I was in Decatur last Tuesday at the home of a new Home Dog Training client working with him and his four-month-old Bichon named Elizabeth.  As with most Bichon’s, Elizabeth was a very happy and loving puppy. The main problem that my client was experiencing evolved around issues caused by my client loving her and giving into every one of her wishes and desires.

It is important to always keep your dog safe when traveling in the car

When I first arrived, I witnessed that Elizabeth was constantly demanding attention and goodies from my client.  Every time she demanded, he dutifully responded. Although loving and cute, Elizabeth had no respect for my client and simply made him her “errand boy”. It was critical that I immediately reverse this dynamic so that Elizabeth understood that my client was the boss and that she needed to follow the “house rules” he enacted.  As soon as I began to demonstrate t how Elizabeth behaved when given direction and passive authority, my client was amazed.  Within a few hours we had transformed Elizabeth from a spoiled child always getting her way into an obedient puppy.  She was still a cute and extremely cuddle puppy.  The only difference was that she now obeyed my client’s “house rules”.

The last question I asked my client was if he could think of anything else we needed to address with him and Elizabeth that day.  There was just one more issue he needed to address. He told me that he liked to “show Elizabeth off” and often took her with him in the car to his friends’ houses, the store, and just about anywhere else he needed to go.

I told him that having her out and about with him was a great bonding experience and, if done properly, would help establish his leadership role with Elizabath.  The issue that he needed to address was to ensure that he was always keeping her safe while they were driving in the car. 

To start our discussion of automobile canine safety, let’s turn our attention to the automobile engineers in Detroit (I use that location euphemistically, but I assume what I mean).  When they are designing cars, they think about human safety and not canine safety.  It now becomes the dog owner’s responsibility to assure that their dog will be safe and secure when traveling with them in the car.  When it comes to your dog’s safety, simple things like an open window or air bag deployment, although engineered to be safe for humans, can be extremely unsafe and even deadly for dogs.

I become extremely agitated when I see a driver with their puppy in their lap when they are driving down the road.  It bugs me when I observe a human letting their dog stick his head out an open window when the car is shooting down the road at sixty, seventy, or eighty miles an hour.  These are just two of many unsafe things that our dogs can be exposed on a daily basis while “seemingly safe with us” in the car.  These are simply two examples of many that are just not right for your puppy in the car.  I would now like to provide you with some automobile safety rules for your puppy.  They are pretty important:

  • Never, ever allow your puppy to ride in your lap when driving. This diverts your capability to correctly steer the car and scan for obstacles ahead. If your puppy falls off your lap and onto the floor by your feet, this could impair or block your ability to use the gas and brake pedals.  This would be very, very bad.
  • Do not allow your puppy to stick their head out the window. This rule holds true even if the car is at a full stop. If your car is traveling at a high rate of speed, the wind blowing by your car just outside the window creates a large, backward force on whatever might come out of the window.  Think of the times you stick your arm out the window when you are traveling fast on the interstate.  Your entire arms flies backwards from the force of the wind. Now, mentally replace your arm with your puppy’s head.  That immediate and jarring jolt to your puppy’s head and neck could cause harm to his neck.  Even if the car is stopped, the open allowing your dog to be in the open window could cause him to jump from the car to chase something he may see.
  • At no time should you allow your puppy to travel in the front right seat of your car. The only exception to this rule is if your passenger airbag system has a manual override switch to disengage its deployment.  This rule goes back to my earlier discussion observing that “cars were designed and built for humans”.  If the passenger airbag were to deploy, it is designed to deploy at an almost instantaneous force to detain a human weighing over 150 lbs sitting upright with their back against the back of the seat.  Your dog may be one tenth this weight and sitting on the front half of the passenger seat.  The force that the airbag would deploy will quite probably hurt and possibly kill your dog.
  • Always have your puppy properly secured while you are traveling in your car.  Even if the car is stopped, your puppy should still be secured.  Never, ever allow your puppy to freely roam the car. If you quickly apply the breaks or make a quick turn, they can be hurled into the seats, passengers, or windows.  If one of the windows is open, they may be projected out of the car and into oncoming traffic. We suggest that you always have your dog or puppy in a secured crate or “seat belted in” using a specially designed canine seatbelt.
  • It is always a good thing if you can provide a “trip diversion” for your puppy.  This will keep him distracted and relaxed while in the car.  Have some of his favorite toys for him to play with while in the car.  I suggest that you get some chew toys such as deer antlers.  You can also give him some food toys such as Kong Toys with frozen peanut butter in the food holes.

Car safety is one of those things that we often forget when it comes to our dogs.  I hope that these rules and ideas have opened your eyes to what you must do to keep your dog safe and secure while out and on the move.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.