A Dog’s Eye View: Dogs on board
June 21, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The cooler was strapped down securely, but standing on top of it was a border collie, swaying wildly while trying to keep his or her balance in the back of the pickup. I honked my horn to get the driver's attention, but he sped away, spewing too much gravel for me to follow.
This really worried me. We love being able to take our dogs with us almost as much as they love to come along, but even the best driver in the world still can be involved in an accident. Life happens. If a dog is riding untethered in the back of a truck, she can be thrown out if the driver has to slam on the brakes, swerve suddenly to avoid a leaping deer or hitting something lying in the road. Being ejected might result in road rash, scrapes, bruises or broken bones for the dog. Sadly, such accidents also could cause your dog's death.
Knowing how we love and live our lives with dogs here and want to take them everywhere with us, I decided to do a little investigative work and see if there were any easy, convenient steps one could take to allow his or her dog to ride safely in the back of a truck.
Crash doggy testing has shown that the safest way to travel with your dog is in a crate in the back seat with the crate securely strapped cross ways so the dog is facing the side door instead of the front or back of the vehicle. Another suggestion is to buy a topper for your pickup, which allows your dog to be covered and protected from debris and the elements. Because dogs still can be thrown like a person not wearing a seat belt, constructing a strong cross tether that runs directly behind the cabin across the truck bed and then attaching your dog's leash to the middle of it is another safe alternative. For added safety and comfort, use a padded harness instead of a collar.
We need to consider this, too: Even if you never have an accident, an unsecured dog riding in the back of a truck on our winding mountain roads can get bruised easily from being bumped from side to side as you take those turns. Or what happens if she sees another animal and decides to jump out? You will be unable to stop her. And what about the possible damage if she gets hit in the eye or elsewhere from debris like gravel, rocks or branches flying off the road?
When driving behind a truck carrying a dog, I like to leave even more distance between us than I typically would, just in case. As dog lovers and owners, is it not our joy and our responsibility to keep them happy, healthy and safe?
Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.