Tips For Safely Driving With Your Pup In The Car

March 23, 2018

Some of us can remember the days when we used to hit the road or on our mother's lap, seat-belt free. Or maybe you recall that feeling of piling into the back of a pickup truck and cruising around town. Of course, neither scenario is actually safe, and both could net you a hefty fine if you try them now. But if riding in a car unrestrained isn't safe for us humans, how can it be safe for our dogs? 

Doggo Car iStockPhoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

Our canine companions are at risk of injury if some type of restraint is not used. A quick stop can send your dog flying into the front seat or through the windshield. Sheer excitement could have them jumping out an open window or into your lap, impairing your ability to drive. 

Those who love their dogs like family members want to keep their furry buddies with them as much as possible – even when it comes to hitting the road. Hooray for them, we say, but there are a few cautionary steps that should be taken before you drive with your pet. Here are a few options when it comes to car safety gear for dogs:

Take along your crate – the perfect doggy car seat.

Crates are the best type of restraint for your pet, as they provide the most protection. The crate should be the correct dimensions for the size and breed of dog. A crate inside a car should be strapped down or secured, just as a child's car seat would be. A crate in the bed of a truck should also be cross-tethered to prevent it from sliding around. A dog should never be crated in the open bed of a truck in bad weather.

»Check out our pick for top dog crates on Amazon.

Use a harness and/or short leash

Harnesses for dogs come in "step-in" and other styles and can be used inside or outside the automobile. They typically can be adjusted for dogs from 6 to 150 pounds. You’ll need to measure your pet's girth before ordering such a leash.

Short leashes are made for smaller dogs and can be attached to the vehicle’s seat belt. As long as your dog is comfortable being restrained in this way, harnesses and dog seat belts are a nice alternative to a crate. These types of restraints will keep the dog firmly rooted to the seat of the car and decrease mobility while still allowing the dog to sit upright.

»Check out our pick for top dog harnesses/short leashes on Amazon.

Set up a barrier in the back seat

Back-seat barriers or "hammocks" are available to keep your pet from climbing or getting thrown into the front seat of the car. The hammock attaches to the headrests of the front and back seats, and the bottom of the hammock sits flat on the back seat. While the dog is not physically restrained, it’s unable to get into the front seat.

»Check out our pick for top dog backseat barriers on Amazon.

Using ziplines and dog seat covers

Pet ziplines can be strung between any two points inside the car. Once you attach your dog’s harness to it, the pet can move back and forth along its path without being able to wander freely or, more importantly, go flying. Seat covers can be another option to keep your pet stable. Many seat covers for dogs are designed to eliminate slipping while in a car. Most are made to cover the back seat and form walls on each side to act as a barrier against falling or losing balance.

»Check out our pick for top dog seat covers on Amazon.

Putting safety first when it comes to your pup

Some states have laws regarding the transport of dogs. Be aware of what your state (or any state you're driving through) requires before buying a pet restraint. While it may be lawful in one state to travel with a dog on your lap, it may be illegal in an adjacent state. 

Regardless of the legality, your main concern should be the safety of your dog, yourself and your other passengers. 

  • A few reasons for this new interest in safely driving with pets include:
  • Avoiding driver distraction
  • Ensuring that pet restraints are used properly
  • Keeping unsafe foods, chemicals and other items out of pets' reach
  • Front seat airbags not being designed for animals
  • Protecting your pet from flying debris
  • Leaving a pet in a hot car

Take care of yourself and your pet by putting safety first when driving. A little preparation goes a long way toward keeping your dog happy and healthy on the road.

About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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