8 Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe While Driving

The Joys Of Having A Dog

If there's one thing we love here at Morison as much as helping our clients and celebrating holidays with each other, it's dogs. We have a dog-friendly office, meaning that our colleagues and clients enjoy the presence of each of our beloved canines. We are not alone, as dogs are the most popular type of pet in the world and second most popular in Canada, finishing just a whisker behind their feline friends. Any dog owner knows a dog's role in your life: walking buddy, emotional support provider, and live-in best friend for your kids, among others. They're full of energy, are always up for games, and will always let you know that they love you as much as you love them. However, being a dog owner isn't always a walk in the park.

Having a dog is a lot of work. You have to feed them, give them regular exercise, get woken up at 6 am, and deal with their unmatched hatred of the vacuum cleaner. No matter how much work they are, the joy they add to your life is irreplaceable. When you and your family leave for anything from a week-long Ontario road trip to an afternoon trip downtown or even just a quick car ride, it's tempting to take your dog with you. As much joy as this can bring, you must take specific steps to keep your dog safe while driving.

Dangers Of The Road

While many of us take being safe on the road for granted, it's vital to remember what's at stake.. You're packing you and your family in a 1,500-kilogram machine filled with specialized motors that can easily break down while driving at anywhere between 50 and 100 kilometres per hour. You do this while sharing a small strip of pavement with thousands of other people who are doing the same thing and expecting all these drivers to cooperate without being able to speak to each other. No wonder you need car insurance for this! Now, you're adding a potentially unrestrained pet to your vehicle and begging it to sit and stay the entire time. While this may make dog safety a real challenge, by taking the right pet safety precautions, keeping your dog safe while driving is a piece of cake. 

Where Is The Safest Spot For a Dog in a Car?

The safest spot in the car for a dog is the same spot as it is for a small child - the back seat. However, as much as you can train a dog, you can't train them as much as you can your kids. Even the most well-behaved dogs may get restless, and when they do, you can't just get them to play 20 questions for an hour or let them use their cell phone. This means you'll have to take steps to ensure dog car safety.

It should also be noted that for pickup trucks, it is illegal to leave an unrestrained dog exposed on the truck bed. As a result, your dog must be contained in the inside cargo area. 

Tips To Keep Your Dog Safe While Driving

Keeping your energetic best friend safe and entertained is a high priority for any pet parent. Luckily, keeping your furry friend safe doesn't have to be very rough.

1. Don't Let Your Dog Ride In The Front Seat

As much as you're supposed to give the love of your life the front seat, your spouse probably won't take it well if you let your dog ride shotgun. Worse yet, it's very dangerous for your dog. Having your dog in the front leaves them exposed to considerable risks.

An airbag can pack a real punch that can be very dangerous for a dog, as it can hit your little guy hard, sometimes at 300 km/h or more, generating almost 1000 kg of force. If it's unsafe for a child, it's even worse for a dog. If the airbag doesn't deploy, your best friend could get thrown through the windshield even harder.

As mentioned earlier, the back passenger seat is the ideal place to keep your canine friend, and the shotgun position should be reserved for an adult human.

2. Keep Your Pooch Off Your Lap

As much as having your dog on your lap can be relaxing, it's not a good idea to do so while driving. Not only does this expose the dog to the same risks as the front seat, but it can also lead to distracted driving on your part. Having a dog on the driver's lap is illegal in Ontario, so keeping it far from the person operating the vehicle is a must.

3. Ensure They Can't Get Their Paws On Buttons

One of the many things that dogs and children have in common is their high level of curiosity. While your kid might look at all the buttons and wonder what they do, a dog is unlikely to know what a button is, meaning nothing stops them from accidentally touching something they shouldn't. The only ways to prevent this are to keep them restrained at a safe distance from any buttons, and to use child-safe locks to ensure that a dog near the door doesn’t accidentally paw at the buttons.

Similarly, keeping your doors and windows locked is a good idea. This prevents you from flying down the road with an open door and keeps the dog and all other occupants inside. 

4. Take Breaks To Let Them Move Around

After all these tips around having a dog stay in one place forever, you're probably thinking about how dogs need space and exercise to stay healthy. This gives you yet another reason to take more breaks. When you take your break, make sure that you let your dog out of the car. Let them run around, have a treat, do their business, and do other things you wouldn't want them to do in the car. You and your family view breaks as an opportunity for fun, and your dog deserves the same opportunities as everyone else. 

5. Don't Leave Them Unattended

Just like how you should never leave your kids unattended, you should always keep an eye on your dog and know where they are. While you don't have to follow them around step for step, keeping them within earshot and ensuring you can quickly grab them when you want to get going again is always a good idea. Also, never leave them in the car alone.

6. Watch The Temperature Of Your Vehicle

On a hot day, you probably find the heat annoying. You are right to think this, as hot weather isn't just inconvenient; it can lead to conditions such as heat stroke. However, your dog has it even harder than you do. Imagine having to wear a coat in the middle of summer and being unable to take it off. This is how a dog feels with its coat. A hot day can be a nuisance to you but can be dangerous to your dog's health.

If you have air conditioning, leave it on for as much time as you reasonably can, and ensure that when you leave your vehicle, your dog comes with you. If the temperature outside is 25 degrees Celsius, the temperature in a car can reach 34 in ten minutes, and a scorching 50 within an hour. Leaving your dog unattended in this level of heat violates the PAWS (Provincial Animal Welfare Services) act, and can lead you to facing fines, or even jail time, as it would be against animal cruelty laws.

7. Keep Their Head Inside The Car

Seeing a dog stick its head out the window of a moving vehicle is very common. When you think about it, a dog would have the time of its life. It sees scenery pass by at a speed it could never run at, gets the feeling of wind in its fur, and is exposed to more new smells than our human noses can comprehend. However, it is very dangerous to allow a dog to have its head sticking out, even if they are in the back seat.

One thing that could go wrong is that the dog is exposed to small debris in the air. This isn't limited to sticks and stones. Fumes from other vehicles can be inhaled, small objects like tree branches can hit them, and on some roads, your dog can wind up with more dust in their eye than a pitcher who's still on the mound in the 9th inning on a windy day. All this debris can range from annoying to actually damaging to their eyes. Even without flying debris, wind can still do damage on its own.

What's worse than that is the horrifying possibility of your dog falling out of the vehicle. Although this seems unlikely, a bump or sharp turn is sometimes all it takes for a dog in a precarious position to stumble out the window, especially if it is small. If you want to keep your dog safe while driving, keep their head inside the window. 

8. Keep Their ID, Food, Water And Other Base Necessities In The Vehicle While Travelling

While it's easy to get lost in the nitty-gritty details of keeping an animal safe, it's sometimes easy to forget the basics. Like human passengers, dogs require food and water and should always have some identification on them. Waste bags should also be brought, as should brushes, toys and anything else that you usually keep for your dog when they're at home. Bringing these items will ensure your dog won't have any anxiety issues when away from home.

Equipment That Can Keep Your Dog Safe

Keeping every passenger safe should always be your priority. While tiny humans can put on a seat belt and be safe, your car's manufacturer didn't have doggies in mind when they designed human seat belts. However, a few safety products can be used to secure your dog and drastically increase their safety.

A Carrying Crate

Also known as a travel carrier or dog crate, this safety device is a great way to ensure that small dogs stay in place. However, a few things need to be kept in mind to ensure proper use of a crate.

The first is that the crate must be adequately secured to not bounce around the vehicle during a sudden turn, bump or brake. The second is that the crate must be large enough for your dog. This means it needs to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.

A good rule of thumb is that the crate's height and length measurements should be at least 10 centimeters more than the dog's height and length measurements each. Please note that a good case should reach both measurements, not average to that amount. If your crate is 12 centimeters taller than your dog, but only 8 centimeters longer, you need a crate at least 2 centimeters longer than your current one. When measuring a dog's height, measure from the top of its head to the ground. When measuring a dog's length, measure from the nose's tip to the tail's base. 

Several different types of crates exist, with some made out of wires allowing the dog to see around it easily and some hard-sided crates. Some dogs get scared when they see the bars, and others are scared by seemingly being boxed in by the harder ones. Please ensure you're using the crate best suited for your dog.


A safety harness can effectively act as a canine seat belt and act as a restraint to keep your dog in place if there's an incident. While it can also work for a smaller dog, a large one can significantly benefit. Most travel harnesses strap naturally to a car's existing seat belt strap. A travel harness will usually fit over a dog's head and tightly around its body, although each harness fits a little bit differently, so make sure you read the instructions on how to put it on properly.

A Backseat Barrier

A backseat barrier is an excellent way to keep a large dog back in your cargo section, as they place a barrier between the back and front seats. This means that your dog cannot get to the front of the vehicle while still allowing them some room to move around. Keep in mind, however, that you can't use this to let them into the seated area, and many require additional guidelines to provide complete protection.

Car Dog Hammock 

These are not hammocks in the traditional sense. No, your dog will not be lying around in a suspended piece of cloth, Homer Simpson style. A car dog hammock functions more like a 'box' with sides and a comfortable bottom to contain your pooch to the back, almost acting as a large dog car seat. They keep your pet in the back of the vehicle while separating them from buttons and other passengers. However, the dog will have enough space to move around. It should be noted that, like a barrier, this is not as safe for a small dog as a harness or crate. As a result, it is only recommended for larger dogs that can't be contained by such equipment.

Enjoy Your Dog's Company

As much as it may seem like a lot of work to keep your dog safe while driving, it's important to remember what dog owners agree on: your dog is a family member. They're loyal, friendly, fun to be around, and will give you unconditional love. Remember to play fetch with them, hug them, and be there for them. They improve your trip, so don't feel guilty about spoiling them. They deserve it.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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