Ok, so maybe this post’s title is a tad deceptive. If you install dog safety products in your car, it won’t make anyone want to drag race down the street with you. Quite the opposite, in fact. But that’s a good thing. Most dogs would probably start growling if you really revved your engines, and how distracting is that?
But ever since I learned that it meant custom rigging a vehicle to inspire envy, I’ve wanted to use the phrase “pimp my ride” in a sentence. And to my mind, there’s nothing sexier and more inspiring of admiration than keeping your dog safe.
I was therefore very excited to have the opportunity to interview Dawn Ross, owner of PetAutosafety.com and the associated product review blog, PetAutoSafetyBlog.com, for this week’s Animal Cafe interview.
The need for security
I’ve covered the importance of safety on this blog before: Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com wrote about securing large dogs in a van and RV, while Mary-Alice Pomputius of DogJaunt.com covered the issue from the keeping a small dog safe in a car perspective.
But the message can’t be emphasized too much, especially at this time of year, when people will be driving with their dogs to visit family and friends for the holidays.
As Dawn points out, it’s not just your dog’s safety that you need to worry about (though why wouldn’t you be concerned about that)? An unsecured dog is often a distraction, making driving less safe in general. And if you need to stop suddenly, the poor pup becomes a projectile. At 35 mph, a 60-pound unrestrained dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, windshield, or passenger. Ouch.
It’s also a good time of year to consider giving your family and friends — and their dogs — the gift of safety.
Pet auto safety product possibilities
Dawn’s company got started as a result of her needing seat belts to secure her three dogs when she was doing a lot of rescue and shelter. Her research led her to find other products for this purpose.
They fall into four primary categories:
The most popular — and generally most inexpensive — security system, this consists of an extension of a standard car seat belt that can be hooked with a tether into a special harness (more on which in a minute).
This adds height to the seat belt/harness combination and works primarily for small dogs. Think baby car seat.
The second most popular way to keep a dog safe in a car is to get tethers that ensure a crate with a dog in it doesn’t become unanchored from a car seat.
These don’t prevent dogs from moving around in the car, but do prevent them from entering the driver’s or front seat area. Some attach to the ceiling and side of the cars, other just cover the portion between the front seats; there are some types that provide a metal screen between the second row seat and the back of the car.
What’s best for your dog?
The type of device you use depends on your dog’s size, training, and temperament. At product expos and other dog events, Dawn gives out a tip sheet with different options. If your dog loves her crate, securing one into your car may be the best way to go. For dogs who are not crate trained and/or are not comfortable with a seat belt, even after training — Dawn says some dogs just chew through them — a barrier might be the best alternative. It’s definitely better than nothing.
Friends don’t let friends drive with unsecured dogs
I mentioned that I thought pet safety products might make good holiday gifts, but then it occurred to me that suggesting another person is doing something dangerous by just providing such a gift is a bit iffy. I asked Dawn how she might them approach the topic with a potential giftee. She offered two phrases that I thought would be extremely useful:
Wow, your dog is really energetic. Does it bother you when you’re driving?
Your dog looks really cute in your lap. But aren’t you worried about what that air bag will do to him if you stop short?
Here’s a “duh” moment. It never occurred to me that dog safety products need to be tested just like human safety products — and that not all of them are. I use a walking harness rigged up with a seat belt for Frankie, for example. That’s going to stop. I am about to buy a travel harness from Bergan, one of the companies that, according to Dawn, does extensive strength and crash testing.
Dawn also does canine comfort tests before she recommends products, and here’s some sad news: Between the time I did the interview and the time I planned to post it, Sephi, one of Dawn’s two tester dogs, got very sick and had to be let go. Most everyone who reads this blog — including the sadly timely post last week about grief — knows what Dawn must be going through.
You can hear her talking about what a good and helpful dog Sephi was — and a lot of other things — in the following interview.