No one wants to suffer a car accident with a pet in the car, but we should all be prepared for such a nightmare scenario. No matter their size, dogs need to be restrained in a vehicle. In addition to being a safety hazard for the dog, an unrestrained animal can be a dangerous distraction for the driver. In fact, in 2009, 20% of distracted driving crashes were the direct result of a driver having their focus drawn to a loose dog in the car.
Restraining Dogs in Cars: Travel Harnesses
Travel harnesses are a fantastic way for pet parents to limit distraction while also keeping their dog safe in the car. A harness works by securing the dog’s body, generally through shoulder and lap belts, and clipping to the car’s seat in a variety of forms. These harnesses allow dogs some freedom of movement while also ensuring that the dog cannot interfere with the driver. Additionally, a travel harness will ensure that, in the event of a crash, the dog will remain secure and stay safer than a loose dog.
Choosing a Travel Harness
There are literally hundreds of pet travel harnesses on the market today. In order to choose the one that is right for your pet, you will need to consider the product’s crash testing results. Look for one that is certified by the Center for Pet Safety.
Additionally, it is important to ensure that the device fits your pet well. The same way a seatbelt cannot protect a human if it is too loose, a travel harness cannot protect a dog if it is ill-fitted or improperly secured. Ensure that you purchase a harness that is made specifically for your dog’s size and weight and utilize the help of a trained professional to check that the harness fits the dog as well as possible.
Training the Dog to the Harness
Once you have chosen a harness, it is important to acclimate your dog to its presence. A dog that has never seen a travel harness before and is suddenly forced to wear it on a long road trip will likely become distressed and anxious, which may actually be more of a distraction than having the dog loose in the car.
That said, it is imperative to introduce the dog to the harness slowly. To begin, use the travel harness for small trips around town before asking your dog to wear it for a long period of time. Start at trips lasting no longer than 5 minutes and slowly work your way up. While your pet wears the harness, be sure to offer plenty of positive reassurance and reinforcement.
Although it may take the dog some time to get used to the harness, acclimating the dog slowly will allow the dog to form positive associations and see the harness as a safe and fun piece of equipment rather than a frightening restraint.
If you travel often with your pet, it is wise to invest in a certified pet travel harness. In addition to keeping dogs safe in the unfortunate event of a crash, these harnesses can also help decrease the rate of distracted driving crashes and make car travel safer for everyone in the family.