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The Dos and Don’ts of Driving with Dogs

Most dog owners know that driving with your dog can be stressful — for both of you. While some dogs love car rides, others fear them. In this article, we’ll discuss tips to safely and calmly transport your dog in a car.

If your dog already loves car rides:

1. Refrain from letting them stick their head out the window.

The joy of a dog poking their head out of a car window is incredible, but not the safest way to ride. Although dogs love to feel the wind in their fur, debris can get in your dog’s eyes and ears. Be mindful of your environment when the windows are down. Also don’t open your window wider than your dog’s snout — to avoid the chances of them jumping out.

2. No matter your dog’s size, don’t let them ride in your lap.

Many dogs love to sit in their owner’s lap. But when you’re driving, a better place for your dog is actually the backseat — in a crate for added safety. A dog sitting in the front seat or on your lap is distracting and could result in an accident.

3. Try pet-specific safety tools.

There are safety features you can add to your vehicle to protect your dog. If your car is too small for a crate, install pet barriers that separate the front seat from the back. Another way to keep your dog secure in the backseat is to use a canine seatbelt that attaches to their harness. In addition to keeping your dog safe in the event of an accident, it can also prevent a dog from dashing out the door when you arrive at your destination.

If your dog dreads car rides

1. Reduce stimulation.

If your car can accommodate a crate, cover the crate with a blanket. This helps reduce overstimulation since your dog can’t see what’s around them. Making it easier for them to relax and settle in.

2. Get comfy.

Put comfort items inside your dog’s crate — a familiar blanket or bedding that smells like home. Even if you’re not using a crate, you can still include comfort items.

3. Plan mealtime accordingly.

Just like people, some dogs get motion sickness. Aim to not feed your dog for at least an hour before travel begins. If you cannot adjust feeding time, be sure not to overfeed your dog before riding in the car. A full stomach can increase the odds of motion sickness.

4. Ease into it — in a new way.

For most dogs, their first time riding in a car comes with little or no introduction. Whether you’re introducing — or reintroducing — car rides to a dog, it is important to start slow. Bring them in and around the vehicle — giving treats for getting inside. Slowly progress to shutting the doors, then starting the car, driving down the street, then eventually a full car ride.

Understanding your dog’s size, breed, and comfort level are all important when planning for a safe trip. And just as if you were driving with any passenger — be aware and responsible for the lives inside your vehicle, and make good driving decisions.