Expert Tips for Traveling with Small Dogs
Among the numerous dog breeds out there, small dogs are perhaps the cutest and most adorable dogs that you would ever get to see. Moreover, these dogs are so lightweight that they could even weigh as low as 2 pounds!
With their small stature, they are one of the most versatile dogs because they could easily adapt in small paces such as apartments. Moreover, their sizes make them so portable that transport is relatively easy, making them great travel buddies as well.
Despite being portable however, like most dogs they easily get uncomfortable in unfamiliar places like inside moving vehicles and whether you’d like to go on a road trip with your dog or even to drive to vet, having your pooch get used to staying in the car for extended periods of time is necessary.
On another note, road safety is overlooked more frequently than one would like to think. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) have reported that in 2009, 20% of car crashes were due to distracted drivers and the percentage haven’t dwindled down throughout the years. The recorded top distractions were cellphones but what came to a close second is having unrestrained pets in the vehicle. From the same study, More than four of five people agree that unrestrained dogs while driving have caused them to be momentarily distracted.
Despite the staggering numbers, many are still lax when it comes to road safety. Even if you are driving with a small dog, many fail to realize that even a dog that weighs a mere 5 pounds can become a deadly projectile with a force of 125 pounds that lunges at a speed of 25 mph in a collision.
A dog that’s uncomfortable in a moving vehicle and also unrestrained, does not bode well for the dog, driver and anyone in the road for that matter. Overall, road safety has been easily overlooked, costing lives along the process.
With that in mind, it is our duty as pet parents to train our dogs to behave in a car ride and also take the necessary safety precautions. So where do you even start? What safety equipment are available to ensure both you and your dog’s safety?
When you decide to hit the road, you should have at least one of these but how do you know which works best?
Personally as a pet parent myself, I would prefer putting my dog in a crate when on the road if my car had a lot of cargo space. If you are driving an SUV type car or any of its variant where there is ample cargo space and away from a crumple zone, a crate is the way to go. Since the place is enclosed, your dog would be safer.
When using a crate however, there is a need to crate train your dog as well but when you are have successfully trained your dog, transport would be significantly easier. Your dog would be more comfortable too since the enclosed space is something that he is familiar with and since he is away from the drive, there is a less likely chance of unwanted distractions.
Since crates are generally bigger, the suitability of using it would depend on the type of car you drive.
2. Dog Car Seat
If your car is not big and the cargo area is also a crumple zone, you would have to opt for your dog to sit inside the car with you. When you do this, it is best to put your dog on the second row, away from the driver. Car seats are most ideal for small dogs because it also acts as a booster seat to give your dog a better view when the vehicle is moving making them more relaxed.
However, with the various car seats available in the market, it is easy to buy the wrong kind. Some dog car seats are simply modified dog beds which does little to nothing when it comes to safety. Look for a doggy car seat that come with dog harnesses that secure the chest area and not the neck.
Dog car seats such as this Domestic Delivery Dog Travel Safety Carrier and Pet Car Carrier are an ideal reference for a good car seat.
In an event of a collision, the chest area can withstand more pressure, keeping your dog safe and intact. With a leash that goes around the neck however, this may choke your dog when he gets projected forward.
3. Safety Dog Harness
Your dog may be more comfortable being secured in a seatbelt instead of a sitting on a car seat. With that, you would have to opt for a dog harness and when you do, make sure that the harness goes around the chest and can be properly secured on the car’s seatbelt buckles.
When you are driving an SUV type car and your dog is more on the larger scale, a barrier would work best when installed in the cargo area of the car. For smaller dogs and smaller cars however, putting a barrier in between the driver’s row and the second row is most ideal.
In my case when I drive my dog around, I put him on the second row on the dog car seat with a mesh barrier in between us. That way, it is ensured that I wouldn’t get distracted and if the harness on his seat would not be enough, the mesh barrier adds a layer of protection for him not to lunge forward.
There are two kinds of barriers. One is mesh and the other steel. Both offer protection but this would depend on personal preference on what kind to choose.
Now that you have a grasp on the safety equipment that you can choose from, the next task would be how to have your dog get used to car rides or even enjoy them? To do this, I bank on positive reinforcement. Basically, I reward my dog whenever he does something right and encourage him through praising him.
This depends on the kind of safety equipment that I would use. If you have opted using a crate, this would be easy. When it comes to crate training, I throw a treat inside the crate and when they get inside, I close it and ask them to stay inside and after a full minute I coax them back outside for a treat. The more this is done, the longer the time that they would stay in the crate and when I feel like they have grasped the concept, I’d have my dog stay inside at random times such as having them stay for 15 minutes straight inside, 5 minutes and so on.
If however, you have opted to use a dog harness, start introducing the harness and basically have them get used to it and the same principle is done with a doggy car seat.
2. Getting inside the car.
When you feel that your dog has gotten the hand of having a safety equipment attached to them or used in a crate, try getting inside the vehicle without driving. Allow them to get used to the foreign environment.
3. Trips that lead to nowhere.
After successfully getting through the second step, try driving for a few minutes and observing how your dog reacts. This would be the most crucial because dogs can get car sick too and this is more evident the younger the pup is. Since you will be most likely start training as soon as you can, observe your dog for symptoms like lethargy and excessive drooling.
Pro tip: To prevent car sickness, train when your dog has eaten enough but not with a full stomach. That way, they wouldn’t get car sick as much.
4. You are now ready.
When you feel that your dog is able to get through the whole ride, you are now ready to drive him around and when you do this, you also have to take a few precautions.
One, which has been previously stated, is to have your dog sit at the second row and not shotgun. Because the dog is nearer to the driver’s proximity, chances of getting distracted are higher. Moreover, airbags could bring potential harm to dogs. it may keep a human safe because it is designed for humans but not dogs.
Second, drive with the windows up. As much as we would like to see our imaginations come to life with our dog’s head out the window, there might be debris that will fall or hit them on their face.
Third, never put an unrestrained dog at the back of a pickup truck. You never know if your dog would suddenly jump out of the vehicle and may cause accidents on the road. Moreover, some places have regulations against this and breaking the law may demand you to pay more than a ticket. There is also the concern if the weather is too hot or too cold for your dog to even stay at the back.
If however you are in the clear that no regulations against dogs at the back of trucks apply, make sure that your dog is in a crate and the crate properly tethered at the back.
All of us have a role to play in road safety. Most especially when we are driving with our beloved pooches, we have to ensure that they are safe and comfortable for the benefit of every pedestrian and drivers alike. You may think that you can simply hold on to your small dog but you never know what happens on the road. Let us all do our part in road safety and do our due diligence as responsible pet parents.