Even though Colorado doesn’t have any specific laws that prohibit driving with a dog loose in the car, it’s unsafe to do so regardless. Whether you’re just taking your dog to the vet or on a long road trip, follow these tips to drive safely with your dog in the car.
Keep Your Dog in the Back Seat
Some dogs are insistent about sitting in the front with their head sticking out the window to pick up scents of the city. Unfortunately, this behavior can be quite dangerous. First of all, bugs or debris could hit your dog in the face and cause injury. The heavy airflow from sticking his head out the window could even cause respiratory distress, especially if it’s chilly outside.
Second, the passenger-side airbag is great for protecting adults from severe injury in a car crash, but your dog could be hurt if the airbag goes off while he’s sitting in the front seat. If your vehicle lacks this feature, it actually makes it safer for your dog to sit up front, provided that he’s properly restrained.
Invest in a Restraint Harness
Your dog may complain at first about being restrained in the car, but he’ll get used to it, especially if you make this the norm from day one. A harness is one of the best ways to drive safely with your dog in the car, particularly if you own a large breed, and it’s more comfortable than you might think.
Most restraint harnesses allow you to connect them directly to the seatbelt, and there’s enough leeway for your dog to move around a little and lie down. Small to medium-sized breeds may appreciate the type that comes with a bed-like box along with the harness to lie down in.
Install a Dog Gate
If you own a station wagon or SUV with an open storage bay area, you have another way to drive safely with your dog in the car—you can install a dog gate between the back seat and the storage area. This gives your dog independence to move around freely in a relatively open area. This is ideal whether you have one or multiple dogs.
Be sure to place a doggie bed back there for greater comfort, and lay down a waterproof liner to soak up accidents, especially on long car rides. If your dog becomes sick riding in the back, consider switching to the restraint harness option.
Have Your Dog Ride in a Crate
This can replace the restraint harness if your dog and the crate are small enough to place on the back seat. As an added precaution, buckle the crate in so it can’t slide off the front of the seat if you slam on your brakes. For large breeds, a crate in the storage bay area can take the place of a dog gate.
Never Let Your Dog Loose in the Truck Bed
For some people, dogs and an open truck bed go together as naturally as bacon and eggs. But thousands of dogs are killed each year while riding in the back of a truck, largely from being hit by road debris or falling out of the vehicle. The fast air movement can also wreak havoc on a dog’s nose and lungs, so play it safe and keep your dog in the cab.
Teach Your Dog Proper Car-Riding Behavior
If your dog gives you trouble about riding in the car, especially with the new restraining methods you’ve put in place, take time to train the behavior you want. Give your dog a treat every time you get in the car together, and ride to fun places such as the dog park. Soon, your dog should associate his harness, crate, or riding in the back with treats and fun, and therefore stop giving you flack.
Keep Your Dog Comfortable on Long Rides
When your dog joins you on a road trip, make sure you have the things you need to keep him comfortable and calm. Stress and anxiety can manifest as car sickness, which makes a big mess.
Find out which riding method works best for your dog: being restrained with a harness, in a crate, or loose in the storage bay area. Talk to your pup frequently during the ride to offer him comforting attention. Make sure he eats a good meal before you leave, and provide frequent food, water, and potty breaks during the ride.
Never Leave Your Dog Alone in a Hot Car
Statistics don’t lie—dogs die in hot cars every summer. Even if you’re slipping into the gas station “just for a minute,” don’t leave your pup cooped up in the car. It’s not enough to roll the windows down a crack or pull into the shade. In Colorado, it’s legal for onlookers to break into your car if they have reasonable belief that the dog inside is in danger. On hot days, it’s best to leave your dog at home where he’s safe and sound.