Car Safety for Dogs
Nowadays most people would never think of traveling in their car without a seat belt for themselves or safety seats/restraints for their children but have no problem letting their dog travel loose in the car. We have all seen the dog in the back of a pick up traveling down the highway at 65 MPH or more, as well as the dog with his head hanging out the window of the family car. Both of these scenes appeal to our sense of romanticized freedom and pure canine joy. Unfortunately they are very dangerous practices for the dog, the driver and the rest of the motoring public. It has happened more than once that a dog has jumped or been ejected from a moving vehicle and landed right in the middle of the freeway, with tragic results.
In California is it unlawful to have a loose dog traveling in an uncovered pickup bed. V C Section 23117 Carrying Animal in Motor Truck CA DMV
"Carrying Animal in Motor Truck 23117. (a) No person driving a motor vehicle shall transport any animal in the back of the vehicle in a space intended for any load on the vehicle on a highway unless the space is enclosed or has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches extending vertically from the floor, the vehicle has installed means of preventing the animal from being discharged, or the animal is cross tethered to the vehicle, or is protected by a secured container or cage, in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown, falling, or jumping from the vehicle."
For the owners who insist on having their dog in the back of the truck, the dog should be tethered on a chew proof line short enough that the dog cannot jump over the side or get any part of their body over the side. A dog tethered on a line which is too long can get some or all of its body over the edge of the truck causing strangulation.
While the ride may not be as exciting for the dog when tethered it is far safer and will allow your dog to take many more rides in the future. Of course in the car we should roll the window down only far enough for the dog to get a little breeze and all the scents floating by without the temptation of jumping out to go get the squirrel, cat or dog he sees passing by.
Another hazard that needs to be addressed is the potential of eye and facial injuries to the dog. An insect or piece of road debris while traveling at 50 MPH or greater can cause significant eye and facial injury to a dog. If your dog travels in the back of your pick-up you might want to consider getting him/her a pair of doggy goggles which are now sold in pet stores and on the internet.
Now I don't say all of this from the stand point of the casual observer. I have had a close call with one of my own dogs when I was a teenager. I had a small pick up and loved taking my dog in it with me. Usually I would have him in the cab with me but from time to time a human passenger would take his spot and into the back he would go. He was happy to do it as he liked all the wind and smells he encountered out there. That is until the day he jumped out. We were traveling through a residential area at about 25 MPH when we passed the house of one of the dogs we regularly saw on our walks. When he saw the dog out front playing he had to join him. He leaped out of the truck and hit the ground scratching himself up pretty good. He wasn't terribly injured but it was definitely enough for me. From that day forward he was either with me in the cab or tied to a short line in the back.
Inside the car we can experience the same thing, whether it be from jumping out of the passenger window or the drivers window. Even though the windows are rolled up there are still dangers lurking. A loose dog in the car can be easily injured or injure the driver in an accident. A dog in the back seat can come flying forward if we have to slam on our brakes to avoid an accident or if we have a crash. Today there are many safety products designed for safe car rides for our dogs. There are harnesses that have attachments for the seat belt, soft crates that can be tied down and are easy to moved in and out of the car. There are even removable window grates so we can travel with the windows down but not let the dogs escape. I usually prefer a regular travel crate like one would use if taking the dog on an airplane for a couple of reasons. One is that it will keep our dog safe and secure from jumping or falling out and will keep him from flying around the auto if we have to stop suddenly or have a crash. Secondly, if our dogs gets sick in the car a plastic crate is much easier to clean than our upholstery.
A final but very important reason for having your dog travel in a crate is the following. If you are in a wreck and fall unconscious or are unable to help yourself, a loose dog in the car may feel the need to protect you from rescuers. A uniformed first responder can look a bit threatening to a dog and even the casually dressed good Samaritan can feel like a threat in these circumstances. First response medical help will not likely be willing to be bitten or injured by a dog in this situation and may have to wait for the police or animal control to arrive. In another situation that I personally know about, a person traveling to a dog event crashed and rolled her van and was knocked unconscious. She had two dogs traveling with her loose in the van. When rescuers came and pulled her out of the van the dogs got out and started running around on the freeway. Fortunately the dogs were captured and not hit by passing cars.
If we had our dogs secured by way of a tether or a crate they would most likely be out of the way enough to allow someone in to help us, and then they could be saved after we are taken care of.
By following and instituting a few simple safety rules and guidelines when traveling with our dog we can prevent and limit the amount of damage and heartache that might otherwise occur. Remember to travel safe even if your trip is only a few miles and you will have many wonderful driving experiences with your four legged friends.
If you are having problems training your dog The Dog Squad has a Home Boundaries Program and No Boundaries Program that can help you. We are based in the East Bay, specifically Oakland, CA and work in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Call 877-632-3647 to set up an evaluation.