Riding In Cars With Dogs [How To Train Your Dog To Ride Safely In The Car]

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I was driving the twins home from foster care. It was a clear sunny day.  I had strapped them, as well as Paris, into their car seats when I heard it.

The queasy, churning tummy roll sounds. The ones that come right before….> insert dog yacks < that.

I have been bitten, peed, pooped or vomited on by every single dog I’ve ever driven in a car.  Every. Single. One.

I know Hollywood makes dog moms think pups and cars go together like babies and pacifiers (where’s my 90’s Mimi fans at?) but the relationship between many a dog and automobile is a little more complicated than that.

How To Train Your Dog To Ride In The Car

Fortunately for me, while none of my dogs had true car anxiety, they all had to get accustomed to the experience.  It wasn’t as easy as loading them in the car and gleefully strapping them in.

Most importantly, start car training early.  Don’t wait for your first vet visit to see how your dog reacts to being in a vehicle.  Trust me. You’ll be stressed out. She’ll be stressed out. The visit just isn’t going to go well. 

Give your dog time to acclimate to being in a car during frequent, short training sessions.

Some dogs will not mind the whole experience at all; while others won’t even want stand next to your car.  So check your dog’s tolerance level by doing a test run before you have any appointments to attend.

If you find that your dog has some reluctance around cars, then work with them slowly. Practice loading in and out of the car, clicking into their safety harness/booster seat and starting the engine.

If the whole process causes too much anxiety for them, try just playing with their favorite toy or serving their favorite treat in the backseat.

The key is to ease your dog into the idea of being inside this new unfamiliar space and get them used to having a little distance between them and you in the car.

How To Travel Safely With A Dog In The Car?

One of the biggest mistakes dog owners make is driving with their pets unrestrained in the car.  On the extreme end, in the unfortunate event of an accident, you don’t want your dog to be the only member of your family without a seatbelt.

On the daily dangers end of the spectrum, a loose dog in the car can quickly become a very dangerous distraction — causing you to create an automobile accident. 

Whenever you’re driving your pup around town — no matter how well behaved she is or how short the trip will be — she should always be restrained in a proper dog harness or safety seat.

For the most jarring proof of why your dog must always be restrained in a car, check out these crash dog dummy safety tests videos which were completed by The Center For Pet Safety.

Pro Tip: When shopping for pet safety harnesses, be sure you select one that is designed for crash protection — not just distraction prevention. 

Never operate a vehicle with your dog unrestrained.

Where Should Dogs Sit When Traveling In The Car?

I know it seems like you dog is having a ball with their head out the window, but this is another huge no-no pet owners make.

While your dog appears to be having the time of her life with her head out the window, is it safe?

The audio recording that Walt Disney World blasts from every monorail comes to mind: “Por favor, mantengase alejado de las puertas.

No.  It’s not safe.

A common mistake pet parents make us letting their dog stick their heads outside of a moving vehicle.

Loose debris is kicked up at high speeds on roads and freeways all the time. Not convinced?  Just think back to the last rock chip that shot into your windshield with enough force to leave a mark, a crack or dent. Now imagine that same chip hitting your dog in the face or in her eye. 

That’s an immediate, urgent and serious trip straight to the vet.

So yes, roll the window down but do make sure your dog is safely secured inside the car in a crash graded harness.

Lastly, never ever ride with your pup in your lap. In the event of an accident, the force in which your airbag deploys will seriously injure your dog. And the force in which your dog will be rocketed into your body by the airbag will seriously injure you.

So do both of you a favor and enjoy riding in cars with dogs with them safely secured in the backseat.


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