How To: Keep Your Dog Safe in the Car

If you haven’t noticed, we are in full swing of “Dogs Hanging Their Heads Out of Car Windows” season. Ears flopping, tongue lolling, eyes like little, tiny slits. Oh, the exuberance! You have to admire the purity of it. But why do dogs carry on this way?

Super Sniffers

As would make sense, most experts link this behavior to a dog’s incredibly developed sense of smell. Some estimates say the canine olfactory system is a whopping 10,000 to 100,000 times more discerning than our own, thus creating a nasal smorgasbord of scintillating odors when they engage in their doggy version of wind surfing. Liken it to you noticing if a teaspoon of sugar is added to your cup of coffee. In dog terms, they could determine if a teaspoon of sugar was added to two Olympic-sized pools of water.

Pair these mad smelling skills with the simple opportunity of a road trip (with their beloved human!) after being cooped up inside all day, waiting for your return, perhaps, and it really gets them going.

Warning, Will Robinson!

But experts also caution against the dangers of indulging your dog’s “need for (airflow) speed.” Debris – dirt, sand or otherwise – can land in your dog’s eyes and ears as he’s joyously soaking in the sights, sounds and smells. Not only that, but there is a very real risk of your dog falling out the window if he’s not properly strapped in. You have to admit that it’s crossed your mind as being possible, but then another voice chimes in to tell you that would just never happen if you don’t have the windows lowered all the way. Well it has happened, and it is a real possibility.

Keeping Spot Safe

Of course, the best way to keep your pet safe from injury or worse while tooling around in the car is for the window to remain closed. But who can deny their faithful companion this rapture, this hallmark of dogdom? Their delight is your delight, after all. So here are some options to help reduce those risks.

Dog Harness A dog harness fits across your pet’s chest and shoulders, creating secure points that won’t press against his throat or obstruct breathing as a traditional collar might do. These tie down points of the pet harness can be clicked into the existing seat belt in your vehicle to really stabilize your dog and limit how close he can get to the window. If this puts you on a shame spiral because it’s too limiting and raining on doggy’s parade, the pet harness may be used in tandem with some other straps to free him up a bit. Read on.

Dog Belt Best used along with the aforementioned dog harnesses, a dog seat belt is an extension to the the car, truck or SUV seat belt. While it limits how far your dog can reach out the car window, a good seat belt for dogs will also be easily adjusted to find just the right length for your dear furry friend.

Dog Zip Line If you really want to provide Spot with the best of all worlds as he is chauffeured about, a zip line for your back seat is the way to go. Again, it’s ideally used with a pet harness, but a strap that extends between both windows in your back seat gives your dog the freedom to move from one side of the vehicle to the other.

Pet Barriers For some, using a barrier to keep your animal within a certain area of the vehicle (like the back seat or the cargo area in the rear of an SUV) is the best option. While this doesn’t provide the stability of securing a pet with a belt, it does improve the safety factor while driving to prevent the dog from jumping back and forth from one seat to another or even onto your lap.

There are several different styles of pet barriers for cars, depending on your make of vehicle and needs. Some, for example, are a flexible mesh design and roll up for easy storage. Others are adjustable wire mesh or even a heavier steel construction to block your dog’s access to the car or van’s rear or front seats. A vehicle pet barrier that fits bucket seats is yet another option.

One final note. Quite literally as this is being written, a car drove by with a tiny, furry face peering from the open window on the driver’s side, e.g., standing in her human’s lap. NOT cool! We need to keep those animals safe! Are you guilty of letting your pet loose in your vehicle? Would you admit to it?

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