I was in Woodstock last Saturday working with a new Home Dog Training client and his three-month-old Bichon named Margaret. Margaret was a very loving puppy and my client’s biggest problem was that he was spoiling her to death. This meant that she could demand whatever she wanted whenever she wanted and my client would snap to attention and do her bidding. I needed to turn this around so that he could make sure that Margaret understood his “house rules”. It took a little bit “of explaining”, but as soon as I started to show my client how Margaret behaved when given direction and passive authority, he was amazed. We quickly let Margaret understand that, even though she was super cute and extremely cuddly, she still had to follow my client’s “house rules”.
As I was finishing up the lesson, I asked if there were any other issues we needed to address. My client thought for a moment and then said he had one more concern. He loved to show Margaret off and take her to the store, his friends, and even to his doctor. I told him that taking Margaret to his doctor was probably a bad idea. On the other hand, having her out and about while he was showing her that he was keeping her safe was a wonderful bonding exercise. The issue we needed to address was if he was properly keeping her safe in the car.
As many of you know, I have written about this in earlier articles, but if you are a new puppy owner with a cute and lovable puppy, I am going to reinforce this to you now. Let’s think about this for a moment, the automobile engineers in Detroit did not design your car for dogs, they designed your car for you (a human)! Because of this, you have to make sure that your new puppy is safe while he is in the car with you. An open window or air bag is unsafe and will cause injury or death to your puppy if not properly managed. I hope I have now gotten your attention.
I go bat crazy when I see a driver with their puppy in their lap when they are driving. I hate it when I see someone letting their dog stick his head out an open window when the car is traveling sixty, seventy, or eighty miles an hour. These are simply two examples of many that are just not right for your puppy in the car. Here are my puppy car safety rules you must take to heart:
- Do not have your puppy ride in your lap while driving. This distracts your ability to properly steer the car and watch for obstacles ahead. If your puppy slips off your lap, he could get down by your feet greatly impairing your ability to accelerate or (more importantly) stop the vehicle.
- Never let your puppy stick their head out the window. This goes if the car isn’t even moving. If your car is moving at a high rate of speed, the wind passing by your car just outside the window delivers a very large amount of backward force on whatever “comes out the window”. Just think of sticking your hand our arm out the window when you are on the interstate. When your puppy sticks his head out the window, it could easily snap his head backwards and greatly harm or even kill him. Even when the car is stopped, access to the open window greatly increases your puppy’s actions of jumping out of the car.
- Do not put your puppy in the front right seat of your car unless you can turn off the passenger seat airbag. This gets back to the “the car was built for humans” issue that I mentioned above. If you have your dog in the front passenger seat (“shotgun”) and the airbag deploys, it can greatly harm or even kill your dog. This is because the airbag deploys with the force needed to stop an average human (150lbs) in the vicinity of their chest. This will stop the human and won’t greatly hurt the human. Your puppy may weigh only ten to fifteen pounds and his head may be in the center of the deployment target for the airbag. When the airbag deploys towards them, the force they experience is devastating.
- You must have your puppy properly secured while they are in the car. Even if the car is stopped, your puppy should still be secured. Your puppy should never “be loose” in the car. If you slam on the breaks or even turn quickly, they can be thrown and slam into seats, people, windows, or the windshield. If there is an open window, they could even be thrown out of the car. You should always have your dog in a crate or secured with a “seatbelt leash” so that they will never become “inappropriately airborne”.
- It is best if you provide a “trip diversion” for your puppy to keep him calm and focused within the car. Even if you have done all of the “above things”, your puppy may become bored and distracted. He may start barking and become a distraction. This can cause you to take your mind off driving and put both of you in an unsafe situation. Before you start your car ride, spend time playing with your puppy to get some of his energy out and have him want to have “some nap time”. Bring some of his favorite toys for the ride. Chew toys such as deer antlers are great diversions. Food toys such as Kong Toys with frozen peanut butter can keep your puppy engaged and focused for a very long time. If needed, give him a few drops of Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy to calm and relax him.
These are just a few rules that I feel are critical when you and your puppy are traveling in the car. Follow them and you are off to a great start of having great car trips with your puppy!
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.