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Before You Drive With Your Dog: Car Safety Tips for Dog Owners

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If you drive a car or rely on others to drive you places, it is inevitable that your dog will need to ride in the car from time to time. Many owners are unaware of the many risks associated with dogs and car travel. Even a five minute car ride can be risky for you and your dog. Fortunately, there are several safety precautions you can take before you drive with your dog.

Keep Dogs Restrained

Many drivers allow their dogs to move freely about the car. Some even allow their dogs to ride in their laps. The distraction of a dog can easily take your attention away from driving, leading to an accident or, at the very least, a close call. Even if your dog is a perfect angel, an accident can still occur. If your dog is unrestrained, he can easily be thrown from the car (or thrown around the car). In addition, he my become a dangerous projectile, potentially injuring you or other drivers. Always keep your dog restrained with a car harness, crate or barrier. Never allow him to ride in the front seat, as he can be injured by air bags or thrown into the windshield.

Avoid Leaving Dogs in Cars

In general, it is a good idea to refrain from leaving your dog alone in the car. The major reason for this is heat stoke. Even on a moderately warm day, a car can heat up to dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes. This not only goes for cars in the sun, but for those in the shade as well, even with the windows open. In addition to the risk of heat stroke, a dog left alone in a car may become bored or anxious, leading to destructive behavior. The dog might ingest something harmful and/or injure himself. Finally, a dog left in the car is at risk for becoming lost or stolen. He may escape from the car on his own or be taken by a thief. Therefore, even on cooler days, it is best to avoid leaving your dog alone in the car.

Some Dogs Don't Like Car Rides

Many dogs love going for a ride in the car while others dread it. If your dog is the latter, you are in for trouble. Dogs may become fearful of cars for a variety of reasons. Some become carsick, others get anxious. These behaviors can lead to distractions for the driver. If your dog is not a fan of car rides, you will need to use extra caution when driving. For dogs who get car sick, avoid feeding a meal for several hours before a car ride and ask your vet about anti-nausea options. If your dog becomes fearful or anxious, a calming herb like Rescue Remedy (compare prices) or a pressure vest like the Thundershirt might help. For severe cases, your vet may need to prescribe a sedative. However, in many cases, the best way to handle this problem is through training and behavior modification.
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