My dog Pierson is great in the car. He sits so quietly in the back seat that I could almost forget he is there. If he were your dog, you might think, “Well, he doesn’t need a seat belt then.” But I think he still does. He may not be a distraction, but his safety is important to me. There is another reason to consider restraining your dog in the car. The following are three major points I’d like to make about pet safety belts:
REDUCES DRIVER DISTRACTION
Not all dogs behave in the car like my Pierson does. My Labrador Maya is crazy in the car. I do mean CRAZY! She loves it so much that she can hardly control herself. If she wasn’t wearing a dog seat belt, she’d be all over the place. Dogs like my Maya really can be a dangerous distraction and they really can cause car accidents. Don’t believe me? Here are some Real Life Examples.
Also, a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham who studied drivers 70 and over found that those driving with their dogs were 50% more likely to get into a car accident. That article can be read on SpotNews in Alabama. I bet it is true for other age groups as well.
HELPS PROTECT YOUR DOG
If you consider a safety tested dog seat belt brand, your dog could be better off with their restraint than they would be without. Pet safety belts may prevent your dog from being thrown about the car, into other passengers, onto the floor, or through the windshield. A dog wearing a restraint won’t be able to run from the scene. And it will be easier for medical personnel to help a restrained pet.
New Jersey has made it the law that pets be restrained in the car. I was recently asked about this dog seat belt law in New Jersey. The question was whether a dog had to wear a seat belt or if a pet travel crate was okay for dogs riding in the car. Here is a quote directly from the New Jersey State Legislature regarding the law – “The driver of a passenger automobile shall secure or cause to be secured in an appropriately sized, properly adjusted, and fastened seat belt restraint system, any non-crated domestic dog or cat that is being transported in the vehicle.”
Trying to interpret laws can sometimes be difficult, but the wording ‘any non-crated domestic dog or cat’ tells me that if your pet is crated in the car, the law doesn’t apply. But if the pet is not crated, he must wear a dog seat belt.
It may not be law in your state yet, but you can be ticketed for unsafe driving in any state. So if your dog is acting crazy in the car or if your driving seems to be affected by the fact that you have a dog in your lap, you could be fined.
If your dog won’t wear a dog seat belt, then consider securing them in a pet travel crate. Or try some of our training tips to get your dog used to wearing the car restraint. Our training tips can be found on an article we wrote – Getting Your Dog Used to a Dog Car Harness.
I know our dogs love to stick their heads out the car window and they may even seem depressed when they suddenly find themselves confined in a dog seat belt. But it is important that we do what is best for them, and for ourselves. Protect your best friend, just as you do for yourself and your children.
Imagine your best little friend riding at your side without being a distraction. The window is down, the breeze is flowing in, and your dog’s nose is to the wind. If you have a pet 30 pounds or less, then he can greatly benefit from a pet carseat. Safety is an obvious benefit and there are two aspects of safety to consider. Plus, there are two other benefits of dog car seats.
The first safety aspect of a pet carseat is that your dog is tethered in and can’t distract the driver. The second aspect is that since your dog is tethered in, he won’t fly forward into the dash or onto the floor in a sudden stop.
Most dog car seats come with a tether. The tether is to be attached to your pet’s harness, not his collar. For ultimate safety, use a dog car harness in conjunction with the safety seat instead of a regular walking harness.
The Sleepypods do not have tethers but this is because your dog (or even your cat) is enclosed inside of it. This pet carseat is then secured in the vehicle with the safety belt of the vehicle. Sleepypods have also had crash testing.
Important note regarding pets riding in the front: Front passenger side airbags are not safe for dogs. Some airbags are designed to always deploy in the event of a front or rear end car accident while others will not deploy if there is not enough weight in the seat. So be sure to check your vehicle specifications regarding how the airbags work.
With all the turning and stopping you have to do, wouldn’t it be a more comfortable ride for your little dog if he didn’t have to continuously brace himself? Imagine making a quick stop, and instead of your pet sliding off onto the floor, he slides forward into the partition of his safety seat instead. The Snoozer and Lookouts have the most cushioning.
GIVE A BOOST
Some pet safety booster seats allow your furry friend to look out the car window. Sometimes, being able to see out the window can help with car sickness. Looking out the window is also a fun activity. Keep your pal entertained so that he doesn’t pester you.
Most dog car seats are for small dogs, 30 pounds and under. But there is at least one for larger dogs and that is the Full Bench Lookout Perch from Snoozer. Snoozer has a number of other different styles for smaller dogs, including the Lookout series and console seats. Sleepypods are for smaller dogs and even cats. There is also the Skybox and other booster seats from Kurgo. Check them all out and keep your best friend safe in the car.
We recently read a blog post on Fidose of Reality.com about the top ten pet safe vehicles, which they got from a 2009 report from Edmunds.com. Some of the pet safe features included climate control in the back area, side curtain airbags, anchor points so you can secure your pet or pet’s carrier, custom-installed crash-tested pet barriers, and so on. (Most of these features sound great but a few made little sense in regards to ‘pet safety’, such as extra storage compartments for your pet’s things and extra cargo space in the back for large dogs.) Check out these articles and read more details about the features of the top ten pet safe vehicles. Whether or not these really are the best are really dependent on your needs. If you are looking to buy a new (or used) vehicle, consider how important the following features are:
Custom-Installed Crash Tested Pet Barrier
This is, by far, my favorite feature. Most of the pet barriers we sell are strong and designed to stay in place, but they stay in place with pressure mounts while the pet barrier in the Volvo XC70 is bolted in. Plus it has been crash tested along with the vehicle itself!
Metal Anchor Points in the Cargo Area of an SUV
This one is very important to me since my dogs wear seat belts. After looking at a few SUVs I was really surprised that most did not have any anchor points or cargo rings. And most of those few that did were plastic, not metal. One salesman tried to tell me that the plastic cargo ring was really strong. Strong enough to hold a 70lb dog in a car accident? I think not. Without metal cargo rings, I have to find a way to connect my dogs’ seat belt tethers to the seat belt housing from the back cargo area.
Climate Control in the Back Area of the Car or SUV
This is another fantastic feature. I remember renting an SUV for a trip with our dogs once and the a/c froze us in the front while the dogs in the back were very warm. This is one reason our retail website will soon be selling pet cooling pads. It is a temporary solution until one can buy a vehicle that has decent climate control in the back area of the car or SUV.
Curtain Side Airbags
The front passenger side airbags are not safe for dogs, but curtain side airbags might be helpful in a car accident.
Plenty of Room for Large Dogs or Large Dog Crates
This feature is not as important if you have small dogs. But if you have big dogs like me, space is definitely important. And if I decide to have my dogs ride in a secured pet crate rather than wear seat belts, I will need even more room. Big dogs need bigger dog crates.
Rearview Camera so You Can Make Sure You Don’t Hit Your Dog When Backing Up
This is one of the features mentioned in the top 10. However, I just don’t see the importance for pet safety. I see the benefit. I don’t want to back up and hit an animal or a person. But I live in the suburbs so neither my dogs nor my neighbor’s dogs are out running around. Safety issue in general – yes; specifically as a pet safety issue – not really.
Privacy Glass to Help Limit Extreme Temperatures in the Vehicle
This can be helpful for long road trips, especially if your vehicle doesn’t have climate control in the back. But for everyday driving, it is probably not a big deal for pet safety. For one, I don’t want anyone to think that just because the windows are tinted that you can leave the dog unattended in the car. It will still get hot in your car in warm weather no matter how dark your windows are tinted. I, personally, see tinted windows more as a deterrent against thieves than as a pet safety benefit.
Disable Passenger Side Airbags
If you have a small dog that you want to ride in the front seat with you, you want to make sure the passenger side airbags are not going to go off in a car accident if your dog is sitting there. Front passenger side airbags are not safe for dogs. Find out if the vehicle you are going to purchase is designed so that the airbags only go off if there is a certain amount of weight in the seat, or if the airbags can be disabled.
These are the major features I saw in the top ten list of pet safe vehicles. Aesthetic things you might also want to consider are the interior and whether there is enough storage space for your dog’s things. Are there any other features you can think of for pet safe vehicles?
(Above images courtesy of VolvoCars.com)
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How to Get Your Dog to go into the Car Willingly
Cesar makes it look so easy. Doesn’t he always? But how did he do it, really? Many would like to think that he just has a magical touch. But I promise that this probably took a lot longer than his video conveyed. Listed below are our steps on how to get your dog to go into the car.
Before I list those steps, however, let me just point out that these steps are not meant to all be done in a single day. They can be, depending on your dog. Each step can take as long as a few minutes, to a few minutes every day for a week or more. So if your dog has no problem with step 1, you can move on to step 2 right away. But if he hesitates at that step, you may have to spend more time on it. Keep training sessions short and positive, but do it daily as needed until getting your dog to go into the car is easy.
Step 1 – Walk with your dog around the car. Get as close to the car as you can without making your dog uncomfortable. As soon as the dog reacts negatively to the car, back off. Encourage him with soft words, use kissy noises, and feel free to bribe with treats.
Step 2 – When your dog has no trouble going all the way up to the car, allow him to sniff it on his own. Let him investigate.
Step 3 – Open the car door and have your dog approach you while you are standing by the open door. If your dog is intimidated by the open door, squat down and coax him to you. I noticed that when I am down on my dog Pierson’s level, he is more likely to approach me. Use treats to bribe.
Step 4 – After your dog passes step 3 comfortably, sit in the car and coax your dog to you. Over a period of time as your dog gets used to approaching you while you are in the car, move further back inside the car so that your dog has to stretch or step in to reach you. You may use the leash to give a quick and slight tug, but do not pull on the leash.
Step 5 – The very first time your dog gets into the car, celebrate with lots of treats, love, and a happy voice. Repeat the same excitement every time your dog gets in on his own until he is comfortable doing it without coaxing.
Step 6 – By the time your dog is comfortable getting in the car with you, try to coax him inside without you actually being in the car too.
As stated above, some dogs will move through these steps quicker than others. But if you need to take your dog somewhere in the car and he is not through all these steps yet, gently pick him up and put him inside. Give lots of praise. Try to make the car ride as pleasant as possible. Here is a great article we wrote back in August 2010 about how to help your dog learn to enjoy riding in the car – http://www.petautosafetyblog.com/?p=542.
I saw this great chart on Facebook and had to share it. I think it came from a similar chart found on PetSavers in New Jersey. Based on our experience with getting into our cars on a relatively warm day, we know it is much hotter inside than outside. And this chart shows us how much hotter it gets and in such a short time. Knowing this, do you really want to leave your dog alone in the car for even five minutes?
Besides the facts in the chart above, a study by Stanford University shows that even on a day that is only 72 degrees, the inside of a car get as hot as 116 degrees in an hour. Check out their article HERE. (Their numbers in their article is written in Celsius so you will have to convert them to Fahrenheit.)
Another great site for information is called My Dog is Cool. Check it out HERE. This website is dedicated to educating the public about the danger of leaving dogs in cars.
What to do about it
First of all, don’t ever leave your dog alone in the car. Even on cool days, it can get hot in your car. And don’t forget about people being able to steal your dog. Plus, it can also be considered animal cruelty. If you see someone else who has left their dog in the car call the police or animal control. If you don’t have their number on hand, don’t hesitate to call 911. You can also get some really cool fliers that you can put in people’s car. The My Dog is Cool has a great flier that can be easily downloaded. It says, “A hot oven or a hot car, it’s the same thing.” One woman went so far as to break a car window to get the dog out. Her story can be read HERE. This is illegal and thankfully the other party did not press charges.
Another thing you can do is go inside the store where you believe the owner went into and ask the manager to make an announcement over the intercom. Some store managers won’t but it might be worth a try. And it might be worth mentioning that it is against the law to leave an animal alone in the car.
I know you love your dog. But love him by leaving him at home if you plan on going somewhere he can’t go. Please don’t leave him in the car.
Many dogs love to ride in the car. You see them with their heads out the window and tongue’s-a-lolling. But not all dogs love to ride in the car. My new dog Pierson does okay in the car, but he doesn’t love it like my dog Maya does. So what can I do? What can you do so that your dog loves to ride in the car?
Take Short Trips
Take your dog to the pet store, drive-through bank, drive-through food, dog park, just to name a few. Stay close to home so that your dog doesn’t get car sick.
Go Somewhere Fun
Your dog would love to get a treat at the pet store or run around in the dog park. Go as often as the weather allows. If you have a friend your dog plays well with, take your dog when you visit your friend.
No Food Beforehand
Try not to give your dog his meal one to two hours before a car trip. Your dog may be okay on short trips, but not always.
Don’t Sooth Your Dog
By consoling your dog on the trip, you aren’t reassuring him that everything is okay. You are confirming his beliefs that a car trip is bad. Ignore his behavior or talk in a normal voice. If your dog is used to the radio, turn it on. Otherwise leave it off.
Don’t Yell at Your Dog
Likewise, don’t yell at your dog when he is in the car. Yelling just confirms his belief that riding in the car is a bad thing. If he is misbehaving, ignore him. If you can’t ignore him because he is all over the car, consider putting him in a dog car harness.
Allow Your Dog to Look Out the Window
If you have a small dog, don’t put him on your lap so he can see out the window. That is not safe for either you or your dog. Put him in a pet car booster seat. If you have a large dog, you may have a hard time looking out the window if he is huddled in his seat. Open a window to encourage him to look out. Don’t force him. As he gets more used to the car, he may eventually be tempted by a scent outside and lift his nose to look out. The more he looks out the window, the less likely he is to get car sick. Don’t force him to look out, though.
Give Your Dog Something that is His
To help my new dog Pierson enjoy the car, I give him his favorite blanket. It has his scent all over it and it smells like home. I could give him a toy too, but I’d prefer that he look out the window so he won’t get car sick.
With time and patience, your dog will come to love riding in the car. Then both you and your dog can enjoy those trips to the dog park. You may even be able to take him on longer trips when you go on vacation. I speak from experience when I say that vacationing with my dogs is much more enjoyable (and less expensive) than leaving them behind.
We have all seen a dog lying dead on the side of the road. But did you ever wonder how the dog got there? You probably thought that the dog went into the street and got hit by a car. This could be the reason, but sometimes the dog is there for another reason. Sometimes the dog is there because it was thrown from or jumped out of the car window or from the back of a pickup. That’s right, the dog had been safe in the vehicle until something happened which caused him to get into the road.
Even though your dog loves to put their head out the window, it really isn’t safe. Even dogs with the most experience riding in a car is in danger. What if you have to swerve out of the way of a bad driver? A dog in the lap with their head out the window could get thrown. Not only do they have to worry about being thrown from the car, they also have to worry about flying debris.
So please, keep your window up when your dog is riding. Or if you must have the window down for your dog, only put it down 2-3 inches. Or better yet, have the front window down while your dog is in the back seat. Consider getting a dog booster seat for your dog. A dog booster seat generally has a safety strap which attaches to your dog’s harness. So the dog booster seat will allow your dog to get the breeze from the window without exposing them to the dangers of an open window.
You want your dog to wear a dog car harness in order to keep him safe, but you are afraid he will chew on it. In fact, you’ve seen him try to chew on it when you went to the drive-through at McDonalds. You are planning a long road trip with your dog in November to see your family, but you are not sure what to do about your dog chewing on their dog car harness. Well, we have a few tips:
- Get your dog used to wearing the dog car harness by allowing your dog to wear the dog car harness around the house. Only let them wear it when you are able to watch them. When you see them chewing on the dog car harness, say “no” or “eh eh”. Do fun activities with your dog while they are wearing the dog car harness. If you have a dog car harness in which the seat belt attachment can be removed, take them for a walk with their dog car harness on. Or play fetch with them.
- Take your dog on short trips while they wear their dog car harness. If possible, have someone sit in the back seat with them to give them the “no” command or by distracting them with a squeaky toy. Be sure that your short trips are not to someplace where you would have to leave your dog alone in the car. You can go to a bank or fast food drive-through, to the park, or to a pet store where your dog is allowed to go inside with you.
- Spray the dog car harness with bitter apple sprayor another anti-chew but safe spray. Or make your own spray by mixing water with cayenne pepper or peppermint.
If you’re like me you think of your pet as a child. You feed them, give them shelter, and most importantly—you keep them safe. My cat Puppet Master is an orange tabby. He weighs 19 lbs and goes everywhere I go. The other day I was headed to my cousin’s house for dinner, it was raining, and had snowed the night before. I hit a patch of slush and had to slam on my brakes. Puppet Master flew forward, hitting the dashboard. He was stunned for a while, but it turned out he was just fine.
When I returned home I surfed the web for a cat car harness that could safely strap him in when we were on the road. It turned out there were several available—they weren’t even that expensive. Since then I always keep Puppet Master harnessed in the car, at first it bothered him. But I let him wear the harness around the house for a while and he soon got used to it.
Does your dog love to travel in the car with you? You and your family wear seat belts when riding in the car. Does your pet? If you have not considered it, here are eight important reasons why your dog should wear a dog seat belt:
1. The dog won’t be able to distract the person driving the car. Distractions an be very dangerous to the driver. Some dogs are naturally well-behaved in the vehicle but many dogs have to be trained car-riding decorum. Why not train them in the pet auto seat belt instead?
2. Sudden unexpected stops may prevent the dog from flying forward into the dash, the back seat, or onto the floor. Dog’s noses are very sensitive. Hitting their nose on the dash or back of the seat can be a very painful experience.
3. The dog won’t be able to put their head out the window. Did you know that even a tiny spec of flying debris can do serious damage to the dog’s eyes or nose? Many dogs love to put their heads out the window, but it can be an equally pleasant experience if they are sitting in a pet auto seat belt by an open window. They won’t be able to put their heads out, but they can still get a whiff of the multiple odors zipping by.
4. Not only will the dog not be able to put their head out the window, they won’t be able to get their body out either. Dogs are instinctive creatures and if something catches their attention, such as another dog, a squirrel, or other animal, they may go after it without a thought. Perhaps your dog is too smart to do this, but why take the chance?
5. Many dogs will run or even bite if frightened. What if you and your pet happen to be in a serous auto accident? Your dog is going to be terrified. If there is a means of escape, the dog may get out of the car and run. And where are they most likely to run? It would be a terrible thing to survive an auto accident only to get hit by a car. Even if there is no way for the dog to escape, they may need medical attention. An injured dog may react defensively by tying to bite someone who is actually trying to help them. A dog that is restrained however, is easier to muzzle and therefore, easier to attend to.
6. Did you know that some states are considering pet restraints to be required for dogs traveling in the vehicle? Get ahead by purchasing a pet auto seat belt now. If you wait until your state passes such a law, there will be businesses that will take advantage of the requirement and raise the prices on their products.
7. A pet auto seat belt can actually be quite comfortable once the dog gets used to it. For small dogs, a pet car seat in conjunction with the seat belt can also be extremely comfortable. Dogs can have a difficult time laying down in a seat because of the turning, speeding up, slowing down, and stopping movements of the car. Many dogs can brace themselves better by standing or sitting. With a pet auto seat belt or pet car seat, a dog can stand, sit, or lay down comfortably and not have to worry about bracing themselves against car maneuvers.
8. Last but not least, a pet auto safety belt shows you to be a responsible and caring pet owner as well as a responsible driver. Friends and strangers will be impressed with your thoughtfulness and foresight. They in turn, may consider getting a pet auto seat belt for their own dog. You could be indirectly responsible for saving another dog’s life.
As you can see, all eight reasons are excellent reasons for your dog to wear a pet auto safety belt. Any argument against it are easily outweighed by the examples above. So do what is safe, what is best for you and your pet, and in some states, what is required by law. You and your dog will be all the happier for it.