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Drive pawsitively: Dog-friendly car travel tips for pet owners

For the love of our four-legged friends and our four wheels.

Dog-owners know how much love and joy that man’s best friend brings to our lives. Part of this comes from bringing our canine companions along for a ride to explore places and experience new adventures. Of course, there is the inevitable drive to the vet every now and then to make sure our mutts are safe and in good health.

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(Photo courtesy of BMW Asia)

How do we ensure a safe and stress-free ride for our four-legged friends and ourselves when we go for a drive together? There are a few things we can do to make sure that the car ride is a pawsome and dog-friendly one.

Can your dog sit in the front seat of the car?

No matter how well-trained you think your goodest boi is, it is unlikely to remain still in a moving vehicle.

When you are driving, the safest place for dogs is the rear cabin of the car, ideally in a crash-tested dog restraint/harness or secured pet carrier.

Dog leaning out of car window
(Image by Pixabay)

If you allow your dog in the front passenger seat, there must be added precautions to keep it and yourself safe. Being in the passenger seat makes it easier for your dog to distract you, so restraints are de rigueur.

Also, push the front passenger seat as far back as possible to prevent your dog from hitting the dashboard in case there’s a crash.

Dog sitting on driver's lap
Literally no lap dogs please (Image by Pixabay)

Never ever let your dog, no matter how small, ride on your lap when you are driving. You will be easily distracted and will not be able to pay attention to the road in front of you. Your fluffy friend might also block your view of the road. If you get into an accident or have to brake hard suddenly to avoid one, your dog is likely to be seriously injured or even crushed to death by the steering wheel or airbags.

While it is not an offence to drive with a dog in Singapore, you can be fined and/or imprisoned if found guilty of failure to maintain proper control of your car because you were distracted.

Dog distracting driver
Don’t let your dog distract you (Image by Freepik)

What are the safety tips when driving with a dog?

Your dog needs attention and this can become a distraction when you are driving if you don’t deploy some safety measures.

1. Use a dog safety harness or carrier

There is no fixed rule that says a dog must be restrained in the car in Singapore, but it is better to secure it for your own and your dog’s safety during the drive.

One way is to use a dog safety harness. Look for a harness that is the right size and that can fit comfortably around your dog’s chest and shoulders. We also recommend a dog harness that can be connected to the seatbelt buckle.

Find a suitable harness for your dog (pictures by Ethan Peh)

If you are using a dog carrier, it should be big enough for your dog to stand or lie down comfortably, but not too large that your dog is thrown around in case of hard swerves or sudden stops. Dog carriers should be secured so that it cannot move around. Some dog carriers can be connected to the car seat belt, making it even safer for you and your dog.

For those driving a hatchback, if the dog is in the boot area, fit a guard or barrier at the back to prevent your dog from flying forward in the event of an accident or sudden stop.

Dogs in a BMW X3
Get your fur babies used to going on drives (Photo courtesy of BMW Asia)

2. Manage your dog’s anxiety

Some will hound you for a ride, but some pooches will panic with all the passing traffic. Get your doggo used to travelling in the car by taking it out for short drives in the beginning. You can also talk to it during the drive, as hearing your voice can calm your canine buddy down.

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3. Don’t let your hound hang out the car window

Some people might go “awwwww, so cute” when they see a dog with its head sticking out of car windows. Unfortunately, it is quite dangerous for our canine buds to do so, as flying debris could injure them.

They might also jump out of the car if they get excited. Also you never know if another passing vehicle might side-swipe your mutt. If you need to give your dog some fresh air, wind down the windows just a crack.

Dog biting a gear stick in the car
(Photo from Pexels)

4. Activate the child lock

Your paw pal wouldn’t know what it is stepping on inside the car. It might accidentally hit a button or a lever that winds down the window or opens the car door. Make sure to activate the child lock to avoid any such dangerous scenarios.

5. Keep the aircon on

If we are already complaining about Singapore’s hot and humid weather, imagine how our fur babies feel. Dogs sweat only through their tiny paw pads and have to pant to stay cool, so keep your car air-conditioning on. It is a bonus if your car has rear air-con vents or climate control to keep your dog cool and comfortable.

A dog left in a parked car
(Photo on Unsplash)

6. Never ever leave your dog alone in a parked car

In Singapore, it is prohibited to leave a dog, or other animals, alone in a vehicle. Those found guilty of this may face a fine and/or imprisonment.

Temperatures inside a parked car can rise rapidly even on a cool day. Leaving a dog unattended inside the car can cause it to become dehydrated quickly or lead to heat stroke. Bring your dog along if you need to leave your car.

Dog lying inside a car
(Photo from Pexels)

7. Do not feed your dog while driving

Sometimes we feel a snack attack and reach for munchies in the car. But absolutely do not feed your dog while you are driving, no matter how it whimpers or make puppy eyes at you. Your dog could choke while trying to chow down the food.

Also, don’t feed your dog just before a drive, as having a full tummy may cause it to experience motion sickness or tummy problems. It’s uncomfortable for your dog, and you may end up having to clean up the resulting mess.

8. Have regular breaks if going for a long drive

If your dog is accompanying you on a long car trip, make sure you schedule regular stops along the way. This allows it to get out of the car for a potty break, stretch its legs or to have some water to stay hydrated.

Man driving with his dog in the car
Best friend for a drive – (Image courtesy of James and Irene Fong)

Be dogged in ensuring a safe ride

As dog lovers, we want our four-legged friends close to us, even in our four-wheelers. While a dog can be wonderful company during a drive, we have a responsibility to keep it safe, and prevent distractions and accidents. With these dog-friendly car travel tips in mind, you can plan for an enjoyable and stress-free ride together.

Happy #InternationalDogDay!

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