They say, sometimes, the best therapy is a long drive and the best therapist has fur and four legs. But they never said that at times car rides with these furry companions may be so stressful, that we end up needing therapy after! Well, car rides with our dog buds do not have to be so stressful if we could only tone up their safety and comfort in a moving car. Read on to learn more.
Potential risks our dogs face in moving cars
Impact of a moving vehicle
How a moving car may impact our pets is almost always unknown. This is primarily because unlike us, they cannot pre-empt twists and turns on the road and balance themselves accordingly. This usually leads to erratic movements and frequent imbalances leading to minor or major injuries, stress, and possibly motion sickness.
Risk of falling off the seat
Sudden breaks or sharp turns usually mean risking a fall for your dog, especially when they are not secured on the seat. This is highly dangerous, especially for smaller dogs as the fall might be impactful and they may not be able to pick themselves back on the seat.
Risk involving falling off of a moving vehicle
One of the biggest risks of traveling with a dog is the possibility of them falling off of a moving car. It could happen due to a variety of reasons like speed, bumps on the road, lack of supervision, sharp turns, or something exciting catching your dog’s eye and their inability to control that impulse.
Risk of distracting the driver
Is there anything more distracting than having a dog in the car that has free range of the entire car and wants to cling to you while you are driving? This can be especially dangerous while going at a speed of over 60 MPH on the highway.
Motion sickness can take the form of vomiting, diarrhea, stress, anxiety, excessive vocalization, and so on in dogs. Lack of proper restraint usually ends up aggravating motion sickness as it may add to erratic movements and severe impacts.
General stress and anxiety in a moving car
The unfamiliar environment around the vehicle, twists and turns on the road, lack of control, unknown sounds, and sights, vehicle vibrations, travel sickness, etc are all factors that may cause severe anxiety in dogs. Dogs are creatures of habit and tend to feel at ease when things around them are familiar and predictable.
Pet theft and other mishaps
The chances of pet theft are exponentially high when the dog is left alone in the car. Leaving a dog unattended in a turned-off vehicle on a hot summer day is like putting them on a death sentence. The effects of overheating can be potentially fatal. Furthermore, leaving your dog alone in a car with the AC on is also risky as good-intended people may break open your car’s window to rescue your “dying dog.”
Essential Safety Tips
Secure your dog with appropriate restraints
Dog seat belts are a great way to ensure the safety of your dog in a moving car. It restricts unnecessary movements, reduces impacts, and prevents your dog from falling off. States like Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New Jersey legally require dogs to buckle up in the car. Apart from the variety of benefits it offers, dog seat belts considerably minimize distractions to the driver, thereby preventing accidents.
Use a crate if necessary
Amidst the unfamiliarity that comes with a moving car, a crate helps provide your dog with a familiar and comfortable environment to rest in. Crates are known to reduce anxiety and help dogs settle down faster in moving vehicles. Portable dog carriers make a viable option for short and long distances.
Watch the windows
If your dog loves putting their head outside the car to enjoy the view, make sure to accompany them by sitting right next to them and holding them tight. An appropriate restraint would also do the trick in ensuring their safety. In a speedy vehicle, your dog may be at risk of injury from flying debris, insects, gravel, dust, or even other vehicles.
Manage your dog’s anxiety
If your dog is known to have anxiety in a moving vehicle, try to manage it by giving them something to be engaged with. Calming chews, frozen treats, and licki mats work wonders in reducing stress and anxiety. You could also consider other options like thunder shirts, hemp chews, and pheromone products.
Take frequent breaks during longer drives
When traveling long distances, take frequent breaks and let your dog out to relieve themselves, drink water, and smell some fresh grass. This can help ease travel for your dog to a great extent. Play and a short walk amidst travel would also keep the association positive and help your dog sleep better in the moving car for the rest of the trip. Keep food intake to a minimum to prevent vomiting.
Consider booster seats for smaller dogs
Booster seats or console dog car seats are specifically designed to secure your furry companion in one place. This prevents unnecessary movements and the risk of falling off in or outside the car. Did you know, that placing your dog in a booster seat in the back can protect them from the force of deploying airbags in the front? Airbags that are designed for humans in case of accidents are highly dangerous for dogs.
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Ensure ample ventilation and temperature regulation
In most cases, 60 to 70 degrees F make ideal temperatures for dogs. Dogs are highly sensitive to their surroundings and may find it difficult to regulate their body temperature as effectively as us humans. Thus, ensuring ample ventilation and an ideal temperature in the car is crucial to prevent motion sickness, drooling, stress, and anxiety.
A car that is too hot or too cold may put your dog in a lot of discomfort, thereby making the ride highly stressful for everybody. Your dog’s coat type must be an important deciding factor in temperature regulation.
An emergency kit in the car comes in handy in a variety of situations. Make sure to pack bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, sanitation supplies, seasonal supplies, calming aids, and other medication depending on your dog’s physical health.
Other Important Considerations
Make sure to take into account the following factors about your dog when shopping for your travel safety and other dog car accessories –
- Your dog’s size – booster seats may be a good idea for smaller dogs. For bigger dogs, consider a durable seat belt or a harness.
- Your dog’s association with car rides – do they get stressed? Anxious? Car sick? Vocal?
- Your dog’s preferences – do they prefer laying down hogging the entire back seat or sitting near the window to enjoy the view?
Here are a few car essentials for your dog that you may want to add to your travel checklist –
- Booster seat or hammock if necessary
- Dog seat belt
- Travel–friendly harness
- Calming chews and products
- Medication to reduce motion sickness
- Dog Carriers or crate
- Identification and documents
- Dog Blankets and travel dog bed
- Cleaning supplies
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Most dogs are not born with comfort in car rides. It is almost always built over time with appropriate training and desensitization. Start training and socialization towards car rides from an early age, make sure to always keep the association positive, and prioritize safety at all costs. Here is a quick guide on how to choose a dog car seat for your pooch - How to Choose the Perfect Dog Car Seat
The Benefits of Prioritizing Safety
When it comes to our fur buds, we can never be too safe. However, some benefits of prioritizing safety during car rides are -
- Helps improve focus and prevents accidents of any kind
- Minimizes stress and anxiety
- Prevents injuries of any kind
- Improved training, socialization, and desensitization
- Prevents distraction to the driver
- Ensures safety for other passengers too
- Ensures airbag safety
- Ensures legal compliance
- Helps reduce motion sickness
- Prevents escapes of any kind
- Improves overall travel experience
Travel safety is essential to protect not only pets and human passengers but also other road users. Not to mention, it would highly enhance the overall travel experience. Appropriate safety measures and equipment would ensure your dog’s comfort and security during short and long trips and build a positive association. Isn’t that the least we can do for them? After all, it is all about the journey, rather than the destination, right?