by Colleen Paige
Driving around town with your dog can be a fun experience for both of you but it can also be a stressful and dangerous one too. My dog lives for the times when I ask her if she wants to go for a drive. However, not all dogs like the car but most of them must endure trips to the vet and the park. There are many things to keep in mind and prepare for before you get on the road, especially with a new dog, as you may find it very difficult to concentrate on driving, especially if your dog becomes car sick or nervous, jumping back and forth.
As a former paramedic in busy Southern California, I responded to many an accident caused by driver distraction due to pets in the vehicle. It’s very sad when a dog or cat never even makes it home to their new life because they didn’t survive the accident. What’s obviously worse is if the person lost their life as well when all of the tragedy could have been prevented with a single dog harness.
There are many simple, inexpensive ways of keeping you – and your dog safe in the car. Regardless of the fact that many dogs like riding in the car, they still are not safe from other irresponsible drivers. At just 10 M.P.H. if you must stop quickly due to an animal or person in the road, your dog faces the risk of flying through the windshield and at the very least, suffering broken bones from being thrust into the back of the seat or hitting the dashboard. If you allow them to ride in your lap, even resting on the edge of the window, they can be crushed between you and the steering wheel in a sudden stop or an accident, as well as being ejected from the vehicle into oncoming traffic. To this day, every time I see a dog riding in the lap of a driver and often hanging out of the window, my heart stops and all I can do is say a prayer for both the driver and the dog.
There are many good safety harnesses and crates available today which prevent this kind of injury to your dog. If you cannot afford a safety harness, you can always loop the leash through the seatbelt to confine the dog from moving around, possibly causing you to have an accident and keeping him safe from ejection if someone else hits you. I love my seat Hammock Seat Protector from Bergan, found here http://www.bergandirectdelivery.com/seat-protectors/hammock-seat-protectors as it is the best investment I ever made in terms of a travel safety accessory for my dog. Not only is it ruggedly durable, it is waterproof and while she is harnessed for safety, this prevents her from falling off the seat if I have to stop suddenly, therefore giving her more room to roam on her harness than she would have without it. You may need to let it air outside for a few days before you install if you are sensitive to odors, as mine had a strong smell that bothered me and I assumed it would bother my dog. Once I did that there was no odor at all. If you do not purchase a safety hammock such as the one I use, make sure you put down a towel prior to take-off so that if you hear your dog vomiting, it will be no big deal and you can just ignore it until you get home. Another thing that is helpful is to NOT have a car full of screaming children with a nervous dog. This can make a dog very car sick and behave in a way that he normally wouldn’t, putting children at possible risk of bite injury.
The best approach for the drive home is to have another adult or an older child with you to hold and comfort the dog. Make sure you have water and doggie treats if you have a long drive home and will be in the car more than 30 minutes. After 15 or 20 minutes, pull over and offer the dog some water and a treat. Then talk to him and pet him in a reassuring manner. A squeaky toy might also be a refreshing sight. This will help to take the dog’s mind off his anxiety and redirect his attention on you until you get home safely. Weather permitting, rolling down a window closest to your dog will also help distract him and assist with limiting any nausea, as he will be distracted with smelling the air around him.