Before you set off with your dog, make sure he is wearing current identification and check that your microchip information is up to date. If you have an accident or your dog gets loose, make it easy for you and your dog to be quickly reunited. Create an information sheet about your pet (address, vet information, medications, food and a friend or commercial care place that can look after him if you can’t), include photos of the head and side view of your dog and take them with you. Pack water- I keep a camping container of water and favorite chew toys in my vehicle.
Always travel with your dog inside the vehicle. In many areas, sit is against the law to travel with an animal in the bed of a truck or any exterior part of a vehicle unless they are in a secured crate or carrier that prevents them from being thrown from the vehicle. Another reason to avoid having a dog ride in the exterior bed of a truck is that dogs are also exposed to the elements risking hypothermia, heatstroke, eye and ear injury and they have no protection in case of an accident.
Keep your dog restrained while driving. It’s hard to drive safely if your dog is moving back and forth in the vehicle. If the vehicle slows, swerves or stops suddenly, an unrestrained dog can become a projectile which exposes them to injury and they become a hazard to the driver and passengers as well. If you are injured in an accident, emergency personnel may be prevented from assisting you in a timely manner if a loose dog is now guarding you and your vehicle. A frightened dog is likely to bolt from the scene.
For larger dogs, I use a seatbelt harness which attaches to the seatbelt. There are a variety of items that restrain a dog. Some are tethers which clip to your dog’s harness while the other end clips into the seatbelt. These are adjustable in length and fit most vehicles. They allow the dog to sit or lie down comfortably but keep him tethered to the seat. Some brands are also available in metal chain which prevents dogs from chewing through and releasing themselves. Harnesses made to attach to the seatbelt are also available and some of these have been crash tested. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) crash test both harnesses and crates from companies who volunteer to have them tested and CPS rate them for safety. For dogs who are in seatbelt harnesses and are triggered by things outside the vehicle, putting something called a “calming cap” on them is helpful as it filters what the dog sees (they can still see through them) and keeps dogs calm in the vehicle. They are also comfortable, and I have not had a dog object to wearing one. Dogs should travel in the back seat of the vehicle as, if the front seat airbag is deployed, a dog can be killed if riding in the front seat.
For smaller dogs, I use crates (secured in the backseat) instead of harnesses. I recommend dogs are trained to love their crates before traveling in them (this is easy to do by leaving the crate door open at home and leaving tasty chew toys and treats in the crate so that the dog is rewarded every time they go into the crate). Make sure the crate is comfortable with cushioning to lie on and a chew toy to keep the dog busy while traveling if you like. I bring a sheet to cover wire crates for dogs who may bark at things outside the vehicle.
I teach my dogs to remain in the vehicle until given the cue word to exit (even once their seatbelt harness is undone). Some dogs want to dash out of the vehicle as the door opens or as their seatbelt is undone. I teach my dogs to only leave the vehicle when I tell them “exit”. A dog who rushes out of the vehicle when the door opens is at risk of being hit by a passing car and other hazards.
In hot weather, do not leave your dog in the vehicle. Many dogs have lost their lives because they were left in vehicles in warm weather. Dogs have very limited ability to cool themselves down and vehicles heat up very quickly. If you are not in your vehicle, your dog should not be either!
Enjoy taking your dog with you in your vehicle and stay safe!!