Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Traveling Safely with your Dog- Part 1

While we officially still have 21 days until summer begins, the Memorial weekend gives us a taste of fun vacation plans soon to come.  This means cross country flights, weekends at the river, camping, and road trips.  Bella Dog Magazine published a survey from on summer pet travel that found “61% of pet owners travel more than 50 miles with their pets at least once a year. Over half of the owners travel with their dogs.  38% travel as often as once a month with their pets.” 
And why not? Besides the high cost of boarding your dog and the dreaded thought of leaving them behind, dogs make great traveling companions and they would love to go on an adventure with you.  But how do you ensure they are safe whether you are traveling by car, boat, or plane?
Traveling by Car

No one wants to think about getting in a car accident but the reality is that over 10.2 million motor vehicle accidents happen each year (as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau).  That’s why cars come with more and more airbags and children are strapped in to their car seats with a six point harness.  We think of our safety and our children’s safety automatically when we drive, but for some reason we don’t think about strapping the dog in.  First off, dogs should never ride in the front seat with the airbag on.  Just like a small child, the impact of an airbag could kill your dog.  Your dog should always be riding in a back seat and you can be sure they stay there by using one of the methods to travel safely with your dog; by harness (dog seat belt), by barrier, or by crate.
            Harness (dog seat belt):   There are several different dog seat belts on the market.  Some hook onto the seat belt strap while others buckle into the seat belt buckle end. These harnesses wrap around the dog’s chest, still giving the dog freedom to sit, stand, and lay down, but keep the dog from roaming around the car, distracting you while driving, or flying through the windshield in the event of an accident.
Corona resident, Katie Chapman, travels with her dachshund, Doc, between Temecula and Corona on a weekly basis. “When Doc was a puppy, I drove with her in her crate.  Now that she is a little bigger, she has her own seat in the back where she wears her little doggy seat belt harness.”  Katie continues, “I also keep her blanket and a toy back there for her. I think creating a special place for your dog inside your car as well as your home helps ease travel anxiety and keeps them occupied so you can keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
            Barrier:  A dog barrier is usually made of metal tubing in a grid fashion, meant to keep the dog from climbing to the front seats. You will most often see these used in SUV’s, station wagons, or any type of vehicle where the trunk is not separated from the rest of the car.  These types of vehicles have a lot of cargo room to tow things which makes it the perfect place for a large dog to spread out during the drive.  What a lot of people don’t know is that you can use the barrier in sedans and compact cars as well (placed behind the driver’s and front passenger’s seat) for the same purpose.  Not only does this protect your dog from flying forward during an accident, but it protects you and your children as well from being hit and injured by the dog as they are thrown forward.
Crates:  Crates can be the safest place for a dog while traveling in a car.  Your dog is in their own space (or den), and secured in one part of the vehicle without the chance of moving around, distracting you while driving, or getting thrown out of the car in the event of an accident.  If a dog is traveling in the bed of a pickup truck, they should always be in a crate for their safety.  Additionally, in the event of an accident, a stranger is more likely to help a dog that is confined in a crate than one that is running free and can potentially bite; especially if they are upset from the accident and acting irrationally.  
Your dog is a member of the family, so he or she deserves to be treated as such in the car as well as in the home.  This minimal change in your life can save your dog’s life, so why put it off any longer.  Go checkout a local dog store near you or go online to find tons of great deals on travel items for the pets in your family.

And please remember: Whenever going on a long road trip don’t forget to bring dog food, lots of water, and an extra leash from home.  And be sure to make frequent stops for potty breaks and stretching to avoid cabin fever.  Happy trails!

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