5 Tips for Driving with Dogs

Travel Safety Tips When Driving With Dogs

Updated April 3, 2017 . AmFam Team

Having your dog along for the ride makes is always fun. But do you know how to travel safely with your furry friend? Take a look at this helpful guide and brush up on how to stay safe when driving with dogs.

“Want to go in the car?” Ears perk up. Tail wiggles and wags. A furry celebration ensues. From their loyal companionship to their bright-eyed love for new people and places, dogs make wonderful copilots on the road and at home.

And not unlike their human counterparts, pups have special health and safety considerations when they jump in your car. Here’s a peek at a few ways to keep your canine friends cruising happily.

The Importance of Dog Tags, Cell Phone Numbers & Microchip IDs

Whenever you venture out with your dog, there’s a slight chance that you and your pet may get separated. Here are some helpful tips so the two of you can be reunited if that should happen.

Update the dog tags. For a few dollars at most large pet supply stores, you can purchase tags and update them with your current cell phone number and other contact information. This way, your updated contact information and cell phone number will be available for anyone that finds your dog.

Get the chip. If you haven’t “chipped” your dog, make an appointment with your vet and do it soon. Even without a collar or dog tags, this under-the-skin chip can help ID the dog and contact you when your dog’s been found.

Is Unrestrained Driving With Dogs Illegal in Your State?

A handful of states across the US have prohibited driving with an unrestrained dog in the car. A larger number of states have vague laws, but fines may result. Here are a few ways drivers can be cited for improperly transporting animals in their vehicles:

Crimes against animals. A few states have “crimes against animals” statues that claim it’s illegal to transport an animal in or on a vehicle in a malicious manner.

Inattentive and distracted driving. Making it illegal to drive with a dog in the front seat or on the lap of a driver, several states are levying the operator with an inattentive driving citation.

Transporting an animal in a cruel or inhumane way. Some states claim that transporting your unrestrained dog in the bed of your pickup truck equates to this type of violation.

Failure to safely transport your dog. In states that do have pet safety statues on the books, dogs are to be transported in an enclosed area secured within a crate. They may also be restrained with a harness or with seat belt that’s designed for canine use in a vehicle. Another qualifying option is for the pet to be under the control of a person other than the driver.

Dog Seat Belts Are a Great Answer

One of the best ways to keep your pooch safe while driving is to pick up a dog seat belt and harness. Here’s what you need to know:

Learn about dog restraints. Not sure which safety devices are best for your four-legged friend? From safety research to recall info, the Center for Pet Safety (Opens in a new tab) is a great place to weigh your options.

Seatbelt harnesses. While dog harnesses look a lot like human seatbelts, many aren’t actually guaranteed for safety. Instead, check that the harness you buy has certified crash test ratings before picking one up.

Restrict roaming. Don’t let your pup roam freely in your car. That’s where special equipment can help keep curious paws from wandering. It can really help keep you and your passengers safe.

Bark in back. Just like small children, all dogs are safer traveling in the back of the car. Airbags in the front passenger seat can be unsafe no matter what breed, size or how well-behaved your dog is.

The Importance of Transport Carriers for Road Trips

Using a transport carrier — a specially-designed kennel for your car — is a safe and effective way to get your pet from A to B. Verify that the one you’re using is well-ventilated, made of crash-tested materials, and the right size for your pup.

A general rule of thumb is that the crate should be six inches longer than your dog’s body. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing the crate. In some instances it’s actually safer not to strap it down.

Approach Long Distance Trips With Pets Carefully

When you’ll be making longer trips with your dog, be sure you consider creature comforts first and foremost. Transport carriers are great for trips like these because your ride will likely be packed pretty tightly. Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe on a long trip:

Stock up on essentials. Already packing a car kit for yourself? Besides emergency supplies and snacks for your crew, pack extra doggie waste bags, dog food and plenty of water in case your furry friend needs a pick-me-up along the way.

Don’t leave your dog in the car. Many dogs love being in the car with their owners, but it’s different to be left alone in one. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car — even if the windows are down on a hot day. Many stores allow you to bring your pup inside now, so take advantage of that!

Make frequent pet stops. You need to stretch your legs on longer road trips — and so does your fur ball. Keep tails wagging by stopping along the way for a quick romp, food and water, and a good old-fashioned belly rub.

Whether you’re planning your next cross-country adventure or just heading out to the bark park for the pooch to stretch her legs, plan on checking in with your American Family Insurance agent soon. You’ll find they’re the perfect resource for lining you up with the personal umbrella insurance protection to keep you, the members of your family and your finances safe.

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