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Car Safety for Pets

Expert Tips for Driving With Pets

Dog with head outside car window

As the weather gets warmer, more dog owners will take their pets for car rides, something most dogs love to do.  Before you pull your car out of the driveway, be sure to make the trip safe for you and your pet.

Reed Berry, award-winning traffic safety educator and California state-licensed traffic school instructor, includes pet safety in his presentations.  Reminding everyone that pets are family members, “The Traffic Guy,” as Berry is known, offers suggestions for safe car rides for the entire family.

Back Seat Driver

Dogs want to explore and will move around the car unless they are restrained with a safety harness.  Just like children, dogs should be restrained in the back seat so if you have an accident they are safe from the dashboard air bag impact.  (Air bags deploy at 200 miles per hour and the force could injure or kill them.) 

A quick search online can help you locate Web sites, such as Pet Auto Safety, that offer pet car safety solutions. Select a harness size that fits your dog comfortably and securely attaches to the vehicle’s seatbelt. No matter how cute it may look, never use a child’s safety seat for your dog.

Better Yet, Use a Carrier

Use a well-ventilated carrier that has a secure door and latch, big enough for your dog to sit and lie down.  Place it facing forward so your dog will get plenty of air during the trip.  Also, place a towel or sheepskin on the carrier’s bottom to make your dog more comfortable.  Most importantly, secure the carrier to the car so if you stop short or have an accident, the carrier – with your dog – doesn’t get thrown around or fly out of the car.


Owners can be punished for leaving a dog in a car, under anticruelty statutes or laws that specifically forbid leaving a dog in a parked vehicle without adequate ventilation.

Dogs crated in car trunk

Feed Pets Less

Depending on the length of the trip, give your pet a small meal before starting out.  A few snacks along the way will be better for his stomach.  Bring plenty of water and even some ice cubes for your dog to lick to keep him from becoming thirsty or sick.

Wind In Your Dog’s Face

Again, just like it’s never safe for children to stick their arms or head out of a moving vehicle, it’s not safe for your dog either.  Not to mention all the dust and debris that can get into their eyes and cause injury.  By opening the window just a few inches, your dog can feel the breeze and enjoy the ride.

Never Park a Pooch

People ask how long they can leave their dog unattended in a car. The answer is never! Owners can be punished for leaving a dog in a car, under anticruelty statutes or laws that specifically forbid leaving a dog in a parked vehicle without adequate ventilation.

The temperature inside a parked car, even on a cool day, is always higher than the outside temperature. If you think leaving the car windows rolled down is a good solution, think again. It could end in theft of both your car and your dog. 

Toys from Home

If you’re going on a long drive, bring some of your dog’s favorite bedding and toys so he will keep busy during the trip and comforted by the usual smells from home.  Buying new toys is fine, but present them at home a few days before the trip so your dog won’t become concerned that everything he sees and smells is new and different.

Happy motoring!

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