Travel Safely With Your Pets

Does your dog like to ride in the car?  Most dogs do.  They love sticking their head out the window, ears blowing in the breeze.

Of my two dogs, one loves to go for a ride in the car, while the other one hates it.  Cash, my Schnauzer, is always up for a ride.  He’s a good boy about it too, because he likes riding in the back seat and will stand up and nuzzle the back of my neck or just sit and gaze out the window.

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Then there’s Chuey, the Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix who is terrified whenever he has to get in the car.  He’s been this way ever since he was a puppy and I’ve tried everything to change it.  He whines and shakes the whole time and gets himself all worked up until he’s panting and his eyes are practically bugging out of his head.

I’ve tried putting his Thundershirt on him, which helped a little bit in the beginning, but is no longer effective.  The best thing I can do is give him some Benadryl (1 mg per pound of weight) when we are long trips.  He does okay if he can sit on someone’s lap, but if it’s only me in the car he wants to crawl over onto my lap, which I absolutely don’t allow.  I know, I see people driving all the time with a little dog on their lap and it makes me crazy.  It’s not only dangerous for the driver, but for the dog as well.  Imagine what can happen to a 10-pound pup when he’s suddenly crushed between your chest and an exploding airbag.  The outcome is going to be tragic.

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The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently released a study which found that one-fifth of all American drivers drive with a dog on their lap, while only 17% of all drivers use any type of pet restraint at all.  Not only that, but having a pet in the front seat causes much more distracted driving, people even feed, water and play with their pets while driving. That was shocking to me!.

Did you know that in a crash an unrestrained dog is like a flying missile and can cause serious bodily injury or death to you and/or your passengers?  It doesn’t take a large dog either to cause a lot of damage.  I personally knew of a guy who was sitting at a red light when he was violently rear-ended by a car.  A box of Kleenex he had sitting in his back window hit him in the back of the head with such an impact that it caused him to sustain permanent brain damage.  If a box of tissues can do that, imagine what damage even a little dog that is unrestrained can cause in an accident.

There are some great car harnesses out there to help secure your dog in the car, but Chuey doesn’t like that either, so I gave up on the harness idea.  I did get a cover for my backseat that is like a sling.  Not only does it protect the car’s seats, but it also provides a barrier between the front and back seat so my dogs are confined to the backseat.  It may not be the best protection in a crash, but it’s better than nothing and it also prevents them from distracting me when I’m driving.

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Seatbelt Laws for Pets?

Today I just read an article that the State of Maine had tried to pass legislation requiring all dogs to be harnessed or tethered in moving vehicles.  While I think restraining your dog in the car is the safest option for the dog as well as for your passengers and yourself, I believe that passing a law requiring a dog be restrained in a vehicle is overstepping their bounds.  While some dogs may do just fine being tethered to a seatbelt, there are others like my Chuey who are going to freak out and be miserable.  There’s never a one-size-fits-all option for pets riding in the car.

While in Maine the bill requiring pets to be restrained was quickly withdrawn, every state is different.  Some states, like Colorado, have laws against dogs riding in the back of open pickup trucks, which I think is appropriate, and others such as Hawaii prohibit animals running loose in a  vehicle or riding on your lap.

It’s actually frightening to me when I see a dog riding loose in the back of a truck, especially if they are standing up on the side of the truck bed.  Imagine if the driver has to stop suddenly.  That dog is going to go flying and could land on the ground and get hurt or run over by another vehicle.  Or even worse, the dog could be launched through another vehicle’s windshield.  All kinds of bad things can happen.  Why take the chance?

What Can You Do?

There are lots of good options available such as seatbelt harnesses, barriers to keep the dog confined to a certain area of the vehicle, as well as crates.

Pets Warehouse is a great place to shop for all kinds of travel restraints and accessories at a discounted price.

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Find what works best for your dog, but please, take some kind of preventive measures, for your dog’s sake as well as your own and others around you.

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Have you tried any sorts of restraints or barriers already?  If so, what works best for your dog?  Please share your story.

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