Sunday, June 27, 2010
By Ruthie Bently
Most dogs love riding in cars, unless they have been traumatized at an early age. When you brought your dog home for the first time, did they ride in your car? Even if your dog was delivered to you in another vehicle, your dog has an instinctual understanding that allows them to see your car as an extension of the pack’s space, as well as its importance to the pack.
Have you ever parked next to a vehicle with a dog in it that went absolutely nuts for seemingly no reason? Has your own dog ever protected your car after you left them in it? Any dog left in a vehicle is capable of acting this way because they see the family car as a movable den. They feel safe in it just as they do at home. Dogs like having a job to do, and they’ll watch over the vehicle you have left them in charge of. It is instinct that makes a dog guard the vehicle they are in. You’re the alpha member of the pack, and as a lesser member some dogs feel the need to defend your vehicle to the best of their ability.
Skye loves to sit and watch the scenery passing by the truck window. I’m amazed that she doesn’t get dizzy at times trying to see everything at once. She never gets bored, and is always interested in what she is watching. On long road trips she has been known to lie down for a bit, but then she will hear or smell something and she is up like a jack-in-the-box to see what she might be missing. Have you ever looked back as you are entering a store to see what your dog is doing in your vehicle? I have, and Skye’s gaze is often glued to me as I enter the store. What makes this more interesting is that when I exit the store, it isn’t long before she catches my scent and stands up, and her body begins to wag as I return to my truck.
Dogs also love riding in cars because of all the odors that come in through the vents and the windows that are cracked. Cow manure laid on a newly plowed field; the llamas, sheep and goats in a field we pass by, newly mown grass in the road ditches. Maybe it is the French fries at the local McDonald’s my dog smells as we drive by. Whatever it is, her nose is glued to the dashboard vents.
As a responsible pet owner, I don’t take Skye with me when the temperatures are too warm or cold for her. We’ve already had temperatures here that could cause her to have heat stroke if I left her in the car. Even on a cloudy day, if the temperature is warm enough (with or without humidity) a car can heat to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes, and cracking the window won’t help your pet.
You should make sure your dog is restrained in your vehicle. I used a short lead attached to Skye’s collar and tethered to the truck. Doggy seat belts and harnesses are available and while giving your dog freedom, will keep them safe. Don’t allow your dog to hang their head out the window, because flying bugs and debris from vehicles around you can injure them. For more information on how to protect your dog in the car, see my article Vehicle Safety and Your Dog.
If your dog suffers from motion sickness, don’t feed or water them before you travel. They won’t suffer from not eating and are less apt to disgorge their meal on your car seats. Discuss using a medication for motion sickness with your vet or homeopath, but be sure to test it at home before you travel. Traveling with your dog can be a wonderful experience; it opens your eyes to a different point of view.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently