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Excited beagle dog with harness inside a car

Paws Please! Car Safety for Your Pet

My dog’s desires are not particularly complicated. Getting scratches behind the ear? Check. Chasing squirrels? 100%.

However, one of his favorite things to do — sticking his head out the window of my Chevrolet Silverado while I’m driving — is also one that is unsafe. But that doesn’t mean my furry family member and I can’t still enjoy time together on the open road. In the spirit of making family trips with our four-legged friends safer, easier and more convenient, I’ve considered these tail-wagging pet travel tips and hope you will, too.

Tongues inside the car

You wouldn’t hit the road without fastening your safety belt. Nor would you let a child passenger walk around in the back seat. Why should your dog or cat be any different? Consider securing a crate in the back seat so it is as protected as possible. If you or your pup are anxious when it comes to crates, there are plenty of dog seat belt harnesses on the market, as well as leashes that attach to the latch systems used for children’s car seats. There are even car booster seats for dogs that can be anchored by the seat belt or attached to the center console.

Your pets might not prefer the restriction versus lolling their tongue in the breeze, but the peace of mind that comes with keeping them safer is well worth it. And you can always crack the back seat window so they can still feel the breeze and smell all the smells.

Feline tip: If your cat is traveling with you, it’s safest for your fur baby to ride in a crate that is properly secured to the seat, no matter how much they might complain about it.

Distractions = Bad dog behavior

If your dog is tethered in the back seat, you’ve likely already eliminated most of the danger of your pooch hopping into your lap. Regardless of how secure your pooch is, it’s always important to keep your eyes on the road and not allow any barking or misbehavior to distract you.

Reaching in the back seat while the vehicle is moving is definitely a “bad dog” move, and finding a safe place to pull over to address issues is always your best bet for safety.

Sit, stay, plan ahead

For medium or long trips, you might already think about your automobile needs, but don’t forget about the animal ones, too. How often will it need to go for a walk or take a break, and do you have a leash accessible? Will they  get hungry? How about staying hydrated?

Make a short punch list that you can reference before taking off to make road-trip planning easier and simpler for you, and more comfortable for your four-legged passenger. This can include doggy bags, collapsible food and water dishes (not to mention the food and water), and maybe even a disposable litter box that you can place in the floorboard of the car for your cat, rabbit or other furball to use at a rest stop.

As for your vehicle, it’s better to spend a little time prepping and getting it serviced before your trip to avoid getting stuck with car trouble on the road.

A clean, safe back seat

Are you worried about the condition of your car seats and keeping them clean with Jazz and Gigi in tow? Consider a pet car seat cover that acts like a thick, protective hammock to help avoid rubbing or pressure from a heavy pet or carrier and straps onto the headrests in your back seat. You can also ask your dealer about durable floor liners for some added protection.

This, coupled with a restraint attached to the seat, helps provide a defined space for your dog to hang out while providing an extra layer of protection for both them and your seats. If you’re leasing, keeping your seats in good shape is also one of the essentials in helping avoid excess wear fees at lease end.

Scooter Hendon
By Scooter Hendon, GM Financial

Scooter Hendon might work indoors, but his heart is in the outdoors. Whether he's with his family or flying solo, he loves a good camping, backpacking or hiking adventure. When Scooter’s not hitting the road in his Chevy Silverado to a state or national park, he’s saving up for his next trip.


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