At some point you will probably need to get your dog to one place or another. Whether that be for an emergency trip to the vet, or simply a day out, introducing your dog to the experiences of being in a moving car should be done as early as possible as dogs that aren’t familiar with the setting can succumb to stress.
Peeing, heavy panting, fretting and shaking are just some behaviours dogs exhibit when they aren’t comfortable with the environment within the car. Starting your dog with simple car rides when he’s still a puppy is the perfect way to have a calm and relaxed dog on journeys in your vehicle.
The car should be seen as positive thing as well as a positive experience. If the only time you use the car is for unpleasant trips the vet, your dog will quickly establish dread when days out involve the beep of the car door unlocking and clambering in the car.
How to safely Transport Your Dog
Dog Guard in Boot
Dog guards are readily available from both pet stores and stores that deal in vehicle accessories and are simply a grate that fits along the back seats of your car to separate the rear section of the car off from the rest of the cabin. Your vehicle manufacturer may have specific types for the model of your car, so it’s worth double checking that the guard you buy fits the specifications of the car.
Simple, cheap and effective, the dog belt comprises of a belt similar in design to a harness that can be fitted on the dog and attached to the existing seat belt of the car, making for a snug and secure fit.
If you have a small breed you might want to confine them to a carrier or small crate when in the car. The carrier can be secured with the seatbelt and keeps your dog in safely in one place.
Introducing your Dog to the Car
Start by putting the leash on your dog or puppy and allow him to walk outside to smell and walk around the vehicle. Once he loses interest, open the door and get him to jump inside. Some dogs won’t understand the concept of getting inside the car and you may need to lift them in!
If you can, make the process as pleasant as possible. Cars are sun traps and if your vehicle has been sitting outside in the hot sun for a while, opening the door can be like opening an oven. You’re dog won’t want to jump into a boiling hot car, so cooling the car beforehand makes the experience a lot pleasanter.
Once he’s inside get in with him and let him move about the car however he wishes. If it’s a big dog, and his space in the car will be behind a dog guard in the back, let him settle in the space. While in the stationary car, reward with the occasional treats.
It’s up to you at this point if you want to introduce him to a specialised dog seat belt, or if you plan on putting him in a pet carrier or crate whilst travelling in the vehicle. (Sections on the two ways of transporting dogs will be explained further in this article.) Dog Seat belts and carriers are recommended as they reduce the risk of injury in an accident and can also prevent accidents from happening in the first place as the dog is kept secure and is not moving about the cabin to distract you. For the moment, some owners find it easier to have a family member or friend drive the car while they sit holding the dog next to them. This way, you can take a slow drive around the block which will allow your dog to get used to the movements of the car so he can become familiar with correcting his balance during turns better than if he was confined to a crate.
When he’s comfortable with the inside of the car, turn on the engine and let it run for a little while. If it startles him, distract him with treats until he doesn’t seem bothered by the running engine. When he appears calm, take a slow drive up and down your street or around your block. A dog inexperienced with car travel can suffer from motion sickness, so avoid rewarding with treats at this point until you pull back onto your drive and stop.
When a complete slow brief ride in the car has been completed reward, take the dog out of the car and make a fuss of him.
Car travel is something that might take several journeys and attempts to make sure you’re dog is comfortable with the process of moving in a vehicle.
When on the road.
No head out of window
Everybody knows that most dogs love to stick their heads out of the car windows to take in the smells and experiences of the outdoors. It’s not strictly safe enough to let your dog do this. Your dog could be hit by passing objects, may snap at passers by – particularly cyclists – or may injury itself through an ungainly attempt to jump out.
Get dog out curb side
Make sure the when you’ve parked and are ready to get your dog out from the vehicle, that you handle your dog onto a curb side, instead of out into open traffic. The dog should have it’s leash on and you should not let the dog jump out until you have a firm grip on the handle, and are in full control of your dog.
Never leave dog in car
And last, but most importantly – never leave your dog in the car, period. Cars are sun traps which can cause temperatures within the cabin to heat to near unbearable within minutes, particularly in hot weather. A car is for transporting you and your pets, not storing them. Your dog is also in full view of a potential thief, however unlikely that may be. If you know you’ll have to leave your dog in the car for some time at some point during your journey, it may be worth rethinking the option of taking your dog in the first place.