While summer and fall are fantastic times to spend time in the great outdoors, what makes it even better is spending this time with our families. And most pet owners consider their pets part of the family.

People automatically buckle up when entering a car, but do you do the same for your dog? Car safety for dogs is serious business, and today we’ll be taking a closer look at how to make sure your dog stays safe when traveling in your car.

Driver Distraction is a Huge Problem

According to the Center for Pet Safety, “Preventing many accidents starts with distraction prevention. Placing your phone in the back seat of the vehicle or placing it in airplane mode is recommended by many experts. But what about the family pet? Center for Pet Safety actively supports distraction prevention efforts – we all know that prevention is the first line of defense. As a pet owner, you need to evaluate what you are wanting from a product prior to purchase.”

Although you’ve surely seen dogs on their owner’s laps while driving, it is unsafe. The safest place for your pet is in the back seat. Dogs in the front seat can be distracting. Jumping, barking and other dog behaviors have the potential to distract drivers and put everyone in the car at risk.

Use Only Crash-Tested Harnesses

There is some reason to believe that tether products (harness extensions) are not always safer. According to the Center for Pet Safety, “Pets are essentially “clothes-lined” by extension tethers – they launch forward and snap back with the spine incurring the most damage.  Reports of paralysis, blunt force trauma – and in some cases the spine has been damaged so severely that the internal organs could no longer function, and the dog had to be humanely euthanized.”

Crates: A Home Away from Home

For dogs who love their crate, it’s a good way to transport them. Crates make your dog feel safe, secure and most of all – comfortable. The travel crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in.

Crates should be chosen so that your dog fits comfortably and that it fits properly in your car. The crate should be placed in the back seat or in a trunk (like the trunk of an SUV). Generally, crates are only suitable for small and medium-sized dogs since large dogs need very large crates.

Take Breaks

Another great way for you and your pet to stay safe is to take breaks often. This is vital not only because your dog could use a stretch of the legs, but because you need to stay safe too. Rest and refocus so you can continue on your trip!

Obviously, you don’t want your dog locked away for hours on end as you drive, but you need to keep your mental sharpness too. If you’re in for a long ride, be sure to consider your breaks. Driving for hours without stop is a sure way to stress yourself out.

Stop at rest stops and take your pooch for a quick jaunt. It will help wake you up and will let you and your dog bond for a bit before jumping back into the car.

Watch for High Temperatures

Cars are not very well ventilated in general. This means that you or your dog can become hot rather quickly. Be sure to keep the air conditioning on while you travel.

Many dogs love to hang their heads out the window of a car. It can be exhilarating for them to feel the wind in their fur and take in all the new scents of different areas, but open windows can be dangerous. Not only can your dog find a way out the windows if they are not secured, high winds can cause eye irritation by drying your dog’s eyes.

While a lot of people prefer to open the windows rather than use the air conditioning in a car, it really is the safest way to keep you and your dog cool while traveling in high temperatures. Be sure to also start your car a minute early to allow your air conditioner to cool your car after its been parked for a while.

Plan for the Best & Prepare for the Worst

Car safety for dogs is serious business. There are many companies that claim to offer the safest solution for any dog, but in the end, it comes down to what you are comfortable with. What is going to make you and your dog happy for an extended car ride?

Harnesses are a great choice for larger dogs, as there really is no better option if their crate will not fit in your car. However, only use harnesses that have been crash-tested.

But remember that the safest place for any dog is always going to be in a crate. The best-case scenario is that their crate will fit in the trunk of an SUV.

While we all may want to paint the idyllic picture of a dog breathing the free air of the open road, really the safest place for them is tucked away safely.

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