Car trips with babies are challenging enough, but how do you keep your dog safe and happy in the car? Many people use boarding kennels or pet sitters. These are great options, but sometimes you have no choice but to take your dog along with you for the ride.
What if you’re moving? Maybe you’re taking a cross-country trip or can’t afford a pet sitter. Or you may simply want to enjoy a vacation with your dog.
While the vast majority of child safety seats have been thoroughly crash tested and approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the same does not apply for pet safety seats. As a matter of fact, the CPSC has no authority over those products, since they aren’t considered consumer goods (i.e. not for human use).
Even so, there are many safe pet restraints on the market. We’ve reviewed several of them on BestCarSeatHub.com.
Why bother with pet restraints?
Though most of us buckle up automatically when we get in the car, most people don’t even think about it when riding with their dogs (or cats). You’ve probably seen a dog hanging out the passenger side window or a cat lying on the back dash of a car.
Sure, they’re having fun watching the world pass by, but accidents can take us by surprise. One minute you’re happily driving down the road, and the next you’re either slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision, or another car speeds through a red light at the intersection and crashes into your car.
An unrestrained dog can not only be badly injured, but they can also become a projectile object and injure you or any other passengers. Buckling them up helps keep everyone safe.
Pet Restraints Mean Fewer Distractions
A 2012 study estimated over 400,000 people were injured as a result of distracted drivers. Another study from AAA found over 60% of dog owners engage in distracting activities with their dogs in the car.
In other words, if you ever text while driving (we hope you don’t) AND your dog is running around or getting into your lap, you’ve just doubled the distractions and are twice as likely to injure yourself and your dog in a crash.
Don’t be another statistic. Make sure your dog is buckled up too. But don’t put them in the front seat. Air bags can seriously injure dogs. The back seat or hatch area is the best place for your dog.
Types of Car Restraints for Dogs
There are several options available depending on the size and temperament of your dog. Though they come in several different designs, they can be classified into these categories.
- Safety harnesses
- Carriers / kennels
- Booster seats
Harnesses come in all sizes, but tend to work well for large dogs and dogs that don’t mind a close-hugging restraint. For some great recommendations and in-depth harness reviews, read more on our blog.
For dogs that don’t like tight restraints, crates are a good option so long as they are tethered in the vehicle. Smaller dogs often enjoy riding in carriers / kennels and dog booster seats.
Keeping Your Dog Happy on the Road
Long car trips can be tiring and stressful for humans and fur babies alike. Take the time to plan out your trip, and be sure to practice using the restraint with your dog for short trips so they’ll get used to it for the long haul.
When on the road, here are some tips to keep in mind so you AND your dog can enjoy the journey together.
- Keep them calm. Some dogs are nervous and easily triggered by sights and sounds when they look out the window. They may bark at everything that moves, especially other dogs. If you’re using a crate or kennel, try draping a blanket or towel over it to help block out some of the distractions and keep them quiet.
- Use a barrier. Excited or anxious dogs may get loose from their harnesses and want to escape to the safety of your lap. To prevent this unpleasant distraction, try a pet barrier made to fit your car. They’re usually wire or mesh to provide plenty of circulation, while keeping them out of the front seat.
- Take frequent breaks. Just as you need to get out every couple of hours to stretch your legs and have a potty break, your dog needs breaks too. Make sure they’re on a leash at all times. If the weather is nice, a rest stop can be a good option to take them for a walk, give them some food and water, and maybe some play time with a favorite toy.
- Don’t leave your dog in a hot car. Not only is it illegal in some states, but it’s also deadly. Even on a 75 degree day, a car interior can reach 100 degrees in minutes, even when the windows are cracked.
All things considered, don’t be afraid to travel with your dog in the car. Just make sure they’re safely restrained, and plan some fun breaks along the way. You’ll both be glad you did.