Dog Car Safety – Precautions and Considerations

Let’s face it – dogs are awesome. They don’t judge, they love unconditionally, and possess the uncanny ability to bring light to any situation. Because of such joy we get from our canine companions, naturally we want to take them everywhere we go.

Toting the family dog around has become more and more popular. As a result, many establishments have opened their doors to our furry companions, offering amenities of the canine persuasion. I’m all for this. I take my dog anywhere the bouncer will let him in. I literally plan my off days around places that my dog is allowed to frequent because, like I said, dogs just make life better.

I know that not everyone is as insistent about taking their dog everywhere. But the fact remains if you have a dog, at some point the dog is going to have to ride in a vehicle. Whether it is just for a routine vet visit, or you are a ride or die dog owner like myself – rolling side by side wearing matching “I’m with stupid” t-shirts – the dog will eventually need to get from point A to point B.

This being the case, there are a few safety precautions and considerations to pay mind to before and during a car ride with your dog.

Where Should The Dog Sit

As close as we like to be to our pups, the front of the vehicle is no place for a dog. If allowed to co-pilot, the dog could potentially distract the driver if something outside of the vehicle peaks his interest. Some dogs prefer to sit in the owners lap whenever possible. A persistent lap dog’s pursuit of his preferred position is another such distraction that could lead to a momentary lapse in attention by the driver. All it takes is a split second of negligence for an accident to occur. According to the NHTSA, 3,450 people lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2016. Don’t take the risk.

Do not allow your dog to ride freely in the back of a pickup truck. With no roof, a dog in the back of a truck faces many risks. The dog could get excited about something he sees along the road and jump out into traffic. The fall from a truck bed alone is enough to cause serious injury, not to mention if the truck is traveling a reasonable speed. In the event of a crash, a truck bed offers no means to keep the dog in the vehicle. This lack of security increases the risk of ejection and fatality by a huge degree.

Some would argue that it is okay to keep the dog in the truck bed as long as the dog is in a kennel. I do not subscribe to this, however, if you insist on this method make sure the crate is crash-tested, escape proofed, and tightly secured to the floor of the truck bed.

The safest place for a dog to ride is in the back seat, or the cargo area of a van or SUV. If you do choose to board your dog in the cargo area, make sure you have a crate for him to ride in. The crate should be firmly secured so that it cannot slide and toss about. Again, make sure the crate is crash-tested.

When considering the purchase of a crash-tested crate, it’s important to do your research. We analyzed several kennels and reviewed the crash tests performed on them. The crash test that we studied was performed by The Center For Pet Safety. As a result of our research, we believe the best crash-tested crate on the market is the Gunner Kennel G1 Intermediate.

You can watch a video review of the Gunner Kennel below.

While riding in the back seat, it is important that your dog is secured so that he cannot roam freely. You want to create a comfortable environment for the dog, however giving too much room to roam is not advisable. Secure the dog with a harness and a doggie seat belt so that he is restrained in the event of a sudden change in direction or sudden stop.

This will ensure that the dog is not tossed around the cab if an accident does occur. Sleepy Pod makes an excellent crash tested safety harness that will keep your dog in place and safe while riding in the backseat. For more information about the Sleepy Pod Harness you can check it out here.

When riding with your furry friend on board, you will need a few extra things to ensure he is comfortable and you are prepared for his presence.

Here is a list of basic supplies you should keep on hand when you have a dog in the car:

Short Trip Checklist

  • Dog Safety Harness
  • Identification Tags and Collar
  • Leash
  • Food/Water Bowl
  • 2 Bottles of Water
  • Small Bag of Dog Food
  • Dog Blanket or Seat Cover
  • Favorite Toy
  • First Aid Kit

Dog rides in the back seat with his harness secured.

Road Trip with a Puppy

If you are traveling a long distance with a puppy, frequent stops are a necessity as a young pup cannot hold his liquid like an adult dog can. The rule of thumb for time between potty breaks for a puppy is 1-2 hours. You can help the situation by making sure to feed and water the puppy at least two and half hours before you plan to begin the trip. Just in case, make sure you bring along a couple old towels and an appropriate spray cleaner in the even the dog goes potty in the car. Air freshener is another good thing to bring along. Nobody wants to take a 12-hour car ride with the faint smell of urine in the air.

Road Trip with an Adult Dog

Adult dogs are typically less labor to travel with. Odds are this is not the dog’s first car ride and they have a general idea of how things go. If the trip entails an extended car ride, a good rule of thumb between potty breaks for an adult dog is between 3-4 hours. It’s best to err on the side of caution and stop frequently as you do not want the dog to suffer any discomfort. Again, it’s a good idea to bring along a few cleaning supplies in the event your dog can’t hold it and relieves himself in the car.

Here is a list of supplies and considerations when traveling a longer distance with your dog:

Road Trip Check List

  • Dog’s Vaccination Records
  • Collar with Identification Tags
  • Safety Harness
  • Leash
  • Any Medications the Dog is Taking
  • Grooming Supplies
  • Poop Bags
  • Ample Food and Water
  • Treats
  • Food/Water Bowls
  • Soft Blanket
  • Seat Cover (if preferred)
  • Favorite Toy or Chew
  • A few other fun toys for play when you arrive at your destination
  • A few cleaning supplies (towels, surface cleaner, dog friendly air freshener)
  • Crate and Bedding (most dog friendly hotels require the dog to stay in a crate)
  • Contact a Vet clinic in the area you will be staying just in case care is needed during your stay
  • Double check with any hotel you plan to use to confirm your dog’s stay and the guidelines
  • Recent photo of your dog – Just in case you get separated and need to ask around to find him
  • First Aid Kit

In Conclusion

Whether it be a short trip to the store, or a cross country road trip, it’s fun to experience the world with our dogs. Always remember you have the sole responsibility of looking after your dog’s well being. Make sure you are well prepared for whatever the journey entails, be safe, and have have fun out there!

One comment

  1. Great reading. I have been wondering about how to harness my dog in the back seat as she likes to lay her head on the console between the front seats. Thanks fo posting this article. With vacation time around the corner it was very timely especially the need to take papers and records on a long or extended trip.


Join the Discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s