Texting gets the worst rap these days, but distracted driving can have many causes — including your beloved canine. That’s right: Your pooch’s barking, whining, and even incredibly cute antics take your attention off the road, making you a danger to other drivers, yourself, and even your dog.
Our partner Subaru, maker of dog-tested, dog-approved vehicles, wants to make sure you’re safe whether you’re out running errands or taking the great American road trip. Here are our top tips for keeping your distractingly adorable dog at bay.
Consider the stats. Think distracted driving isn’t a big deal? Think again. “An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure,” says Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager. “Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in its path.”
Get ready. A hungry, squirrely, or otherwise anxious dog makes keepin’ your eyes on the road extra difficult. Ensure Fido is properly fed, watered, worn out, and — ahem — relieved before loading him in the car. And don’t forget to pack that pet first-aid kit, plenty of water, and anything else that’ll help keep your pup content.
Restrain Rover. Your pooch should be properly restrained any time you’re hittin’ the road. Thankfully Subaru and the Center for Pet Safety are researching pet-safety restraints (look for the results right here on SidewalkDog.com this fall). Meanwhile, mind the CPS’s advice. And this likely goes without saying, but the only safe place for Sadie is inside the vehicle.
Practice, practice, practice. Pup never buckled up before? Give her plenty of time to get used to your restraint of choice and the idea of a car ride. Enlist the help of a trainer if needed. Take short test-drives to show her the ropes and gauge how your pooch’ll do before any major trip.
Enlist help. Recruit a pal to ride shotgun to help address your pup’s needs, especially if your canine is still getting used to the car. (Subsequently take this friend out for happy hour, natch.)
Roll ’em up. Don’t let your pooch hang out an open window. It’s a dangerous habit that can result in eye and ear injuries — or worse. Keep her occupied with her favorite (quiet) toys.
Let it be. Once you and Fido are all settled in, resist the urge to pet, play, or — heaven forbid — take pics. (Don’t worry: He’ll be just as cute when you reach your destination.)
Pull over. Need to make an adjustment to your pup’s restraint or quell her nerves? Don’t try to multitask. Find the next safe opportunity to pull over and give your dog your undivided attention.
Mind the golden rule. Never ever even think about leaving your pooch unattended in a vehicle, especially during these sizzling summer months. Check out this vid made by a vet who spent 30 minutes in a parked car to see what your pet experiences.
Come to terms. Dog not diggin’ the car? It just might not be his transportation mode of choice. Now’s the time to consider how important it is that Rover hits the road with you. Vital? Tap a professional to help with more in-depth training.