I recently heard a story featuring a car journey, an unsecured dog and an electric window switch; put these 3 elements together and the potential for catastrophe doesn’t bare thinking about. Thankfully, quick thinking and fast reactions prevented this tale from realising its scary potential.
Since hearing of this incident, I’ve noticed something that I hadn’t realised was quite so prevalent; dogs are being transported insecurely on Britain’s roads, putting the dog, the owner and others at risk.
Here’s our guide to transporting you dog safely….
Transporting an animal in the UK is subject to certain laws and regulations.
The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order states that:
‘No person shall transport any animal in a way which causes or is likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal.’
In addition to this
The Highway Code states that:
‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you if you stop quickly’.
This means that your dog must be transported in a way the will cause it no harm and will reduce the level of harm inflicted in the event of an accident. It must also be restrained from interfering with your driving and remove the risk of injury to passengers in the event of an accident.
The RAC Pet Insurance study of 2014 revealed that 4% of pet owners have had an accident, or a near miss, as a result of a pet being loose in their car. While the majority agree that it is a hazard to allow a dog to be loose in a vehicle, 28% said they would let their dog move freely. Also of concern is that 21% usually leave their dogs unsecured on car seats.
My observations would suggest that these are very conservative figures. This isn’t surprising as many owners wouldn’t want to admit to endangering their pets or breaking the law. Many are simply unaware of how to abide by these laws and regulations fully.
The remainder of this article covers some of the options available to dog owners for securing their pets whilst in a vehicle. Your decision will depend on vehicle type, budget and personal preference; here are a few options available on the market today.
Vehicle Pet Crates
Vehicle crates offer the most secure method of transportation, provided that it is sturdy and secured in place.
By placing your dog in a crate you remove any risk of it interfering with the driver and of it entering the passenger area in the event of an accident; it will however still hit the sides of the crate in the event of an accident, but it’s travelling distance will be relatively small.
You should choose a crate that can be secured with straps or bolts; it’s size will depend on the size of your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip cushioned mat.
The negatives associated with crates usually relate to their cost, size, weight and the time taken to fit and remove them.
Car Pet Cages / Barriers
Pet car cages and barriers offer all of the same benefits as car crates, but the negatives are extenuated.
Your dog will not be able to interfere with the driver’s attention and will be secured from being projected through the passenger cabin in the event of a crash. There is however more space to travel inside a cage in the event of a crash; this will increase the risk of injury.
As with pet crates, you should choose a crate that can be secured with straps or bolts; it’s size will depend on the size of your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip cushioned mat.
Once again, their size and time taken to fit and remove can be seen as a negative.
Smaller dogs may be transported in pet carriers on short journeys. These offer the same benefits as a car crate, providing they are sturdy and crash tested.
These carriers offer the benefit of being movable and lower in cost than a crate, but should only be used for small dogs. You should choose a carrier that can be secured with straps, harnesses or seat belts. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip mat.
Dog Safety Harnesses
Dog harnesses attach your dog to a fixed point in your car to prevent him/her from interfering with the driver. A good dog harness will also prevent your dog being propelled from it’s seat in the event of an accident.
A dog harness system is a good choice for those with small cars, saloon cars or those who do not wish to fill their vehicle with hardware. These systems aren’t as secure as a crate or cage, but typically cost less.
You should choose a harness with the correct rating for your size/weight of dog.
Making the Right Decision
Each of these restraint systems have their own pros and cons; what is suitable for one owner may not be suitable for another. But there are consistent concerns and checks for each.
- You should always check the suitability of each option for your dog and your vehicle.
- The variety in quality and suitability in all of these product ranges is vast – from poor to excellent. You should spend time researching them and reading reviews.
- You should research how any particular product has rated in crash tests for dogs of the same weight as your own. If a manufacturer is unable to give such information, it is prudent to assume that tests have not been completed and that the product may not be a suitable restraint in the event of an accident.
- You should weigh and measure your dog before purchasing any of the products to ensure the correct size/style is purchased.
- These systems should be fitted by an expert where possible.
- These systems should be regularly monitored for wear and tear and continued suitability.
More Safety Considerations
In addition to restraining your dog you should:
- Assess if your dog is fit to travel.
- Ensure that the dog has adequate ventilation.
- Ensure that the dog is shaded from direct sunlight.
- Monitor your dog for signs of overheating.
- On long journeys, ensure that the dog has regular access to water.
- If transported in the passenger cabin apply any child safety systems e.g. window locks, child safety locks, fit window guards.
- If transported on the boot of a hatchback, SUV, van ensure that back doors are fully closed and cages or crates do not contact the windows or doors.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a car.
Information provided by the government regarding the welfare of dogs during journeys can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69549/pb10308-dogs-cats-welfare-060215.pdf
Contribution by Matthew@Heppiness
Throughout 2015, we will regularly release blog and media items that relate to educating readers, but more particularly children, in how to live in harmony with dogs that enter their lives. This article is aimed at providing parents, carers and teachers with the information required to teach children how to approach a dog.
Why teach a child how to approach a dog?
Children have no natural fear of animals, only learnt ones; they do however possess a natural curiosity about animals. Most children have positive encounters with dogs; these positive encounters create associations and learned behaviours.
Here’s a fictional example.
Little Mary’s gran has a dog called Fido who is balanced and socialised. All of their time together is controlled and managed, as a result they have a great relationship based on mutual trust and friendship. Mary can hug Fido, feed him treats and play with his doggy toys. All of little Mary‘s experiences of dogs have been with Fido; they have all been positive and as a result she is very enthusiastic about petting dogs.
Based on the above, can little Mary be expected to approach and interact with other dogs in the same way she does with Fido?
The answer is unequivocally NO.
Little Mary has created an association between dogs and good experiences. She has also learned that dogs can have their space invaded and that she can give and/or withdraw their food and possessions. She will continue to approach and interact with all dogs in the way she does with Fido. In most cases this will be fine, but in some she may be at serious risk of being bitten by an unsocialised, nervous or possessive dog. All children must be taught how to approach, read and pet dogs safely.
A step-by-step guide to approaching dogs
The first thing to teach a child is that all dogs are different; some dogs are confident, happy and well socialised, whilst others can be scared, nervous and unpredictable. Some are happy and confident in some situations, yet scared and nervous in others. Therefore, each dog’s response to being approached will be different. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to teaching children how to approach a dog. These each step relate to the poster that is attached below. This poster can be downloaded and printed to display in a child’s bedroom, a school classroom or printed as a handout. Please use the poster and the lesson text together as a complete teaching aid. You should teach your child to follow each of these steps every time they approach a dog:
- Never approach a dog that is not under it’s owners control – This includes dogs that are off lead in the park, dogs that are tied up outside shops or schools or even your neighbours dog in the front garden.
- Always ask the owners permission before approaching a dog – Be calm and polite when asking permission. Do not excite the dog. A dog’s owner will know how their dog reacts to being approached. If the owner says “No” you should thank the owner and walk away calmly.
- Let the dog come to you – If the owner agrees to being approached, gently offer a hand in the direction of the dog. If the dog wants to meet you it will come and sniff your hand. If the dog doesn’t come to you it probably doesn’t want to be petted, you should thank the owner and walk away calmly.
- Read the dog’s signals – A dog cannot talk, but it can give very clear signals to tell you if it is comfortable with your approach. Before you start to pet the dog you should look for the following signals:
Positive (Good) Signals: Wagging tail, open mouthed, tongue out, rubbing against you, sitting or lying beside you, climbing up your leg.
Negative (Bad) Signals: Moving away from you, cowering or retracting from you, barking, showing their teeth, tail tucked between back legs, tail up and curved over like a scorpion’s tail, fur along the ridge of back standing up.
If you are receiving only positive signals you can move on to petting the dog. You should continue to monitor these signals throughout your interaction with the dog. If at any point you see any of the negative signals you should slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and walk calmly away.
- Petting the dog – Dogs should be approached for stroking from the side. Gently stroke the fur on their back in a head to tail direction or in the area of the dog’s chest between it’s collar and front legs.
Never lean over the top of a dog. Never stroke the top of a dog’s head. Never pull on or play with a dog’s tail or ears. Never grab or hug a dog
You should continue to read the dog’s signals throughout your interaction. If at any point you see any of the negative signals you should slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and walk calmly away.
- Say “thank you” – After petting the dog slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and the dog and walk away calmly.
Download this text as a pdf to print and use when teaching your child How to Approach Dogs – Lesson Text
Download this poster as a pdf to print and use whilst teaching your child or to display in your home How to approach a dog – Poster
Practice and reinforce
By following the above steps to introducing a child to a dog, you are creating a new learnt behaviour. You should teach your child to follow these steps each and every time they approach a dog, even if it is your own dog in your own house for 2 reasons:
- Repetition reinforces the new behaviour to a point where it becomes natural. Your child subconsciously become a good reader of a dog’s signals and be able to assess the risks in approaching it.
- A dog’s reaction to being approached will change depending on many factors. A dog you approached and stroked on your way into the park may have had a fight with another dog and become scared and nervous whilst you had a picnic. A dog you see and stroke every day may be feeling unwell and not want to be stroked. As a result, you should always restart the steps if you wished to re-approach a dog.
We hope this guide provides you with the tools required to teach your child how to approach a dog.
We are keen to hear your views and comments on the above article, please feel free to add them below.
Contribution by Matthew at Heppiness
Winter is a fabulous time to take your dog out for a walk; the fresh air will do you both good. But as the mercury drops in the thermometer, certain health hazards are created that every dog owner needs to be aware of.
At The Way of the Dog, we do not aim to sensationalise issues or scaremonger. Our articles are focused on our experiences in dog world and informing dog owners of how best to maintain the health and wellbeing of their canine friend. This article is intended to inform you of possible risks to your dog’s health.
A common winter related ailment in dogs is anti-freeze poisoning. Anti-freeze contains the toxin ethylene glycol, which is sweet and irresistible to dogs. They’ll lick up drips from leaking car coolant systems and brake systems or drink from contaminated puddles and other water sources.
It does not take a significant amount of ethylene glycol to cause fatal damage to a dog, as low as 2-3ml per pound of the dog’s weight.
Dog owners should:
- NEVER decant anti-freeze into another container.
- Store anti-freeze in a secure place with lids securely closed.
- Check cars for leaks and if found get them fixed.
- Check their driveways, parking spaces and garages for contamination.
- Use a funnel when topping up anti-freeze to reduce spills.
- Dispose of old/unused anti-freeze at an approved waste management facility.
Anti-freeze poisoning occurs in two phases. In the first phase, the animal typically appears lethargic, disoriented, uncoordinated and groggy. Symptoms usually appear 30 minutes to one hour after ingestion and can last for several hours.
The second phase, which can last up to three days, is characterized by symptoms such as vomiting, oral and gastric ulcers, kidney failure, coma and death.
For dogs exposed to antifreeze, the first few hours are critical. They should see a vet as soon as antifreeze ingestion is suspected.
Rock salt used to grit roads and paths in winter can be a danger to dogs if they lick it from their paws or fur. Even small amounts of pure salt can be dangerous, but the exact quantities of salt in rock salt are variable. Most cases are a result of a dog licking it’s paws and fur after walking through a salted area. The salt irritates the skin and paws and the dog is simply attempting to remove the irritation.
Dog owners should:
- Avoid using rock salt in areas their dogs walk in their own gardens.
- Avoid heavily salted areas in public.
- Rinse and dry their dog after winter walks (always rinse down the body and legs, pay attention to and in-between pads).
- Be aware of excessive paw licking after a winter walk.
Ingestion can result in a high blood sodium concentration which can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargy, and in severe cases there is a risk of convulsions and kidney damage.
Any dog suspected to have ingested rock salt must be seen by a vet.
Older dogs, small breed dogs, dogs with short fur and puppies can be especially sensitive to the cold weather. Dogs with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. In addition, all dogs can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia if conditions are cold enough and/or the length of exposure is long enough.
Dog owners should:
- Assess the type and age of dog and it’s susceptibility to the cold by consulting a vet.
- Purchase and use suitable protection based on this assessment.
- Monitor their dog regularly when exercising them in cold weather.
- NEVER leave your dog outside unsupervised without a heated shelter.
If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done.
If you suspect your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your vet immediately.
Many dogs love a bit of snow. The mixture of curiosity and the sensations involved can lead many dogs to appear excited and exuberant. This maybe the case, but snow can also conceal a few doggy perils.
Whilst many of the risks posed by snow to a dog’s wellbeing are the result of the cold, there are a few extra points to consider.
Dog owners should:
- Cut the hair between a dogs pads. These hairs trap snow that can ball into a small ice-cube nestled between the pads. If your dog refuses to move or appears lame on a snowy day, check pads first.
- Remove snow and ice build up from a dog’s pads, legs and under carriage regularly to prevent it freezing to ice as this becomes painful.
- If this snow build up becomes ice, remove with a warm (not hot) damp cloth.
- Be aware of snow drifts, banks and cornices.
- Monitor their dog regularly when exercising them in the snow.
If you suspect your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your vet immediately.
When walking your dog, stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. Dogs will often attempt to walk on ice with no concept of the thickness of ice or there being water below. If they were to fall through the ice, some breeds of dog will succumb to the effects of the cold and then drown in a matter of seconds.
Dog owners should:
- Avoid areas with frozen bodies of water.
- If in the vicinity of a frozen body of water, keep your dog on a lead.
- If your dog ventures onto a frozen body of water, coax them back without causing panic.
- If your dog falls through ice, attempt to coax them back to land or use material nearby to provide an aid to exiting the water (buoyancy aids, a fallen branch, a fence panel, etc).
- If you retrieve your dog, get them dry and warm as soon as possible.
- NEVER enter the water to rescue your dog. More than 50 per cent of ice-related drownings involved an attempted rescue of another person or a dog (ROSPA).
If your dog has entered a frozen body of water and you suspect your dog has hypothermia or any other ailments, consult your vet immediately.
Enjoy the Winter Together
I know, it sounds like we’ve got our health and safety clipboard out and banned you and your dog having any fun together in the winter; this isn’t the case.
At The Way of the Dog we actively encourage the (at least) daily exercising of your dog, whatever the weather. Follow the points we’ve made and you will have minimised any risk to your dog’s health and wellbeing during one of the most spectacular times of the year.
Contribution by Heppiness
Image credits Scott Costello Flikr