It’s hard to ignore that pleading look in your dog’s eyes whenever you head towards the door with your car keys. And why would you want to? Fact is, a nice leisurely drive with the windows down is an olfactory field day for your pup, and lets you skirt the guilt of leaving him home alone.
You’re responsible enough (hopefully) to know never to leave your dog alone in the car or, uh, strap him to the roof. But there’s still an insanely high likelihood that you’re putting your dog’s life in danger every time you hit the road. You'd never let your child roam free around your car, drooling excessively without a seatbelt. The safety risks for your dog are just as severe.
1. Letting them ride shotgun
First things first, your dog is a distraction. It's cute, easily excited, and bloodthirsty for adoration on your Instagram. Canines are social creatures that command attention, which isn't the ideal co-pilot when your eyes are fixed on the road.
Then there's the safety issue: If you’re in a moderate collision that’s hard enough to set off the airbag, the resulting explosion will likely do more harm than good to your dog. Government recommendations for children are that your kid stays in the back seat until it's big enough to wear a seatbelt. So unless your dog is the size of a young adolescent human, keep it out of the front seat.
2. Driving with your dog in your lap
Okay if the front seat is off limits, this one should be obvious. But an AAA survey revealed that a terrifying 17% of respondents drive with their dog on their lap. Setting aside the obvious airbag-smashes-your-dog-into-your-face issue, you’re now posing a danger to everyone else on the road.
3. Letting them roam free in the back
You might think the back seat is safe -- and it’s better than your lap, certainly -- but it’s still not good enough. Your dog running from window to window to drink in a smorgasbord of delicious new smells is endearing, yes, but also a massive distraction. Not to mention that if you’re in a crash at 30 mph, Fido is now a 30 mph weapon being catapulted at you or your passengers.
4. Not using a harness, or using a crappy substandard one
For a variety of reasons, hard information on dogs killed or injured in car crashes isn't available. Consider this, though: only 13% of drivers today don't wear seatbelts, and that 13% accounts for nearly half of all crash-related deaths. Simply put, your dog needs to be restrained.
Even if you're already using a harness for your dog (props to you), there’s a chance it’s just a placebo when it comes to accident safety. The Center For Pet Safety commissioned a series of crash tests held to the same governmental safety standard used for kids’ car seats. The findings were a little gruesome: many harnesses whose manufacturers claim are crash-tested failed in a very dramatic fashion.
5. Using a crate that’s not crash-tested
CPS recently finished up its first round of tests on crates, and as it turns out, most are just as bad as the harnesses. How you strap the crate into your vehicle matters, too -- make sure you're strapping it to the anchor points of your car as tightly as you can.
6. Letting them ride in the truck bed
The American Humane Association estimates that over 100,000 dogs die as a result of riding in the back of a truck, every single year. It's not that those truck-driving owners are cruel -- they're simply ignorant of the dangers involved. As the saying goes, though, ignorance is no excuse.
7. Rolling down the windows
Of course dogs love sticking their head out the window. It’s one of their favorite things on Earth. Like Dr. Janie von Waldburg, a vet from PetCoach, told us: "It's like an ice cream cone of smells for your dog." I know it sucks to be the guy depriving any creature of ice cream, but if you wouldn't let your kid hang out the window, you probably shouldn't let your dog do it either.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. His dog doesn't go for too many car rides, specifically because of the dangers involved in letting him do anything "fun."
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