Yesterday, I was driving on a major road with a speed limit of 45 mph when a truck turned onto the road right in front of the car ahead of me. The car that was cut off stopped very fast with a little bit of a squeal and just managed to avoid hitting the truck. These little near misses are a part of every driver’s life from time to time, but what caught my attention in this close call was that the car that skidded to a halt in front of me had an unrestrained dog in the back seat. Even from behind, I could see the dog move awkwardly and smack the front seat. It was lucky that the dog was not in the front seat or he might have gone through the windshield.
We’ve come a long way towards safer car travel for our dogs, though based on what I saw yesterday, many people are not taking advantage of the opportunities out there. There are many ways to keep our dogs safe when they are in the car with us.
One of the easiest ways to keep dogs safe is to have the dog in a crate when traveling by car. In the event of an accident, or even a very sudden stop, the dog cannot go flying through the window. If the crate is wedged between the back seat and the front seat, the crate prevents much movement at all for the dog and crate, which can prevent injuries. A bonus of having a dog in a crate is that many dogs will relax, lie down, or even sleep during car rides.
There are other options besides being restrained in a crate for keeping dogs from becoming projectile missiles when things don’t go right on the roads. There are dog seat belts that attached a dog by a harness to the car’s regular belts. Dogs can be also be in the back area of station wagons and SUVs and separated from the rest of the car’s interior by a gate. (I hardly see a Subaru in my town without one of these gates. They are very popular with the outdoor set—the Subaru and the dog gate.)
Even without using a restraint for your dog, you can make choices that help keep him safer. The back seat is better than the front seat for several reasons. First, the risk of injury in an accident is higher in the front seat. If a dog is in the back part of the car, then the front seat provides some protection, although minimal, in the event of a collision or a sudden stop. Also, in the front seat, there is a chance that the dog can impair your driving, especially if he’s in your lap or on the floor by your feet and the pedals, which is never a good place for a dog in a moving vehicle. (It sounds obvious not to have your dog on the floor of the driver’s side while the car is moving, but I know of several cases of serious injuries to dogs and people because of dogs being there.)
And though I know many people may disagree, I recommend against having dogs in a truck bed. Dogs can easily get tossed from the back of a truck, and this is the most dangerous if they are on a leash at the time because then they run the risk of being out of the truck but still attached to it.
Consider what type of precautions are best for you and your dog, and do what you can to keep him safe!