Unfortunately, most people don't think about what can happen to a pet (and you) if you don't properly secure it in your vehicle before getting behind the wheel. Thankfully, Robert Cabral, "The Malibu Dog Trainer" and author of two books on dog rescue, is well-versed in how to make sure your dog is safe as possible in the car.
Robert says that one of the easiest ways your dog can get injured in a car is if you keep it in a standard wire crate. "Putting them in a regular, wire crate is actually more dangerous than not having them in a crate at all. They’re deadly to dogs. What happens is you have what’s called a 'crumple zone' in your cargo area. When that crumple zone starts to compress, the wires on the crate start to break apart, and they become like shrapnel to your dog."
Image: MIM Safe Variocage
Crash-tested dog crates like this one are much safer for your pet.
"We currently don’t have any government standards for pets, but you want to use the same standards that you would for a child’s seat for a car. If you look at the crates coming out of Sweden, they’re crash tested and they have a crumple zone. The metal is soft enough to absorb the dog’s force without killing it."
Another option are harnesses. Many dog owners will simply use their dog's regular leash to secure it in the car. What they don't realize is that if the car is hit with any force in an accident, that leash can break apart easily. Suddenly your dog becomes a dangerous projectile that could kill you and/or your passenger.
Image: Allsafe Harness
Look for a crash-tested safety harness like this one designed specifically for dogs.
"A crash-tested safety harness is padded and designed specifically for the dog’s body. They have a clip that goes onto the seat belt, so the dog can move around a little bit," Robert says. These leashes cost around $150, which is somewhat cheaper than the crate option.
Keep your dog's head inside the car. "As cute as it is, if a dog’s head is out the window, flying debris can put an eye out. For the same reasons you wouldn’t want your child’s head hanging out the window, you wouldn’t want your dog’s head hanging out the window."
Don't let your dog distract you. Dogs can be a major distraction to drivers, especially if they're not fans of being in the car. A whiny puppy and a worried owner constantly turning around to check on it can easily lead to a major accident. Robert says, "If your dog doesn’t like riding in the car, start by taking short trips to fun places, so your dog associates good things with the car, then gradually extend the trip lengths. If the dog cries in the crate, just try and drive through it."
The overall message here is treat your dog's safety in the car as you would a family member. You wouldn't buy a car seat for your baby without making sure it was safe, right? The same should go for the safety accessories you buy for your dog.
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