Safe Driving With Your Dog

driving with your dog 1Cranky  moods — and even road rage — can happen even to the best of us. We’re just trying to get where we need to be, but that lunatic in his Hummer totally cut us off, so we get a little angry! Our dogs in the backseat pick up on our anger. Imagine what’s going through their minds — it’s confusion. They do not understand the concept of driving or road laws or any of that. They’re going to think that you are angry at them!

Even if we don’t say one word out loud but still let ourselves get upset, especially while driving, our dog is going to feel that mood and they’re probably going to think that we’re mad at them.

Let’s say you’re running late. The traffic is stop-and-go and your frustration level is getting higher and higher. Stop and think about your dog sitting in there with you. During this car ride, there will be sights, sounds, and smells that are not familiar to them. Compound that with your anger and it may scare the dog.

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Negative Conditioning When Driving with Your Dog

Driving while angry can set up a condition with your pets.  Pretty soon your dog will dread getting in your vehicle. They learn that your car is a place of chaos and emotional turmoil, and they may not be relaxed when you get to your destination. For example, consider when you’re taking your dog to a dog training class.   They need to be relaxed and composed when you get there. A tense, chaotic drive will put them in a defensive frame of mind and the training session will not be as productive as it could be.  The same can happen while driving to the vet or the groomer — you’ve inadvertently set the stage for fear and resistance.

Dog behavior is largely based on what they learn from their environment. You may not realize that you are training your dog by your everyday actions and your emotions. And, for a lot of us, one place that brings out a lot of emotion is the roads.

Precautions to Take When Driving with Your Dog

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A dog “seat belt” is a win-win.  Your dog is probably already wearing a harness to get from the house to the car.  Take an additional step and attach the harness to the seat — voila! Your dog isn’t jumping (annoyingly) back and forth from the front seat to the back.  The tethering device is inexpensive and easy to find.  We’ve included a few links at the bottom of this page.

Make a special, effortful point to take it easy when you drive, especially with there are pups in the car! You can make your dog more comfortable by using a harness and buckling them in, or you could use a crate. This also prevents the dog from bumping around, which is distracting to you, the driver. Not only that; a harness gives you something by which to grab the dog if necessary.

Keep the windows secure! It’s okay if you roll them down a little bit, but don’t roll them down all the way. If you happen to make a sudden stop or sharp turn, there’s a huge risk of accident if your dog’s head is all the way out the window.

Before going on a long road trip, get your dog accustomed to car rides with short trips. Maybe take them to the pharmacy a few times before making the drive up to Colorado.

Avoid sharp turns and sudden stops. We know the turn or stop is coming so we can brace ourselves. Your dog doesn’t know a turn is coming up, so when it comes, they may feel like they are about to fall or, worse yet, if they’re unsecured they will actually take a tumble! Talk calmly to your dog and praise them when they are in a calm state of mind with you. For more information about effective positive training techniques, read about some of the techniques we use on our dog training page.

You may find that these good driving habits trickle over to when you’re driving without your dog – and that’s not a bad thing!


Additional Resources:

Hart Road Animal Hospital | 7 Tips for Driving With Your Dog