Monday, August 23, 2010

How Not To Bring Your Dog With You!

I was happily driving along, heading out to pick up some pet supplies when I noticed something in the back of the truck in front of me. Now, people that know me, know that I do dog transports most weekends, and often have several dogs in the Jeep with me (I was scheduled for three little dogs that could ride in the truck on Saturday, but it turned out they didn't need me so, saved gas, I guess). What I may not have mentioned is that dogs in vehicles should either be secure in a crate, or tethered, for their safety as well as others'. Well, this poor dog was not only not tethered, but wasn't wearing a collar either.


Just think of all the horrible things that could happen to this dog! I hate to be a pessimist (usually), but I would be too scared to even contemplate letting my dog (no matter how well-trained) just ride loose like this! Something could fly into his eye or ear, causing damage. If you slammed on the brakes for whatever reason, he could go flying out, or smash into the side or front of the truck bed. He could pick this one time to jump out, even though you've totally trained not to ever do that, and you know your dog would stay no matter what. Some idiot could rear end you, sending him flying into their windshield, or through your back window. Somebody could hit you from any direction, sending him flying wherever. And if he is hurt in an accident, he's also now loose, possibly injured, and all sorts of things can happen. He could be in pain and bite somebody, he could be frightened and run away, he could scare people if he is the type to guard you... the list goes on and on and on.

Now I'm not saying, "Never ever ever put your dog in the back of a truck or you are a horrible person!". But I think you should consider very carefully if this is a risk you are willing to take. Would you put your kids back there with no way to stay safe? Who am I kidding, a lot of people would, but that's a rant for another day. What I'm trying to say is, you do need to think about what you're doing, and be aware of safety issues for your animals if you love them. Only a few states have laws about pets as passengers, so be aware of that as well. Here's what I would recommend if you're going to take your dog with you. Consider using a crate, so your dog can ride in comfort. There's nothing wrong with putting a nice blanket or bed in a crate, and letting your dog ride in there, and maybe sleep while on the road. Tether your dog (please use a harness, as a collar can hurt their neck if there was an accident) safely in the back seat, or cargo area of your vehicle. Unless you can turn off your air bags in the passenger seat, the front may not be the safest place.

I'm not going to claim that I've never screwed up, and that I've always been perfect about this. But I've been injured in car accidents in the past, and I'd hate to know that a simple measure or two is all I needed to do to prevent my dogs being injured far worse in an accident. While the Jeep is in the shop, I've still needed to get the dogs over to the dog park for some running loose time, and I have to make do with the pickup... so I've strapped two crates down securely in the back of the truck. One crate holds Lassie and Krissie (the two smallest dogs we have), and the other holds either Missy or Jupiter. And, the last dog gets to ride in the passenger seat of the truck with me, tethered (usually Jupiter rides up front on the way there, and Missy rides up front on the way home). I've got tarps pinned over the top to prevent them from debris flying at them, I avoid the interstate and drive through town, where I am going at a lower speed, and I can turn off my passenger side airbag. Once the Jeep is home, I'll go back to that, and each dog has a tether point in the back that I use (there's not enough room for enough crates for them all back there). I generally just leave their blankets and cushions in the car all the time, so we can hop in at a moment's notice and go.

And something else... that dog wasn't wearing a collar. Now, he may be microchipped (our dogs are... well Jupiter will be soon), but tags are important too. I have two tags on our dogs... one on their harness, and one on a loose reflective collar. That way if I do manage to lose a dog (it's happened before, and I'm a worrier at times), if/when somebody finds them, they can get in touch with one of us. I actually do not keep their rabies tags and city license tags on their collars, because when they play rough, they sometimes manage to rip tags off, and I don't want to lose those. I'm working hard on good recall for all of the dogs, and they are doing fairly well at it, but they do still get distracted, so I feel it's important to make sure they are identifiable if they do manage somehow to get away.

Well, I haven't managed to get to sleep yet, so I'm going to go do some work, and see if I can't wear myself out enough to sleep tonight. Insomnia is so not fun, y'all. I'm betting I'll be taking a nap later on, whether I want to or not. I hope the weather cooperates, because I want to grill something delicious for dinner tonight.