If you’re like most dog lovers, you enjoy taking your best friend with you everywhere – whether that’s on a cross-country road trip or a trip to the dog park. No matter where you drive with your pet, you need to be familiar with dog car safety.
Today, we'll share five essential car safety considerations that will make traveling with your furry friend safe and stress-free:
Take regular breaks
Watch for signs of car anxiety
Start car training
Review vehicle restraint requirements
Vehicle comforts to aid with pet travel
1. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Because we frequently need to travel with our pets, we should be aware of their basic needs to prepare them for the journey that lies ahead.
Dogs, especially large or active ones, shouldn’t be in the car for longer than 4 hours without a break.
During a road trip with your pet, give your dog plenty of opportunities to drink water, go potty and stretch its legs to reset from the drive. Dogs can get very anxious during car rides but making time for stops allows them to take a breather.
If your dog is not prepared to ride 4 or more hours without stopping, then try to take a break every hour to help them get used to sitting in the car for long periods.
2. WATCH FOR SIGNS OF CAR ANXIETY
Car rides can be very stressful for dogs. It’s important to notice the changes in your dog’s behavior when riding in the car with you. Being aware will help you gauge whether they are experiencing anxiety and how to address it.
Symptoms of car anxiety:
Resisting getting into the car
Excessive whining or barking
Frequent or excessive licking or chewing
Urinating or pooping in the car
If your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety, there are ways to ease them into the idea of car travel. The key is to find what your dog is comfortable with before slowly expanding that comfort zone.
For example, if your dog resists getting into the car with you, you might try sitting with your dog in the driveway before gradually approaching the car and climbing inside. Meanwhile, there should be plenty of praise and treats. Over time, your dog’s anxiety should cease, and you should be able to go for short drives and eventually longer ones.
If training isn’t enough, there are other anxiety solutions. Consult with your vet to see if you can add chewable anti-anxiety supplements, stress-relief sprays, natural herbal remedies, or motion-sickness medications to your dog's car training.
If you are against medication and chews to help ease your dog’s anxiety, you can also try spraying dog pheromones in the car or getting a pheromone-infused collar. Dog pheromones are known to relax dogs experiencing anxiety.
3. START CAR TRAINING
Depending on how comfortable your dog is riding in the car, you may have to start training their behavior to help them adjust to transit.
Take it easy on your pup and find small ways to help them get acclimated, like giving them a treat or reward each time they are quiet during the ride or when they refrain from accidents in the car. Rewarding positive behavior helps demonstrate to your dog which behaviors you would like to see.
Another training technique involves making the car part of a game!
While your car is parked, hide a treat somewhere in the car and have your pet hunt it down. Dogs love using their senses to claim these delicious rewards.
To teach your dog to play, start by “hiding” the treat in plain sight somewhere near the car. Make the first few very easy to find. Eventually, you can move the treat into the car and make it more challenging to sniff out.
Another trick is to reward your dog with a treat every time they enter the car. This helps establish that the car is a good space that comes with good rewards.
4. PURCHASE THE RIGHT DOG VEHICLE SAFETY EQUIPMENT
Restraining your dog is a critical piece of car safety. We don’t like to think about it, but we know that unrestrained dogs can come to serious harm and even death if the car is involved in an accident.
Additionally, dogs that enjoy exploring the car while it’s moving can be a dangerous distraction to the driver. In some states, it’s even illegal to drive without properly securing your dog.
Legal repercussions aside, we want our fur babies to be safe above all else. So, be sure to use a dog restraint in the car or secure your pet with one of these other dog car safety products:
DOG CAR SEAT BELTS
Dog car seat belts are one way that you can safely restrain your pup while driving. Once installed correctly, dog car seat belts will help protect your dog from jumping out of the window, from getting hit with unknown debris while hanging their head out of the window, and from being choked by a leash or tether in an accident.
They also protect your dog from being ejected from the car in an accident. Most dog seat belts also have a loop for you to click into your seat belt to restrain your dog correctly. When shopping for a suitable restraint, look for something adjustable that can fit comfortably around your pup.
DOG CAR HARNESSES
Dog car harnesses are another way to keep your dog safe and secure while driving. It’s essential to measure your dog’s chest, neck, and body length measurements to ensure a snug fit.
There are numerous dog car harnesses on the market, so make sure to read reviews and determine which features you need for your pet.
Some harnesses come with various options like an attached dog car seat belt, padded chest plates and cushioning, and different materials (important for dogs with sensitive skin).
Certain dog car harnesses are better for long rides or road trips, and some are ideal for shorter trips. Others are multifunctional and can be used in the car and during walks in the park. Multifunctional harnesses are an excellent option for people who take long road trips and stop intermittently for walking breaks.
In the end, the most important thing is to do your research and read the reviews, so you know what you’re buying.
DOG CAR CARRIERS
By now, your head is probably spinning with all of the car safety options for dogs to keep them safe and secure during car travel. There are quite a few more options available for pet lovers. One additional option is a dog car carrier. If your dog is very active or too small for a dog car seat belt, then a dog car carrier may be the best fit.
Some car carriers double as a bed and latch onto the seat belt to keep your pup safe and secure during the car ride. They can sometimes also double as a dog carrier for the airport.
If you have a relatively large dog, it might be hard to find a dog car carrier that doubles as a bed. If you have a smaller dog, then you might opt for a dog car carrier that doubles as an elevated bed so your dog can look out of the window during the drive.
You also must keep in mind the type of car that you have. Some dog car carriers may not be compatible with your vehicle while using a standard seat belt.
DOG CARGO AREA
A dog cargo area is another way to keep your dog safe during car travel. Instead of having them in the backseat, you can have them anchored in the cargo area if you have an SUV or crossover.
If you’re using a harness to anchor your pup in the cargo area, you must ensure that it’s the right size and fit for your dog and your car. The last thing you want is a harness that can’t adequately perform its job.
When researching the type of harness you need for your SUV or crossover, be sure to get a specialized type of leash that keeps your dog from injuring themselves when you open the hatch to take breaks during your road trip.
Dog harnesses come in different sizes, designs, and lengths, but most are adjustable and double-sided. This is helpful so that you can attach one to the dog and one to the latch on the inside of the cargo area.
DOG CAR SEATS
Dog car seats are another way to keep your pet safe during car travel. While these are common for smaller dogs, you should be able to find one for your medium or large-sized dog – just ensure that it’s proportional to your dog’s size, weight and breed.
Some breeds have a smaller waist-to-shoulder ratio, so check that the seat can accommodate their body shape.
Dog car seats protect your car from anxious chewing or gnawing and nausea. They also prevent your pet from getting into your belongings and potentially choking or poisoning themselves.
So, what type of dog car seat is best? Well, that depends on your dog. There are endless models and types of dog car seats on the market. Some of the things to look out for include:
Sizing requirements: Is there a weight limit or restriction?
Practicality: Will it fit in your car? How easy is it to use?
Cleaning: Is it easy to clean? Is it machine-washable?
Material: Does the material irritate your dog’s skin? Is it breathable?
Also, be sure to check the crash rating on the dog car seat you’re interested in and read the reviews from people who have purchased the product. You don’t want to invest in something that doesn’t suit you or your pup’s long-term needs.
DOG CAR CRATES
Dog crates are another option for car safety for your pooch.
Important note: Dog car crates are different from traditional dog crates!
You should not use traditional dog crates in the car. In the event of an accident, your dog could suffer serious injuries.
The first thing you should do is research dog car crates that successfully pass a crash test. A good place to start is on the Center for Pet Safety website.
Next, find a crate that is appropriate for the size of your dog. Typically, car crates should be big enough that your dog can sit, stand and turn around comfortably, but not so roomy that they can roam around within the crate.
You should also consider ease of use. You don’t want a car crate that’s going to take a long time to install in your vehicle securely. You’re going to want one that assembles easily in case you’re ever in a rush to leave the house.
The last thing to consider are the various features that are important to you. Some dog car crates come with double-wall molded plastic, while others come with carpet. If your top choice comes without carpet or some type of bedding, you can always add your own dog crate mat.
5. CONSIDER DOG SEAT COVERS TO IMPROVE PET TRAVEL
Cars are designed for people, not dogs, so we often don’t think about whether our furry companions are comfortable in a space designed for human comfort.
Dog car seat covers, especially those with a non-slip lining, create a stable surface for your pet's paws, so they aren’t slipping and sliding around the car. This creates a more comfortable space and a safer one, too!
Not only do seat covers help keep your dog safe and comfortable, but they also help contain dirt and dog hair messes and prevent your pup from creating unnecessary distractions while you drive.
Car seat covers with a hammock come with an added benefit because they will prevent your dog from sliding onto the floor if you need to hit the brakes suddenly.
So, how do you choose a dog car seat cover and which one is best for you?
While many dog car seat covers have different perks, materials, etc., the main thing you should consider is if it’s washable or waterproof. These key factors will make it easier for you to clean potential messes.
You should also take into account the durability of the material. Dogs can be a little rough, so ensure that your pup’s nails can’t claw through the car seat cover.
We hope this guide to car safety for dogs will help you make informed decisions when it comes to traveling with your furry companion.
Our dogs are a part of our family, and we want to care for them well. So, the best way to travel is to travel safely.