By Lisa Spector, Canine Music Expert, Juilliard Graduate, and co-creator of Through a Dog’s Ear.
My dogs, Sanchez and Gina, can often be found riding in my car. I don’t have a completely fenced in yard at home, so I opt for a lifestyle in which they are with me often. I work from home, so when I run local errands, they hop in the car with me. Fortunately, there are many dog friendly businesses in my town. They are welcome at the bank, UPS Store, local hardware store, and many outdoor cafes. I take great pride in the care I provide for them. I train with humane, non-aversive training methods. They are socialized and very well mannered when I take them to public venues, and are paid extremely well for their calm, attentive behavior. Gina takes agility class with me and Sanchez does canine music freestyle.
As you can imagine, I don’t react well when my treatment of them is criticized by an uneducated person. Such was my feeling when I heard the question from a stranger (said with disgust) … “Why do you make your big dog ride in a cage in the car?” Funny, I’ve never heard anybody ask a parent, “Why do you make your child where a seat belt?” or “Why do you put your baby in a baby seat in the car?”
Besides, it’s not a cage, it’s a crate. And I don’t “make” him ride in it. My dogs love getting in their crates. From the first day with me, I conditioned them to learn that their kennel was a safe, comfortable, cozy place where good things happened. At first, they were fed in their kennels. Then they were rewarded with treats for being calm and quiet in their kennels. Gina is a bundle of energy and she instantly calms down when she happily hops into her kennel.
The American Humane Society reports that an estimated 100,000 dogs die from riding in truck beds alone each year. And that doesn’t include the dogs that die from jumping out of car windows or dogs who are unsecured in the car during a collision. PetAutoSafety.com reports over 6 million car accidents every year. Accidents are caused by a variety of factors and being distracted by a roaming dog in the vehicle is one of them. Many dogs involved in car accidents could have been saved if they were in a secured crate or were wearing a doggie seat belt.
Yes, your dog may love to stick his head out the window and feel his ears blow in the wind. But, neither one of you will be happy when debris lands in his eyes or you have to come to a quick stop and he gets thrown from the car. Never introducing him to this option in the first place would be a good idea. And making the crate a fun place where he finds comfort in the car can be just as enjoyable for him.
Next: Tips for keeping dogs calm during car rides