Responsible Dog Ownership Month: How to Ride in Your Car with Your Dog
Because dogs are family too!
Dog ownership is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Your four-legged friend loves you unconditionally, and wants nothing more than to please you. And Fido provides hours of entertainment, whether it be rolling around in the grass like a lunatic, or playing with your other pets. Your main job is to keep your dog safe, well-fed, and exercised. And part of keeping him safe is making sure he is secure in your car when you take him for a ride. Read on to learn how to ride in your car with your dog, and you’ll reach your destination safely and happily.
- Introduce a new car to the car slowly. Oftentimes, dogs can be afraid if they’ve never experienced car rides before. If this is the case with your pooch, introduce her to the car with the engine off initially, and once she’s comfortable try taking her for a short ride around the block. Gradually build up the amount of time in the car and your dog should soon learn that there’s nothing to be concerned about. If your dog is extra timid, try giving her treats around the car, and then in the car as she gets more comfortable.
- Make the car a comfortable place. No matter how long or short your car ride, make sure that there’s a comfortable place for your dog to sit or lie. Place blankets in the trunk or on the seats, both for your dog’s comfort and to protect your upholstery. If your dog is attached to his crate (and your car’s size allows it), place the crate in the trunk or backseat as a safe place for your dog to rest. Bonus: If confined to a crate, your dog won’t be able to roam around the car and will be much safer.
- Keep Fido confined. While you might think it’s more enjoyable for your dog to have free reign of your car when you’re driving, it’s actually much safer to confine your dog to a certain area and make sure she can’t move around. If given free reign, your dog could climb into your lap, or pace restlessly around the car. While both of these are distractions to the driver, it can also be dangerous in case of an accident. If your dog’s not tethered somehow, she could be seriously injured in a collision. Keep her in the trunk if large enough, and consider putting a mesh grate up to prevent her from jumping over the seats. Alternatively, crate your dog while on the go, or buy a safety harness that attaches to the car’s seat belt buckle.
- Take frequent breaks. If you’re heading out on a longer trip, make sure you stop every hour or so to allow your dog to have a potty break and a quick walk. On extra-long journeys, take extended breaks every 3-4 hours and take Fido for a lengthier walk to help release any pent-up energy. During these breaks, make sure you give your dog water, and food when necessary.
- Provide entertainment. Some dogs are quite content to hang out in the back of the car and nap for hours. Others might become restless the longer you’re in your vehicle. Take some of your dog’s favorite chew toys along for the ride and keep them where she can get to them easily. If she starts getting bored or anxious, a familiar toy could be just the thing she needs to help her feel better.
- NEVER leave your dog in the car alone on a hot day. The interior of your car can quickly reach 100-120 degrees on a mild 78-degree day. Even if you leave your dog in the car with the windows cracked for a few minutes, he runs the risk of developing heat stroke. In as little as 15 minutes, your dog could sustain brain damage. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat all over; the only way for your pooch to cool off is by panting or sweating through his paw pads. Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include excessive thirst, restlessness, heavy panting, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, a dark tongue, bloody diarrhea, and a lack of coordination. Avoid the stress for yourself and your dog, and leave Fido at home if you plan on leaving the car at all during your trip.