Restraining Rover on the Road

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The only thing my dog Dodger loves more than riding in the back of our SUV is leaping back and forth from the rear cargo area to the backseat. That type of system probably won’t land me on a top ten list for safe travelers, yet I was never bothered by Dodger’s acrobatics nor thought much about it—that is, until the birth of my son, Alex. The arrival of the baby in February brought Dodger’s free-wheeling road style to an abrupt end. 

Although Dodger is fond of his new riding buddy, he hasn’t yet adjusted to the car seat I’ve unwittingly situated in the exact place he uses as a springboard. However, Dodger is not one to be deterred by an obstacle as small as a sleeping newborn, so he promptly began leaping over Alex in an effort to maintain his reign over the former doggie domain. That’s when I decided it was time for a canine restraint harness.

I have to admit that the thought of tethering my dog in place for a quick trip to the park still feels unnecessary, although I know it’s safer for all of us. Of course, I’m not the only one who likes to let his dog roam free in the car. Advocacy group Paws To Click estimates that 98 percent of dogs travel unrestrained in vehicles.

The sobering fact that finally hooked me on the necessity of pet restraints is that, according to Paws To Click, unrestrained pets cause over 30,000 motor vehicle accidents each year—not to mention pets that go barreling across a vehicle during an accident they had no part in causing.

Dodger’s new safety device is a simple harness that is used in conjunction with the seatbelt.  However, there seem to be an endless number of options for people who want to buckle their buddies. My pre-purchase research was nearly overwhelming. Pet travel options range from an array of harnesses to crates, dog barriers and booster seats. So what is the safest way to travel with your pet?

Christina Selter is the founder of a pet travel safety organization called Bark Buckle UP. Known as the Pet Safety Lady, Christina has dedicated her life to promoting safe travel for our pets. She recommends crating all pets when driving and says to always “secure the crate with tethers.”

For people who usually let their pets hang loose while riding, it may seem like a hassle to crate a furry friend for a short trip. But products such as Kurgo’s Carrier Keeper are hitting the market with a focus on ease of use.

Still, an easy to use system means nothing if it doesn’t protect our pet pals. So, I reached out to Kurgo Products to find out how an industry leader determines that a safety device actually works. Gordie Spater founded Kurgo Products with his brother in 2003. He explained that his company conducts “static and dynamic testing of all our safety products to understand the strength of the components as well as how they will perform in a dynamic situation.” (PS - You’ll find a some of our favorite Kurgo travel gear on page 15 of our June/July 2012 "Summer Travel" issue. You can order this and other previous issue here.)

Today’s pet parents have more tools at our disposal than ever before. Travel safety options are no different. Consider pet size, pet activity level and your own ability to manage a safety device when choosing the safest way to travel with your animal entourage. Safe and happy travels!

D. Graham Curry lives in Nashville with his wife Lovette, their son Alexander, and their rescued pit bull mix, Dodger. It’s a Doggone World is an opinion column on four-legged culture, appearing in each issue of Nashville Paw.

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