How Safe Is Your Dog During a Car Ride?

Most dogs love a car ride.

dog riding in a car

Maybe it’s because car rides mean that they get to be with you instead of staying home alone!

Yes, it’s true that some dogs have trouble with a car ride – even a short one. However, the solution to that problem is a topic or a different day.

Today, it’s all about planning a safe road trip with your dog – whether you’re driving hundreds of miles or just making a quick trip to pick up the kids from school.

How safe is your dog during a car ride? Although seat belts are the law for people, and you wouldn’t ever dream of holding a child in your lap while driving or letting a toddler ride unrestrained in the front passenger seat while leaning out the open window, there is a disconnect when it comes to dogs in cars.

How many ways could this end badly?

3 Reasons to Have a Good Plan

How safe is your dog during a car ride? A good plan will account for the worst-case scenario and include preventive measures. It’s a fact, not an opinion: All dogs must be safely restrained while riding in your car.

Here are 3 powerful common-sense reasons.

  1. Dogs obey the same laws of physics that apply to the rest of the physical world.
  2. Distracted driving is a danger to yourself and others.
  3. A panicked dog will escape, become lost, and/or be injured or killed in traffic.

1. Physics

Remember Newton’s First Law of Motion?

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Here’s what happens to an unrestrained dog during an emergency brake or a collision.

(Source: https://news.orvis.com/dogs/three-good-reasons-restrain-dog-car )

  • In a car traveling 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 10-pound dog will exert about 300 pounds of force in an accident.
  • In the same car traveling 50 miles per hour, the same dog will exert about 500 pounds of force.
  • In a car traveling 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 80-pound dog will exert about 2400 pounds of force.

The numbers don’t lie. An unrestrained dog becomes a projectile, thrown through the windshield or out of the car.

2. Distractions

Since distracted driving is dangerous even a well-behaved dog can interfere with your attention and cause a bad outcome.  That’s because a distraction lasting longer than 2 seconds is more likely to result in a crash.

Consequently, when a  loose dog jumps on you, blocks your line of sight, or demands your attention in other ways, you can easily become inattentive to the road.

3. Escape

In an accident, a loose dog can bolt into traffic, run away in panic, or appear to be a threat to emergency responders.  An injured dog can escape and be beyond your help. Even if it’s just a minor incident with no injuries, a loose dog can panic and run away through a door left open.

How to Safely Restrain a Dog in Your Car

A restrained dog is safer from injury, less likely to be a distraction, and more protected in an emergency.

The most common methods of restraint are a travel crate or a secure travel harness.

Therefore, if your vehicle will accommodate a crate, be sure it’s sturdy and secured so that it stays in place if there’s a sudden stop.

Travel harnesses should not restrict the dog’s normal shoulder movement. Attach to a seat belt in the back seat of your car.  Be sure to use a harness that has been tested to hold up in a crash.

My 2 favorite brands of travel harness for dogs are kurgo.com and sleepypod.com.  

Safe travels!

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