It’s finally warming up, and we’re awakening from the winter slumber. Off with the heavy sweaters and scarves, because the sunshine is out, so let’s enjoy it. Isn’t it about time to plan your favorite weekend getaway or perhaps even a vacation? Bring Fido, too, since he would certainly enjoy a road trip.
But before you head for a weekend in the snow-white mountains of Tahoe or the pounding waves in Monterey, you have to drive there. You’re set with everything you need: some clothes, food for yourself and your pup, and an itching desire to do anything and everything outside. Pack it all up in your car and off you go.
But are you sure that fuzzy best friend of yours isn’t going to distract you while driving? How do you practice safe driving with a canine friend? And how do you keep your furry friend safe?
According to Kurgo, a noted dog products company, 65 percent of dog owners admit to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity while driving with their dog. That’s a staggering number.
Petting your dog, allowing him to jump into your seat or the passenger seat and stay there, or letting him hang his head hang out the window may look sweet, but all are very dangerous and potentially distracting events while driving. Distracted driving can be seriously unsafe, but rest assured, there are some simple ways to ensure a safe trip for both you and your dog.
The best way to minimize the risk of an accident related to your dog is proper restraint of dogs during car rides. Dog seatbelts are excellent investments. Doggie seatbelts not only keep your dog in his seat during the ride, but they also protect him in case there is a mishap like a crash or fender bender. It’s important to keep the seatbelt attached to the dog’s harness — not to the dog’s collar, because a dog could get strangled during an accident if thus attached.
Some dogs pace in the car, but trying to drive safely with a squirming dog is a potentially dangerous situation, too, so choose confinement or restraint. A great item to use with your seatbelt is a car fence. One can be conveniently placed between car seats to prevent your dog from jumping into your seat or into other seats. A fence is a great idea for establishing a boundary, especially for a dog that still tries to jump around even with a seatbelt on. If your dog has a habit of dropping down to your feet near the gas and brake pedals or the clutch, this can be a disaster about to happen. Do not allow it. Some travelers swear by crates and carriers; for optimal safety, they should be secured, too. Little guys might benefit from booster seats with seatbelts.
One of my favorite transport tools is a hammock. They are not only beneficial to containing your dog, but they also protect your seats from dog hair, dirt, water, or excrement if you have a nervous traveler. These look like a sturdy blanket and have a buckle that snaps onto each headrest, as well as a Velcro opening to permit use of the seatbelt. They’re durable and easy to wash, so you can use them time and time again.
Distracted driving with pets can lead to life-threatening situations. Some of our fondest memories come from vacations or road trips taken with our four-legged friends, but remember that the next time you bring your pup with you on the road, proper restraint is key to having a safe ride.
Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Kerylin Mott, Dog Tired Adventures