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How to transport a dog correctly in a car?

This is a question I get quite often. I will answer this question from a safety perspective, and not considering how well trained a dog is or not.

For example, I have had Border Collies my entire life. And I trained them to compete in Dog Agility trials. Therefore, all my dogs have always been very used to traveling. And not just by car but also by plane. One of my dogs visited 13 different countries in our prime time competing.

Therefore, I pretty much can say that given the level of training that my dogs have been subjected to since they were very young, and because they are so used to traveling, I could very well leave them sitting in the back seat, calmly. However, this is something I have never done. And why? Since my dogs are very well trained, why not? The answer is simple. Safety.

If we are going to talk about this topic considering the safety of dogs, we immediately need to eliminate the idea of transporting dogs loose in the car. A dog loose in the back seat can easily fly between the front seats and crash violently into the car's windshield in the event of a minor accident. I don't know if you know, but accidents happen. And they usually happen when we're not expecting. No matter how good a driver you are, believe me, they happen.

Recent researches show that accidents where the vehicle is traveling at 35 miles per hour are fatal for 70% of dogs loose in the back seat. At this speed, the dog is thrown forward, and can collide violently against the front seats, or even worse, be thrown between the front seats and collide against the windshield.

In accidents above 45 miles per hour, the chance of survival for a dog loose in a car drops to 10%. In the case of rollovers then, the chance is almost zero.

What about dogs traveling with their heads out of the window? Not to scare anyone, but in the United States alone, 246 dogs were decapitated in 2023 for riding with their heads out of the window. At speeds above 60 miles per hour, a dog can be decapitated by a simple line or branch. Not to mention dogs that lost eyes, and parts of their ears due to colliding with objects.

Driving with your dog on your lap? Another error. No matter how well trained your dog is, he is just an animal and can move, get his paw stuck on the steering wheel, and cause an accident. In 2022, an accident that caused the death of 4 people happened when a dog jumped from the driver's lap to the ground, and pushed the gas pedal completely down. Three cars involved, and like I said, 4 deaths.

So where should I transport my dog in the car?

There are two viable and safe options. But only one, I would say, is almost 100% safe.

The first one would be to use a seat belt with a harness. This type of technique helps a lot in cases of small accidents, preventing your dog from being thrown forward in cases of small collisions. However, the seat belt needs to be well adjusted, and in such a way that your dog does not have so much freedom. If the belt is too long, your dog will be thrown forward in the same way.

The only disadvantage when using a seat belt is in the case of rollovers. If you have an accident like these, even with a seat belt, your dog will roll around in the car. Which can cause serious internal injuries. Even so, it will be much better than if he was loose, what would significantly reduce his chances of survival.

And what is the best option?

Tried, tested, and approved! There is no safer way to transport your dog. Yes, inside a crate. Place the crate in the back seat, and secure it with the seat belt in a way that it cannot move. It is extremely important that the crate is securely attached. So, put your dog inside it.

With the dog inside the crate, you eliminate any possibility of your dog being thrown in the event of an accident. And even in high-speed accidents, your dog will collide with the inside of the crate, but at a low speed because his body won't have enough space to reach a high speed. Pure physics.

Second, in the case of rollovers, your dog will roll inside the crate, but in a small, controlled area, greatly reducing the possibility of external and internal injuries.

Research shows that dogs transported inside crates have a chance of survival in cases of accidents of more than 85%.

An important detail is that the crate must be the appropriate size for your dog. It cannot be too small and uncomfortable, nor too big so that he can be thrown inside of it.

Next time you go for a ride with your dog, think more about his well-being.

Marco Magiolo is a bestselling author, trainer, and speaker. Connect with Marco on social media and subscribe to future newsletters and updates.

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