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Dogs are an important part of family life. Most of us refuse to even consider the possibility of leaving our dog at home while we’re not there. It doesn’t matter if we’re going on a two-week camping holiday or simply running errands around town, the dog is usually in the car with us. In fact, so many people take their dogs with them that car manufacturers consider pets while designing new models.

As much as you and your dog appreciate taking long drives together, you shouldn’t drive with your dogs until you know this info.

Unattended dogs in vehicles are at considerable risk

It’s in your dog’s best interest to keep the instances when your dog is left alone in your car to a minimum. Most of us know that dogs who are left alone in the car on hot sunny days are at considerable risk of developing heatstroke and dying, but that’s only one of the risks unattended dogs in vehicles face. Theft is another major concern. 

It’s estimated that 2 million dogs are stolen every single year in the United States. While most of these pets are stolen from yards, there are numerous reports of thieves forcing their way into locked vehicles and stealing unattended dogs. The best way to make sure your dogs don’t become a stolen dog story is not leaving them alone in the car. If you have appointments or think a shopping trip will take a long time, it’s best to leave your dog at home.

If you do have to leave your dog unattended in the car, park close to the building, preferably near a window where you can keep an eye on your pet.

Dogs shouldn’t distract the driver

A shocking number of drivers allow their dogs to wrap around their neck, sit in their lap, or crawl all over them while they drive. This is dangerous behavior. It’s easy to be distracted by your dog’s proximity. Even scarier is that having your dog so close makes it highly likely that they’ll bump your steering wheel, which can cause a potentially deadly crash.

You, your dog, and everyone else will be safer if you and your dog aren’t sharing the driver’s seat. You’ll have plenty of time to cuddle with your pet once you’re safely home.

At the moment, there aren’t any statistics showing how many accidents have been the result of dogs riding in the driver’s laps, but enough of them happen that states are working on passing legislation that makes it illegal for you to cuddle with your dog while behind the wheel.

Restrained is best

Yes, your dog loves having the ability to roam the entire car while you drive, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Not only can this behavior distract the driver, if you’re in an accident, there’s a good chance that your unrestrained go will be thrown from the car, hurt, and even go missing.

If you have a little dog, a car seat that attaches to a seat belt keeps them restrained while allowing them to easily see out the window. If you have a large dog, a seat belt restraint is a great option. Make sure you hook the seat belt attachment to a harness. Never attach it to your dog’s collar.

Roll up your windows

Yes, your dog loves sticking their head out your car window. Yes, it looks cute. But this is a situation where you need to take a tough-love stance. Letting your dog stick its head out the window puts their life at risk.

They can be struck by a rock a passing vehicle kicks up, jump out the window, or even hurt themselves by stepping on the automatic window button. Your dog will be healthier if you resign yourself to blasting the air conditioning while you drive. Just be prepared to clean lots of nose marks off the inside of the windows when you get home.

Remembering these things not only keeps your dog safe while you’re driving, but you’ll find that they also make each trip less stressful.