want our hard-earned money to go to waste. So, reading reviews from people who have already invested in the product will let you know whether or not you should purchase it as well.
DOG CAR CRATES
Dog crates are another option for car safety for your pooch. Dog car crates are different from traditional dog crates. I wouldn’t recommend using traditional dog crates in the car to crate your pooch. In the event of an accident, your dog could be seriously harmed. I want you and your pup to be safe, so I’d recommend getting a car crate that fits your car and keeps your dog safe.
The first thing you should do is research dog car crates that successfully pass a crash test. This won’t require a ton of effort, seeing as the Center for Pet Safety reviews dog products and ensures they’re safe for use, so if you are researching, I’d recommend starting your research there.
Next is to research the dog car crates based on the size of your dog. Typically, car crates should be big enough that your dog can sit comfortably and stand comfortably in them but also snug enough to keep them safe and secure while driving. A good rule of thumb for dog car crates is 6 inches longer than your pup.
After researching the safety and size of each dog car crate, I recommend researching the ease of use. You don’t want a car crate that’s going to take a long time to securely safely put in your vehicle. You’re going to want one that assembles easy and installs easy in case you’re ever in a rush to leave the house.
The last thing I recommend for all traveling dog owners is to research features that are important to you and important to your pup. Some dog car crates come with double-wall molded plastic while others come with carpet. See what works best for you and read reviews from people who previously purchased the product to make sure it is a great buy.
While car dog safety is an important topic, it’s important to also talk about leaving man’s best friend unattended in your car. This practice is considered unsafe and in some states it’s illegal.
“Leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
Even if you roll the window down, your car still acts as a greenhouse. The air can quickly become too warm for your friend to breathe. So, if you have to leave the house, consider taking your pup back home before making any unexpected runs into the grocery store or mall.
Hopefully this guide to car safety for dogs will help you make informed decisions when it comes to traveling with man’s best friend in any situation or trip duration.
Our dogs are a part of our family and we want to care for them well. So, the best way to travel is to travel safe. Even if it means spending a little more time and effort to make sure they’re safe.