The cooler fall temperatures allow many dog enthusiasts to resume the enjoyable act of taking our dogs along with us in the car. Even the most dreaded errands are made easier with our happy little dog along for the ride.
Your vehicle should always be packed with the basic dog necessities: a leash (no retractable leashes in public areas, please) and secure collar for potty breaks, a supply of water and a bowl to pour it in, poop bags, and some tasty treats and chews to keep your pooch occupied while alone in the car.
Although it’s obvious that dogs love hanging their heads out the window as we rush along, there is a risk of injury to the eyes from colliding with insects, weed seed and other debris. It’s best to crack the windows only, or take the time to teach your dog that wearing goggles is perfectly normal and use them on car trips to protect the eyes.
Without question, the safest way for dogs to travel in the car is secured in a crate. In the event of an accident, if the dog is ejected he will most likely survive if crated, and will not be able to run away in a panic from the scene. Another option for securing your dog is via a canine seatbelt.
Allowing a dog to ride loose in the back of a pickup is not only extremely dangerous, it’s illegal. He must be tethered, but this is still not a safe form of transport as it leaves him exposed to flying debris and extremely vulnerable in the event of an accident. Improperly tethered dogs can jump or fall out of the truck bed and hang themselves.
A sobering fact that takes a lot of fun out of having your dog along for company is the risk of theft. Always lock your doors when running errands, and crack the windows enough for ventilation only. Think ahead about where you’ll be going and leave your dog at home if you feel you’ll be in an unsafe or risky area.
Take the time to teach your dog appropriate car riding behavior if he remains loose, which includes leaving the driver alone. Drivers have enough to focus on without having to deal with incessant barking, ear licking or overly eager lap jumpers. Teach your dog the rules of the car during special training sessions when you are not the driver, or from a parked position if you are alone. Attach a leash if needed, and use it to gently teach your dog where his boundaries are. If limited to the back seat, make sure he is placed back in that direction each time he attempts to move to the front. Giving him a delicious project to chew on – like a bone, tendon, pig ear or Kong filled with cheese or peanut butter – will help settle him down and keep him safely in the back long term.
Well behaved dogs are welcome in some retail locations – think outdoor nurseries, home improvement stores, and eateries with seating outside. But choose wisely; if your dog doesn’t particularly enjoy being around strangers, or is barky or fearful of new places, avoid these public spaces. Seek the help of a professional trainer if your dog needs help adjusting to public venues; training should take place in other, more remote locations. It is such a treat to take our well-mannered dog along with us into some of these welcoming places, and it is our duty and responsibility to make a good impression with a polite and unobtrusive dog, so we can all continue to enjoy this special privilege. And always, always, pick up after your dog.
Wait until the weather is predictably cool before resuming this pleasurable activity, then enjoy! Every day’s a good day when you spend it with dogs.
Lisa Moore’s pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.