Two Dogs Sitting in Car

Whether you are taking your dog to an off-leash park or to dog day care for exercise, or for their regularly scheduled visit to the vet’s office, chances are they need to get there by taking a car ride. As much as many dogs happily jump in for a ride in the family car, it is important to teach your canine family member to ride safely and to ensure that we have secured them properly. I learned this the hard way from personal experience.

Three weeks after buying a new convertible, I was driving to an off-leash park early in the morning with my two dogs to meet my dog trainer. The dogs were sitting contentedly in the back seat, and we were all enjoying the morning drive. As we happily made our drive to a play day, we were suddenly t-boned on the passenger side by a driver who ran a red light. The car spun around a couple of times and wound up in the middle of the street. Fortunately, I was belted in and uninjured but watched my dogs jump out of the side of the open car and run off into the neighborhood. When the police arrived to decide who was at fault, I wasn’t around to answer, because I was running around the side streets trying to catch the dogs who were making the neighborhood into their own dog park.

A kind gentleman in a car was able to safely return them to me but one of them has never quite gotten over the accident, continuing to be nervous in a car. When I read statistics such as those from that says that a 60-lb dog traveling at only 35 mph can turn into a 2,700 pound projectile in an accident. A flying dog going through the window or out of the car doesn’t have a chance; and I am so grateful that neither of them was injured.

Here are some car safety tips so that you do not have to learn the hard way:

  1. Properly restrain the dog. For their safety and your own, look for a harness that lets your dog sit or lie down but will keep them safely restrained in an accident. There are many harness choices now that attach to the seat belt fasteners. Another tip is to secure your dog using a short leash with a loop on the end. Adjust the back seat’s middle seat belt as tight as it will go and slip the leash through the seat belt, re-securing it. If the leash is short enough to limit the dog from lying down, sitting up and turning around, it is a smart guess that it is probably be short enough to keep the dog from being thrown to the floor in the event of a sudden stop.

2)  If you have a wagon, minivan or SUVs, invest in a pet barrier. They keep the dog in the “way back” behind the seats and off the upholstery. On top of keeping the car cleaner, it  also keeps the dog safer, especially when combined with a tie down for a harness.

3) No matter how cute or how small your dog is, NEVER drive with your dog in your lap. Even a minor accident can cause the dog to become a projectile through the windshield and there is the risk of being killed by a deploying airbag. Smaller dogs can also climb on the driver’s lap, and because they simply love sitting with you, end up interfering with steering or fall down by the pedals, causing an accident.

4) Always be sure to keep the dog’s leash firmly in hand anytime you are loading or unloading the dog and reattach it to their collar before the door opens to prevent accidental escapes. Maintaining current identification tags on your furry family just in case they do manage an escape with an easily accessible number such as your cell phone is a smart idea.

5) No matter how much they enjoy it or how adorable your dog is with their tongue hanging out and their face in the wind, it is never safe to drive with your dog’s head hanging out the window.

Car rides can be healthy for you and your dog. Consistent trips to dog daycare or dog parks for exercise and for a day of play will help them get accustomed to relaxing in the car while being secured for safe rides and allow you both many years of great destinations and adventures together on the open road!

At Dogtopia, we put your dog’s safety first.