Driving With Dogs In The Car – Can It Be Done Safely?


Driving With Dogs In The Car - Can It Be Done Safely

More people are driving with dogs these days because let’s face it, dogs aren’t the same as they used to be. Well, they’re probably about the same, but we treat them much different now than just a few short decades ago. These days, our dogs are like family members. People want to take them everywhere. Admittedly, I’m one of those people. I hate being away from my dog and if I could take him everywhere, I would!

Preparing Your Dog For Travel

Driving with dogs in your car can be a major form of distracted driving. You need to feel calm and comfortable about having your dog in the car with you. If you can’t focus 100% of your attention on the road while your dog sits and enjoys the ride quietly, you are a danger to yourself and everyone around you! Below are some tips on helping your dog get acquainted to your vehicle.

Training The Fearful Dog To Ride In A Car

If your dog is fearful or afraid of the car, don’t rush it. Bring your dog as close to the car as possible without making him or her scared. Anytime your dog looks at the car or voluntarily walks up to the car, begin praising your dog. Go as slow as necessary until your dog is comfortable being around the vehicle. At this point, you can open the car door. Don’t force your dog into the car, rather, let the dog make the choice to get in. You can encourage it, but if your dog is afraid at any point, just take a break or start over. Patience is the key here. Go slowly.

When your dog will enter the car voluntarily, just make it a happy and calm place. Don’t even go anywhere quite yet. Pet your dog and give praise, but keep the energy low. We want it to be a relaxing environment, not an overly stimulating one. When you can do this a couple times on at least a couple different days, you’re ready for the next step!

Training The Overly Excited Dog To Ride In A Car

Dog Riding In Car

Driving with dogs that are overly excited is extremely distracting and dangerous, especially if they aren’t secured or behind a barrier. In most cases, dogs are hyper on car rides because they’ve associated the car ride with something fun, such as the park, going for a walk, seeing other dogs, etc. Luckily, getting your dog to calm down on car rides can be achieved relatively easily if you have patience.

Bring your dog out to the car as if you’re going somewhere, then turn around and walk back in the house, sit down, and go about your business. Repeat this process several times throughout several days. Eventually, your dog won’t get excited about walking out to the car. Once you get that far, start putting your dog in the car. If your dog gets really excited at this point, walk back in the house and go back to whatever you were doing. If the dog is calm, try to calmly praise him or her. When you can do this consistently, you’re ready to go for a drive around the block. When you can do that consistently, you can go pretty much anywhere! If at any time your dog begins to get overly excited again, simply repeat the process.

Patience Is Everything

No matter what, do not rush things with your dog. If you begin getting angry, frustrated, or aggravated while training your dog to ride in the car properly, consider training over and try again another time. Start off with simple drives around the blog or a quick run to the store. As your dog gets more comfortable and relaxed in the car, you can start taking trips a bit further out. Also, make sure you don’t always take your dog to the same place. If you always go to the park, for example, your dog will have every reason to be excited as he will equate riding in the car with going to the park. Sometimes, bring your dog along just to pick something up or drop somebody off. Or, just go for a quick drive. You don’t want your dog to associate the car with anything specific. It might as well just be another room of the house. Sometimes fun things happen and sometimes not.

Using Proper Dog Safety Restraints

Dog Seat Belt

Don’t worry, you aren’t going to put your dog in a car seat! But, it’s not a good idea to be driving with dogs that aren’t properly restrained. Yes, dogs should wear seat belts! You can pick one up at almost any pet store or online at places like Amazon. Imagine what would happen if you were involved in a major collision and your dog isn’t restrained? Not only is your dog going to suffer major injury or death, but he will become a flying projectile which could seriously injure you or any other passengers. Not to mention, if your dog isn’t properly restrained, you’ll be nervous about taking evasive action or hitting the brakes hard. If you followed the steps above and your dog is calm while riding in the car, teaching him or her to use a harness or seat belt won’t be that difficult. The benefits could be a life saver.

Keep Your Dog In The Back Seat

You’ve probably heard several times that airbags can cause serious harm or even death to a small child in the front seat. The same is true for your dog. Airbags are extremely dangerous for dogs (the smaller the dog, the more dangerous). This is why even when your dog is properly restrained with a custom fit doggie seat belt, the front seat can still be very dangerous for your dog in the event of a collision. It is recommend to keep your dog in the back seat even when airbags are disabled. It’s just safer.

The Risks Of Allowing Your Dog To Stick His Head Out The Window

Dog Riding With Head Out Window

Here’s a little tips that most people hate to hear; Do not allow your dog to put his or her head out the window while you are driving. I know! This is a tough one! Admittedly, I will sometimes allow my own dog to stick his head out there. He absolutely loves it. However, this doesn’t come without risks. Even a small piece of road debris can cause serious harm to your dog. Some veterinarians claim that even an insect flying into the eye can cause significant problems. The safest way to drive with your dog is to open the window enough so your dog can smell the air and get a fresh breeze, but keep the window closed enough so that he or she can’t stick their head all the way out.

In addition, remember to engage the “window locks” that are in most modern cars with electric windows. Once you have the windows set properly, engage the lock so your dog can’t accidentally roll the window up or down.

Pick-Up Trucks Are Dangerous For Dogs

Anytime I see a dog in the bed of a pickup truck, I cringe. That is perhaps the single most dangerous place for a dog to be when driving. A large bump or pothole could be enough to bounce your dog out of the truck and into traffic lanes. Even a restrained dog is at risk of serious injury. In the event of an accident or sudden stop, your dog will most certainly become injured or killed. An evasive maneuver could easily throw your dog overboard as well. If you can’t put the dog inside the truck with you, I wouldn’t take the risk. In many states, having a dog in the bed of a pickup is illegal as well.

Dogs and Motion Sickness

Some dogs may suffer motion sickness during their first long trip in a car. This is more commonly observed in puppies and younger dogs but it may also affect older dogs. 

Why do they get motion sickness? Just like humans, it has something to do with ear structures that are used for balance – these aren’t fully developed in younger dogs or puppies, that’s why they are more likely to suffer from it. 

This may also be related to stress based on their previous experience of traveling in a car. Some dogs that have been brought to a vet in a car when they are young may associate riding it with being sick. They are so like humans, after all.

If you are observant, it will be easy for you to determine if your dog is suffering from motion sickness. They are more likely to be inactive, listless, and uneasy if they are not feeling well. So watch for any change in their behavior, especially if they are the overactive type of dog. They may also constantly yawn or whine, and smack or lick their lips several times. In worse conditions, they may exhibit excessive drooling or even vomit in your car.

If you’re asking how to treat a dog’s motion sickness, I guess you can only rely on your driving skills. Because the easiest way to treat them is to make them as comfortable as you can, so you should drive carefully. It may also help if your dog is facing forward, as opposed to looking outside the windows.

Your Dogs Instincts

Just because your dog is inside a vehicle doesn’t mean your dogs instincts turn off. If your dog sees an animal or something that turns on his or her instinct to chase, your dog may jump out a window or out of the bed of a pickup truck to give chase, without realizing the speed of the vehicle or the dangers of doing so. Many times, dogs are entirely instinct driving and they do not have the mental capacity to fully analyze a situation.

Safety Tips For Driving With Your Dog