Tips for Driving Safely With Your Dog

In a study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Kurgo Pet Products, 29 percent of drivers admitted to being distracted by their dogs while driving. Those distractions included allowing dogs to ride on the driver’s lap, feeding dogs, taking photos of dogs and using a hand to protect a dog while braking.

The AAA and the American Animal Hospital Association (AVMA) recommend that dogs be restrained inside vehicles not only to prevent distractions but also to protect dogs from injury.

Keep your dog’s window up.

No matter the distance of your trip, the AVMA cautions against allowing dogs to stick their heads out car windows. Yes, it might look like fun, but veterinarians say that dogs are at high risk of eye, ear, face and mouth injury from airborne objects when their head is out the window.

A dog can also be thrown out the window in the event of a collision or can lose his or her balance and fall out the window during an abrupt turn. In addition, dogs can jump through windows to get at another dog or animal.

Restraining devices can save your dog’s life.

You may think there’s no need to restrain your dog, if he or she sits or lays quietly on the seat, but remember that a calm dog will be thrown with the same amount of force as an active dog in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

According to the AAA, if a car crashes at a speed of 25 mph, an airborne dog can develop projection forces equaling 40 times his or her weight. Imagine the injuries when that dog hits the dashboard or crashes through the windshield. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and, unfortunately, it does happen.

Restraining devices for dogs when traveling in cars range from harnesses and seat belts to crates and barriers.  When choosing a restraining device for your dog it’s important to remember that there are no government standards for pet-safety products. Any tests conducted are at the discretion of the manufacturers.

To help pet owners choose the safest products the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety (CPS) conducts tests of crates, harnesses and pet carriers using crash test dummy dogs. Only a handful of products have earned the CPS crash-test certification.

Restraint Options for Driving with Your Dog

Pet Seat Belts and Harnesses

According to the CPS, travel harnesses come in two forms those that only prevent distraction and those that protect your dog in the case of an accident. It’s extremely important to know which harness you are purchasing.

Sleepypod, based in Pasadena, announced on May 3 that its entire line of pet safety restraints for cars has been crash tested according to U.S., Canadian and European child safety restraint systems standards. In addition, the Sleepypod Clickit Sport and the Sleepypod Clickit Utility have received CPS crash test certification.

Crates and Carriers

Because so many dog travel harnesses haven’t been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash, experts at the Humane Society of the United States recommend crating dogs while traveling in cars.

As with harnesses, it’s important to make sure any crate or carrier you purchase for the car has been crash tested. The CPS provides a list of crates and carriers  that have been crash test certified along with the requirements for certification.

Many car manufacturers offer pet accessories such as custom fit dog crates and barriers making it safer for your dog to travel with you.

Tips for Driving Safely with Your Dog

Photo credit: Dillon Sarnelli

Booster Seats

These are open seats that attach with straps to the existing seat back. Pet owners typically use these to allow small dogs to see out the car window. Many of these seats include straps that can be attached to a dog’s harness.

Veterinary experts caution against attaching these straps to a dog’s collar as it can cause hanging if a dog jumps or is thrown from the seat. These seats should never be used in the front of the car where a deployed airbag could injure or kill a small dog.

In general, experts say a booster seat is not going to protect your dog in the event of an accident. The safest way to transport small dogs is in a crash-tested secured carrier.

Barriers

Barriers come in a variety of sizes and materials and keep dogs from jumping—or being thrown—into the front of the car.

We use the MidWest car dog barrier that made the Canine Journal’s top three list. It adjusted nicely to fit our Kia Soul and we used zip ties and straps to make it more secure.

It does take a little time to get accustomed to having a wire mesh between us and the dogs. However, our dogs adjusted very quickly and they are happy to lay down quietly until we get to our destination. They are also safer and that’s what matters to us.

Leave your dog at home when running errands.

Every year hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked cars. Pet owners think if they are gone for just a few minutes and leave the window open a crack, their dog will be fine.

According to the AVMA, the temperature inside your car can rise almost 30 degrees within 20 minutes. Even on days that don’t seem hot to you, leaving your pet in a car can put her at serious risk of illness and even death. Please leave your pet safely at home when you’re running errands.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

62 comments

Cindy S
Cindy Smith3 months ago

good tips

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Thomas M
Thomas M4 months ago

thanks for posting

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Sarah Grayce P
Sarah Grayce P4 months ago

Good ideas. Cute dog.

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Christine S
Christine Stewart4 months ago

Yes, please restrain your dog! Your heart would be broken if you hurt or killed your dog when you had to brake suddenly....

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Mark T
Mark T4 months ago

Ty.

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Trish K
Trish K4 months ago

The booster seats are nice for small dogs and cats. Large dogs need a halter with restraints. Keeps me more sane when taking them to the vet or out of town for a different walk.

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Past Member
Past Member 4 months ago

noted

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Edgar Z
Edgar Zuim4 months ago

Thanks. Good article.

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