Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vehicle Safety and Your Dog

By Ruthie Bently

For most of us, keeping our pets safe is as important to us as keeping our human kids safe is. Now we need to consider the same airbag safety issues we have for our kids, but apply them to our pets. Let me explain. I had always wanted a truck, so when I needed a new vehicle I purchased a used truck. It is a great little truck with bucket seats in front and a full bench seat in back, but it has one drawback: airbags.

Now I am all for safety, but I can do without the airbags. Not only do I have three stepchildren, I have a dog who loves to ride with me everywhere I go. I know I will have issues in an accident because of my height; I won’t be able to get far enough back from the airbag to keep it from deploying in my face. My stepkids will have the same issue, and so will my dear Skye, who loves going everywhere with me if I put her in the front seat. For now Skye will have to ride in the back seat, until I get the airbags de-activated.

I am happy to say that there are many ways to keep your dog safe in a vehicle these days. You can buy a barrier for your vehicle that will keep your dog in the back seat or behind that in the cargo area. When purchasing a barrier, it is a good idea to take the vehicle with you to the store. This way you can have it fitted in the vehicle you are going to use it in.

You can use a harness to secure them in either the front seat (if there are no airbags in the car) or in the back seat. Taking the dog to the store to be fitted is a good idea because there are so many different harnesses on the market, and you want to get the right one. The harness should fit snugly without binding around the dog’s neck or midsection, and they should not be able to wriggle out of it when it is fitted correctly.

If you have a large enough vehicle, you can use a crate or airline kennel in the back of your vehicle to keep your dog safe. You can buy a crate for your vehicle or just use the crate you already have. Your dog should be able to turn around and lay down, without having to bend their knees as they climb into the crate. They don’t have to be able to hold their heads up (that gives them more leverage to be naughty), but they need to be able to lie down and be comfortable, especially if the trip you are taking them on is a long one.

I had a harness for Nimber and ran the seat belt through the back of the harness to keep him in one place. I am happy to say that since none of my other dogs jump around a lot, I have changed my tactics a bit. What I do is get a leash about 24” long, and run the car’s seat belt through the handle. I fasten one half of the seat belt on the driver side to the matching half of the seat belt on the passenger side. By doing this, my dog has lateral movement from left to right; all the way across the back seat of the car. This works in most cars I’ve owned, so it should work in yours as well.

Do you ride a motorcycle and take your dog along? Does your dog love to hang their head out the car window? The last one isn’t a good idea, but it isn’t easy to stop a very determined dog. They now make goggles for dogs that protect their eyes from flying bugs and debris that may be thrown up from the road. They also make hats for dogs, though I think that may be more for decorative use than as a protective measure.

There are many ways to keep our dogs safe in our cars these days; we just need to apply them to have a fun, safe road trip no matter how long the trip takes.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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