Driving While RVing with Dogs

With almost 78 million dogs in the U.S., it is unbelievable that a whopping 80% of them ride unrestrained in vehicles. Pet travel is on the rise and pet owners are now starting to take pet passenger safety seriously.  After our recent auto accident, thankfully Mason & Missy were uninjured, but it sure opened our eyes about their safety and has given us a good reason to share this with others.

Unrestrained pets in a vehicle can be just as distracting as texting while driving, so this is a serious concern for all drivers on the road. Our dogs, Mason & Missy, simulates one mistake we will point out – allowing an unrestrained dog making his way to the front seat of our truck.

So let’s see what other mistakes are unfortunately typical when driving in cars with dogs.

Allowing your dog to feel the wind in its ears.

Letting your dog stick its head out of the window during your road trip is a vet bill waiting to happen. Debris in the eyes is very painful for your pooch and may cost him his vision. We have windshields to deflect road debris during our ride – pets are just as vulnerable as we are and need protecting too. Dogs get sand in their eyes and nose, or worse, they get hit by the random flying rock.

Appointing your Dog as co-pilot.

One of the worst things you can do when traveling is to let your pup ride shotgun in your car. Allowing your dog to ride in your lap is incredibly dangerous. Not only can your pet become a serious distraction, but in the case of a crash, airbag deployment can be lethal. Your pup can suffer blunt force trauma from hitting the dashboard or he can be ejected from the vehicle. Essentially, your dog is at significant risk when riding in the front seat.

Think about it. What happens to your dog if you must slam on the brakes or swerve because of another driver? Your pup could be suddenly ejected from the vehicle or suffer a broken neck. Not pleasant to consider, but it happens more often than you think.

Driving with unrestrained pets in the vehicle, risking driver distraction.

Unsecured pets are a major disruption in the vehicle. They can cause blind spots in your field of vision and increase risky behaviors when you have one hand on the wheel and the other on the dog. Pet distractions are such a serious problem, some states are now ticketing people who allow their pets to travel free and easy in the car under the distracted driving laws.

Keep pets properly restrained in the back seat of the vehicle and remember, when it comes to selecting a pet travel safety device, there is a significant difference between distraction prevention and crash protection.

Not fully understanding the danger of an unrestrained dog.

Still not convinced that Fido needs to be safely secured during travel? Veterinarians report that pets in a crash can suffer from blunt force trauma, including broken necks, spinal injuries leading to paralysis, ACL tears and other associated bumps and bruises. Some pet owners have reported spending tens of thousands of dollars reclaiming their pet’s mobility after a crash.

Pets can also become dangerous projectiles, putting you and your other passengers at risk. A tiny 10lb. dog can exert a hefty 200 lb. force at just 20 mph. A 75 lb. Labrador Retriever exerts a whopping 2,200 lbs. of force at 30 miles an hour. Using a thoroughly tested pet travel restraint will help protect not only your pet, but also you and your other passengers.

Allowing dogs to ride in back of pickup trucks.

We have all seen them, the poor pup who has been forced to ride in the back of the pickup truck with nothing to protect him from the elements, or worse, a crash. Thousands of dogs die every year from riding unrestrained in the back of pickup trucks. Dogs jump out of pickups into on-coming traffic or tumble out of the pickup bed during a sudden stop.

Some states have laws on the books that require pets to be secured when they travel in the back of a pickup. Other states have vetoed legislative efforts to secure pets traveling in open pickup trucks. Securing your pet is not just for the benefit of the pet, but also for the safety of other drivers on the road.

While it is preferred to secure your pet safely inside of the vehicle, if you must travel with your dog in the back of the pickup, investigate different ways to do it safely.  Strength-rated anchor straps that are designed or crash rated kennels with the hunting dog in mind that safely secures your pup in the back of a pickup truck. 

Warm days and hot dogs – a bad combination.

Did you know that on a 70-degree day, the temperature in your car can climb to over 115 degrees within minutes? That is hot enough to cause your pet a serious, potentially life-threatening heat stroke. In some states, state law allows concerned citizens to break into cars if they suspect a dog is at risk in climbing temperatures.  If you see a pet in need of emergency attention, call police and wait for them to arrive—do not act yourself.

It’s also important to know that pet theft is on the rise.  Just as leaving a valuable laptop or GPS device in your vehicle might be tempting for a criminal, so is leaving your dog in the car. Even if the crook breaks a window to steal only your GPS device, your dog could still escape the vehicle and run away.

Never, ever leave your pets alone in a vehicle. Always opt to leave them home in an air-conditioned space if you have errands to run. The consequences are just not worth the risk.

“I got this harness at the pet store, so it must be safe.”

When selecting a travel device for your pet, know that there are two levels of protection: Distraction Prevention and Crash Protection. While all restraints may prevent distraction, not all will offer crash protection.

Pet stores typically stock products that have good retail margins. Remember, there is little to no oversight of the pet products industry and manufacturers embellish their safety claims. While many brands claim to be travel “safety” devices, if you are looking for protection in a crash, there are few that actually hold up to those claims.  Pet owners need to do their research to understand how a product performs in a crash. The Center for Pet Safety has been independently crash testing pet travel devices since 2011 and you can review the Top Performing products on their website.

Insufficient planning when traveling with your precious pup.

Pet passengers require special planning to ensure the best possible travel experience for the both of you. Is your pup prone to carsickness? Feed your pet at least two hours before hitting the road to allow proper digestion. It is also a good idea to exercise your pup before getting in the car. A tired pup is a better pet passenger.  Plan your trip so that you stop every two hours to walk and give your pet a drink of water and remember to also bring those poop bags to clean up after your pet.

Not treating our dogs as well as we treat our children.

When you think about it, dogs, like children, are just as dependent on us to ensure their safety. Are children allowed to ride on your lap? Are they allowed to stick their head out of the window of the car to catch the wind in their hair? Are they allowed to ride without being buckled in? There are laws in place to ensure parents use safety measures when traveling with their children. These measures offer children the best possible chance of survival if you are involved in a crash during your trip.

Just like a toddler, a dog can’t buckle up and it’s up to us, the pet parents, to make those sometimes tough, responsible decisions about our pet’s safety when we travel together. Always restrain or contain your pet during your travels. Better safe than sorry.

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