Bark Seat Driving

Bark Seat Driving
June 20, 2015 by Steve Duno
dog in car

We’ve all seen it; the toy dog planted on a driver’s lap while he or she motors around the neighborhood, the dog standing up, looking out the windshield or sticking its head out the open window. It often blocks the driver’s view, and at the very least is a terrible distraction to both the driver and others driving by.

Or there’s the dog (or dogs) kept loose in the car, jumping from front to back, sticking its head out the window, barking at pedestrians or cars, being a general distraction and nuisance. Or the dog kept in the back, its nose pressed up against the back window, with absolutely no protection from a careless driver rear-ending its car and sending it to the hospital.

If you wouldn’t let a child sit in your lap while you drive, why let your dog?

Then there is the dog kept loose in the bed of a pickup truck. There is perhaps no better predictor of dog injury or death than seeing one standing up in a truck bed, moving at seventy mph on the freeway.

A dog loose in the car can distract a driver and cause an accident. And if an accident does occur, the dog will be catapulted forward, potentially breaking the driver’s neck, or flying through the windshield and getting cut to ribbons. That dog sitting on its owner’s lap, or on the passenger seat? It will be almost certainly be killed by an air bag when it goes off. Dogs with their heads out the window, sniffing the air run the risk of either falling out and getting killed horribly, getting its head clipped by another car, or at the least getting road debris or some other foreign body in its eyes, nose or throat, causing infection or injury. Simply having fast-moving air forced into a dog’s mouth and nose can over a long period cause respiratory ailments. I have seen this numerous times; it’s no laughing matter.

What’s the motivation for disregarding a dog’s safety while in a car? I’m frankly at a loss to understand it, but perhaps I can guess. Some people simply like the company of a dog in the car, and are comforted by it sitting on or beside them. Again, I’m sure you like your children too, and you would never consider letting them sit on your lap, or jump from seat to seat. Also, many people feel that properly securing a dog in a car is an imposition, both to the pet and to them. Go figure.

I have to confess to being guilty from time to time. If I’ve had to take my dog a mile or so to a park, sometimes I have simply let him jump into the back seat for the quick ride. It’s a function of being too lazy or rushed to put his crate into the car first. And when my back is sore (often these days), I simply don’t want to take the risk of hurting myself while stuffing the big bulky crate through the back hatch. In any event, it’s not fair to the dog.

Solutions? First, never let your dog ride in your lap. It’s dangerous for both of you, and will likely result in your dog’s death in an accident. Next, do not let your dog stick it’s head out the window. Again, the dog’s desire to do it does not outweigh the dangers. And avoid putting your dog loose in the back seat or way back, thinking that it will be safe in an accident. It won’t; it will get hurt, and so might you.

For most dogs, getting an airline-rated plastic crate and securing it to a seat will protect the dog nicely. Get one sized to the dog; a Chihuahua in a Great Dane’s crate will get tossed around too much. You can usually situate a crate in between a front and back seat, so that it won’t move around. A small crate can fit in the back or on the front passenger seat, and literally be seat-belted in through the handle. Avoid the metal crates, as they can injure a dog in a crash. Go for the plastic, with a blanket or two inside.

An alternative to the crate would be a a restraint harness, available at any good pet store. A good harness, fitted to the dog, will have padding on the chest, and a slot for a seat belt to slip through. Your pet can ride in the passenger seat, safely if you so choose. Just make sure to turn off the passenger airbag, if this is your choice.

At the very least, a dog gate can be purchased and placed behind the seats in a hatchback, minivan or station wagon, with the dog riding in the back behind it. This will protect the dog in case of a deceleration accident involving the front of the car, and will also protect you from a flying dog. It will not protect your dog from a rear-end collision however.

How ever you do it, find a way to protect your dog and yourself while driving. And do not leave your dog in the car during hot weather, even for five minutes, especially if it’s a toy, or an old dog. Not only do you risk your dog to heat prostration, you will have dog lovers breaking into your car to help the pooch. Just don’t do it.

Driving with your dog is necessary, but need not be injurious. If you protect yourself and your kids, you should give the same courtesy to your pooch.

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