The safest way to travel with dogs

A dog sits in the back of a car

There’s something idyllic about taking to the open road with your dog by your side ― seeing their head hanging happily out of the window from your rear-view mirror, their faces warm in the sun, their ears flapping in the wind. However, some of what we love most about driving around town with our constant companions may not be wise.

Whether you’re taking your pup to the pet supply store for some quick socialization or embarking on a cross-country road trip for the holidays, here’s what you should know to keep you and your best friend safe.

Dog buckled into the seatbelt system of a car

Buckle up your pup

Seatbelts are lifesaving — for people as well as pets. Any time you take your dog in the car it’s crucial they are secured. Kennels are the best way to keep your pooch safe and ensure they aren’t distracting you while you navigate and drive. However, if you’d prefer to keep an eye on your buddy during your trip, you can purchase a harness or car seat that buckles into your vehicle’s seatbelt system. Not only will keeping your pet secure prevent injuries from an accident, but it can also protect you and others in your car as pets can become dangerous projectiles during a crash.

According to Allianz Life Insurance Company, if a car crashes at a speed of just 25mph, an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times their weight. That means a 50-pound dog can achieve an impact force of 2,000 pounds in a car crash!

Though many states, including Minnesota, don’t have a specific law prohibiting dogs from being loose in your car, you could still get pulled over — and even receive a ticket — if an officer determines your dog was distracting you from driving or obstructing your vision. And wrangling a loose dog in your car while talking to a police officer can lead to other unwanted challenges!

Windows up for a healthy pup

We know how much dogs love sticking their heads out of the window to catch some breeze, and there’s something magical about seeing your dog so happy. Unfortunately, it’s not a safe habit for your four-legged friend. Eye injuries, from dirt, rocks, dust, and other debris, are common when dogs have their heads outside of moving cars. Even a small amount of debris or a slight scratch to their cornea can cause serious damage resulting in time-consuming and expensive vet visits.

Ears flapping from high speeds can also result in lifelong problems for your pup. If you notice your dog’s ears are irritated or even swollen after a long car ride, you may want to think twice about lowering the windows the next time you hit the road.

Two dogs in a car crate

Know your dog’s speed limits

Every pup is different. Some jump with excitement the second they hear “car ride,” while others can be down-right terrified by the experience.

Many dogs that are fearful or anxious about riding in a vehicle will insist on curling up in your lap ― their safe space. If this sounds like your dog, check out our tips for training your dog to tolerate car rides, or talk to a vet or behaviorist for more help. They can prescribe situational medications to help with temporary anxiety and training methods to help you desensitize your doggo to life on the road.

Arriving at your destination

These precautions may seem like a lot, especially if you’re used to frequent car rides with your dog riding shotgun and have never had an issue. As responsible pet parents, it’s up to us to examine our habits and admit when they aren’t safe. Whether you’re traveling with dogs or your feline friends, the most important thing is arriving safely at your destination.

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