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Friday, October 11, 2019

Driving with Dogs

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Being a dog owner, I’ve grown used to taking them practically everywhere with me.  My staff has long been used to seeing them at the office every day.  I wouldn’t think of putting them in a kennel when I go on vacation, either.  For the most part, where I go they go.  If you’re like me and treat your dogs like members of your extended family, this blog will give you a few pointers to making your life and theirs easier when you travel together.

1.      Dogs don’t drive – But many of them spend tons of time in cars.  The problem is if your dogs are allowed to roam free in a vehicle, they can quickly become a danger to you and themselves.  That’s because a loose dog can get underfoot in a hurry.  Or, your dog could jump or fall from an open window.  Last but not least, if you wouldn’t consider letting your kids ride in your car without a seatbelt, why would you let your dogs do so?  All it takes to cause a calamity is for you to suddenly hit the brakes and your pet to become a furry missile that could either hit you, or crash through the windshield to wind up on the road.  If you choose not to put your pet in a crate when you take it on the road, at least invest in a pet restraint that will keep it out of harm’s way, not to mention out from underfoot.

2.      To crate, or not to crate? – Pet carriers are a godsend if your dog is skittish about riding in a car or is highly territorial.  The last thing you want to see as you roar down the road is your dog going into a frenzy when it sees a dog in another vehicle.  Talk about a disaster looking for a place to happen.  Even worse, try explaining to the cops and your insurance agent how you wound up in an accident when your pooch went on the warpath inside your moving vehicle.  Better to let your pup have a tantrum inside the carrier than on the front or back seat.  That being said, if you do use a pet carrier, make sure the crate is firmly secured so it doesn’t come flying at you if you were to suddenly hit the brakes.

Image courtesy pixnio
3.      Cat-Tastrophe – I once owned a dog who went absolutely insane whenever it spotted a cat.  Whether the cat was climbing the back fence to get in the yard, or it spotted one while I walked or drove him around, the result was the same.  Teeth bared and ears pulled back,  it roared like a little lion until the tabby was out of sight.  If your dog is easily upset by other animals or other people, consider using a muzzle when you take it outside.  Not only will this protect your pet, but it will make it much less likely that your dog will bite anyone, yourself included.  Unlike humans, when a dog is either afraid or angry, it can lash out at anyone and anything.  Whether your dog is a Great Dane or a Lhasa Apso, they all have the same fight or flight instinct which can easily override years of domestication.  For the sake of you, your family, your friends, and other pets, everyone all be much safer if your dog is muzzled. 

4.      The leash you can do. – Another safety measure to always adhere to when you travel with dogs is to make sure they are on a leash at all times.  Whether you’re going from your home to the car or are making a pet pitstop at a rest stop, letting your dogs off the leash is to invite disaster.  All it takes to lose your four-legged friend is for your dog to see something of interest across the parking lot or across the street.  Then the race is on.  Whether your dog gets there is another matter, especially if it races headlong into traffic.  I used to let my dogs run free in an open field until the day one of them spotted a kid on a bike and took off in hot pursuit.  The problem was the kid was on the other side of a busy road.  Fortunately, I let out my loudest command shout which stopped my dog an inch from the street.  From that day forward, I always kept my dogs leashed. 

Another reason to keep your dogs leashed is to keep them from fighting with other dogs.  Loose dogs revert to the law of the pack, which can sometimes get surprisingly vicious as the pecking order is sorted out in a dogfight.  Another dog is much less likely to go after yours if you have it on a  leash.  Also, you can keep your dog from vying for dominance with another dog by pulling rank and the leash at the same time.

5.      Practice makes perfect – If the only time your dog gets in the car is to go to the vet, you’re going to be in for a wild and wooly ride.  The way to get dogs to lose their fear of the family sedan is to take it out for rides to all kinds of destinations.  The more you drive your dog around, the better the result for both dog and owner.  Once your dog knows it’s more likely to wind up going to the park or the pet store, it will lose its fear of your vehicle.  This way it won’t take you and your whole family to wrestle your pooch into the back of the car regardless of the destination. Another thing to do with dogs in cars is to bring plenty of toys and treats to help them focus on something other than what’s happening on the other side of the window.

Image courtesy flickr
6.      Window up or down? – While it might look cute to see a dog poke its head out of a car window, it’s also extremely dangerous.  Not only is there an opportunity for the dog to fall or jump out of the vehicle, anything that becomes airborne, including rocks, bugs and other jetsam can injure your pet.  If your window is open far enough for your dog to get its head out, then it’s open far enough for it to jump or fall out.  It’s also a hazard to pedestrians or bicyclists who may inadvertently approach your vehicle at a stop light.   The other dog danger inherent in an open window is if the window were to close or you were to suddenly hit the brakes while your dog’s head is out the window.  The damage inflicted to its neck and larynx could be deadly.  If you insist on having the window rolled down while you drive with your dog in the car, only roll it down a couple inches.  This way you’ll maximize the fresh air while minimizing the chance of injuring your pet.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

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