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Driving Rover – Driving with Your Dog

By: Alex Lieber

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Mention the word "car" to your average canine, and he may go into paroxysms of joy. Many dogs quickly associate "car" with that wonderful sensation of being carried at great speeds, with the wind blowing through their hair. But before hitting the open road, take note of the following tips to keep your pet safe in the car:

  • Open the window, but not all the way. If you're going to take Rover for a ride, think twice about letting him stick his head out the window. The roadway contains many dangers, not the least of which is a sideswiping car. You can fulfill your dog's desire to sample air at 55 mph by opening the window just a few inches, not large enough for him to stick his neck out, but enough for him to enjoy the ride.

    Roads often contain debris, such as pieces of asphalt, stones, rubber and glass. A spinning tire can spit a piece of debris with the velocity to crack your windshield or damage your car's body. Objects can also hit your pet if he has his head out the window.

  • Keep your dog in the cab. Allowing dogs to ride in the back of pickup trucks is always a bad idea. He may jump or fall out onto the roadway, right in front of an oncoming car. Don't assume your dog is too smart to jump out! Injury from leaping out of a truck is actually common for veterinarians to see. A dog that spots a squirrel may leap out even if he is supposed to know better. In addition, a sudden stop or jerk could fling him out as well. If he's tethered, then you risk dragging him if he falls out.

  • Secure him. Letting your dog run loose in the car can cause accidents when he gets under your pedal or bumps the steering wheel. Dogs can also jump out (even dogs that have never done that before after years of riding quietly) when they see another dog or person that they want to greet. Dogs have also been known to fall out when your car is struck by another car or your car is quickly jolted to avoid an accident. Many pets are severely injured in these situations. The safest place for him is in the car, either in a carrier or a restraining harness, which is available at most pet supply stores.

  • And never leave your dog or any animal unattended in the car, even in cool weather. The sun can turn your car into a suffocating furnace in minutes (temperatures can shoot to 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes). You also risk theft by leaving your dog in a car.

    A note on letting your dog right in the front seat: He could be killed by your air bag in an accident. Air bags are designed for the average-sized adult, sitting about 20 inches from the dashboard. A dog's head is too low and may be much closer. The bags deploy at 200 miles an hour in an accident, and the force could injure or kill him if it hits him before fully inflating. (Incidentally, the same rule applies to children. The proper place for both is the back seat.)

    If you're taking him on a long trip, remember to bring water and food. You should stop every so often to let him stretch his legs and to eliminate (don't forget to bring baggies and a scoop).

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