The dog should never be in the front seat on your lap. Not only is this distracting, but if you are in an accident the dog will be squashed between your body and the steering wheel. There is also a danger that the dog could jump off your lap and onto the floor by the gas, and brake pedals, an obviously bad place for a dog to be.
Some areas require dogs traveling in cars be restrained under the law. Even if your area does not have such a rule, it is a good safety guide to keep your dog secured in some way. This can be by use of a dog crate, dog safety belt, or a doggy barrier that confines it to the back of such vehicles as station wagons. The idea is that if you are in an accident your dog is safer than if they are loose, as they would likely go through the windshield. Additionally they are restrained from interfering with the driver.
In an accident this dog would be thrown forward hitting the drivers head, or going through the front window.
Dogs should never be loose in back of an open truck. In an accident the dog would be thrown or likely pinned under a rolled vehicle. Additionally the air is drying and could quickly dehydrate a dog. Dust and other debris could get into a dogs eye and cause serious problems. Traveling with a dog in this way is illegal in some areas.
Some dogs suffer from motion sickness. It is therefore advisable not to feed a dog just before a trip. It is better to have it travel on an empty stomach. If your dog is prone to car sickness either leave it at home, or discuss medication for travel (including some used on people) with your veterinarian.
Some dogs get stressed when traveling in the car. This may be from lack of exposure to care travel, a symptom of getting car sick, or may have another cause. Owners who need to take a dog with them may consider sedating a nervous dog, but this is a risk you should use only as a last resort, and only with veterinarian guidance. A sedated dog may have a problem requiring emergency veterinarian attention, and depend where you are in your trip, this may be hard to find. Instead get the dog familiar with the car by going on several short trips, and occasionally just sitting in the vehicle with the dog, but not going anywhere. A dog who is use to going in a crate will consider the crate a safe place for the drive.
Allowing a dog to put its head out the window is also putting the dog at risk for getting a foreign object in the eye. As well it exposes the dog to lots of nasty chemicals from the car exhaust. If you must, at least get the dog some proper dog eye goggles.
One of the biggest dangers to dogs in cars is becoming overheated when left in a parked car. Even with the windows cracked open, and being parked in the shade, a car can quickly heat up and be a death trap for the dog. A car parked in the sun can heat by as much as 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) in less than half an hour, and will continue to warm. Make no mistake dogs have died in cars where the outside temperatures are in the low 80’s. A contributing factor is that occasionally the owner is away from the car longer than they expected.
Always travel with a dog emergency kit. This means a container for water as well as a spare leash and collar. If your car breaks down you will be grateful to have those with you. If you are traveling out of your local area, this emergency kit should also contain your dogs health record, and veterinarians phone number.
In summary, yes most dogs enjoy a ride in the car, but unless the ride is necessary for them to be on, consider if you will be putting them at risk at any point, as when traveling on a hot day, and having to leave them. Sometimes it is just better to leave the dog at home.
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