By: Joel Allen
I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving. Now there is Christmas to plan for, and many of us are planning to travel by car and take their beloved dog with them. How many folks just hook the leash to their dog’s collar and place them in the vehicle? Think about what just happened. Basically, if there is an accident and your dog gets thrown, what is that collar and leash going to do? That’s right, snap your dog’s neck or seriously injure them. I remember when Zues and I would travel up and down the interstate; I always ensured he was seat belted for our safety. There is nothing worse than getting into a car accident and your dog being injured or the weight of their bodies injuring you. Let us all hope we never have to live through any accident, but just in case, let’s talk about how to prepare ourselves.
Seat belts for dogs come in many different designs. I would advise shopping around and looking at the harness and its quality. Check for the mobility of the harness in the car, and check the consumer reviews also. In my experience there are some dog harness seat belts that fall apart right after they are used. Always look at the threading and ensure that there is no fraying where it is sewn. Another consideration is how the harness and tether purchased will position your dog in the car. Will it cause your dog to sit sideways in the seat, facing the window? My set up and Zues’s size caused him to sit sideways like this. I always worried that in the event of an accident he could be injured because of how the harness sat on his shoulders and back. Food for thought…
Now, here is another important consideration — know your dog and what they might do because I had the experience of Zoey not liking the seat belt harness and she chewed the tether in two. I had to teach her not to do that, but it took a lot of patience and for a while she targeted my seat belts. I had to pull over a few times and scold her, but in the end she learned. LOL…I guess she thought that if she chewed up what she did not like then it would not be her problem anymore.
All right, the seat belt harness has been purchased, and we need to get the dog used to riding in it. The first ride should be for five minutes wearing the harness and supervised. If your dog decides they don’t like the harness just keep working with them and show them that it will not harm them. Increase the training time as they successfully ride in the vehicle. Use plenty of treats, “lubbins” (love and rubs), and the window as a distraction for rewarding successful training in the art of the seat belt. Keep in mind a dog has to get used to something foreign to them. Once they understand what we desire them to do, the dog will become very compliant and will not need your constant supervision unless, of course, they feel like they are the boss. For that, there needs to be some additional training in who is the leader. It should be noted that no dog should be left tethered in a vehicle by themselves. What I would always do, and will still do, is release them so they are not locked down and defenseless if I go into the store for a minute. And NO, I would not leave them in a hot car with the windows up (In my opinion, if someone does this they are an idiot and should never be allowed to have a dog).
Once your canine family member is trained in the use of a seat belt and taught that it is the norm, travel in your car will be safer for all. It should also be noted that the use of a seat belt restricts the dog’s movement thereby keeping us less distracted while driving.
One last idea for your safety and that of your dog — there should be an emergency cutting tool on hand to cut seat belts because there have been a few cases where people could not release their seat belt. I keep a lock blade on my person in case of this happening. A knife or cutting tool will do no good if it cannot be accessed; so keeping it on your person, locked down in the driver area, or even having more than one tool placed in different areas would be a good precaution. What would happen if you were to drive your car into the water and sink? Would there be time enough to cut your seat belt and your dog’s before being drowned? Or what if you are in an accident and the vehicle caught fire? Just several real scenarios to consider.
Again, have a safe holiday season and Merry Christmas!
By: Joel Allen