Car Safety For Dogs

Car Safety For Dogs

With winter coming upon us, it is more important than ever to encourage your clients to evaluate how their dogs ride in the car.  Many of our clients are perfectly content to allow their pooch to roam freely around the car, or even sit in the driver’s lap or on the windshield while the car is in motion.  Though some think this is harmless and makes for cute pictures, all it takes is a split second for the client and their dog’s lives to get impacted forever.

Car safety cannot be emphasized enough with clients.  As modern dog trainers, it is up to you to emphasize safety in all aspects of dog’s lives, not just immediate training needs.  As somebody who has spun off the road with my dog in the car (fortunately we were both buckled in so did not get injured), car safety is a high priority.  So what are options for car safety, and what behaviors does a dog need to know?

Car Harnesses

Car Safety

Photo courtesy of Liz Wyant

Harness are probably the easiest, most cost-efficient and space-saving option for most dog owners.  A good harness will be wide across the chest and fully cover the chest down to the girth, but without hindering the neck or shoulders.  It will have some padding and solid metal hardware.  There are generally two main attachment points for car harnesses – either a metal hook that attaches to a sturdy strap and carabiner (as pictured below), or a loop that the car’s seatbelt will go through before being latched.  Either way, the dog should be able to sit, stand, or lie down, but not be able to roam around.  If they can move too far, that means they will not be as secure in case of an accident.  Look for harnesses that have actual safety ratings.  The harness in these pictures is Kurgo’s Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Harness.

Car Safety

Photo courtesy of Liz Wyant

What behaviors should the dog know?

  • The dog should be happy about wearing a harness, especially one that has a little more coverage than most walking-type harnesses.
  • The dog should be able to sit quietly in one place without panicking.  If the dog is spinning around, they can get tangled in the harness and injure themselves while also distracting the driver.
  • The dog should wait to be invited into the car, and also should wait to be invited OUT of the car.


Photo courtesy of Laurie Schlossnagle.

Photo courtesy of Laurie Schlossnagle.

A solid, well-secured crate will be safer than a car harness as it will not only keep the dog from being flung around the car, but it will keep other flying items from impacting the dog.  The best of the best when it comes to car-specific crates is the Mim Variocage.  However, as these are rather pricey, they are out of limits for most people.  The next best is a variokennel or wire crate that is, again, properly secured to the car.  A crate will be no use if it can go bouncing around the car because it is not secured.  You want to make sure it’s just big enough for the dog to fit comfortably, but not spacious enough for them to be able to sprawl out and have oodles of room.  Again, the goal is car safety and keeping them secure in case of an accident.

Photo courtesy of Amie Glasgow

Photo courtesy of Amie Glasgow

What behaviors should the dog know?

  • The dog needs to be crate-trained so they do not panic when placed in the crate.
  • The dog should know how to chew appropriately provided toys/bones instead of fussing with the straps securing the crate to the vehicle.
  • The dog should wait to be invited into the car, and also should wait to be invited OUT of the car.

What NOT To Do

  1.  Allow the dog to hang his/her head out the window – Even at slow speeds, debris is kicked off the road by other vehicles and may severely injure the dog.
  2. Allow the dog to ride on the driver’s lap – A dog in the driver’s lap is incredibly distracting for the driver.  And if there is a car accident, there is a high likelihood the airbag impact will kill the dog.
  3. Allow the dog to ride on the dashboard – In the case of an accident, a dog riding on the dashboard has very little chance of escaping unscathed.  Also, they will hinder visibility and act as a distraction for the driver.
  4. Use a collar and leash to secure dog to headrest or other part of car – in case of an accident, all that pressure suddenly pulling on the dog’s collar will cause SERIOUS injury.
  5. Fail to have identification on dog – If there is an accident, and your dog manages to get loose, it is imperative that they have a collar with tags on so they can be quickly reunited.  Microchips are wonderful, too, but only as backup to a collar and tags.

What tips do you have for car safety for dogs?

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5 Uses For Crates During Training

5 Uses For Crates During Training

crating during training

Many clients are averse to the idea of crating their dogs.  Being able to explain to them how crating can help their dog’s training progress may open them up to the concept.


Crating can be of immense benefit when it comes to housetraining a dog, regardless of age.  It keeps the dog confined to a relatively small space, keeping them from being able to roam and squat wherever they desire.  Feeding the dog in the crate makes housetraining go even faster as most dogs will not go to the bathroom where they eat.  Obviously it is important to stress to your clients the importance of taking the dog outside on a regular basis.  Also, be sure to emphasize that crating is not to be utilized 24/7, but only when the dog is not able to be immediately supervised.


Crating can teach a dog that it’s okay to relax.  Starting with very small amounts of time, clients can put their dogs in a crate with something yummy to chew on.  Doing this consistently can teach the dog that good things happen in there and it’s okay to relax and settle down.  This can be helpful at times when visitors are coming and going or the dog just needs to be out of the way for some reason.  Having a dog that will settle in its crate can be a great management tool.

Home Base

Group classes are a great time to utilize crating.  When you are talking and your attendees need to listen, they can put their dog (who knows that settling in a crate is a good thing!) in the crate so they can focus on you.  The crate can also act as a home base for the dog when things get stressful or he just needs a break.  Or make a training game of it – have your client do some work with the dog and then they and their dog can run to the crate together and throw a party when the dog enters.

Separation Distress/Anxiety

Separation distress/anxiety can be a nightmare to deal with, but crating can sometimes help ward it off.  If your client’s dog has learned to associate the crate with Very Good Things, and has learned that its crate is used for settling in and relaxing, it can help the process of treating the separation anxiety.  It is also useful to prevent a dog from pacing back and forth from window to window and barking at people/animals passing by, thereby keeping their stress levels elevated.  Crating can encourage the dog to just relax and sleep or work on a chew toy.  Note: Separation anxiety can be dangerous for the dog – if you are not confident in your ability to recommend a course of action that will keep the dog safe during training, please refer your client to somebody who is!

Preparation For Emergencies

Nobody ever wants a tragedy to occur, but sometimes they do.  What happens if your client’s dog gets sick and has to spend the night at the e-vet?  If the dog isn’t accustomed to crating, it can get incredibly stressed out, hindering treatment.  If you and your clients live in a location with natural disasters that might prompt evacuation, having a crate trained dog can make it much easier to find a place that a client can go with their dog.  Or even something as basic as your client wanting to take a vacation – dogs that are not accustomed to crating are more likely to panic in a kennel setting.

Crating responsibly can be incredibly beneficial to your clients’ progress in training their dogs.  Being able to explain the usefulness may open some otherwise closed minds.

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5 Reasons To Encourage Crate Training With Clients

5 Reasons To Encourage Crate Training With Clients

crate training

Crate Training Can Seem Peculiar To Clients

For those unfamiliar with crate training, it can seem cruel, almost as if the dogs are being caged like zoo animals.  However, as a savvy trainer, it is important to be able to explain to your clients a few reasons they should strongly consider crate training.

Know Where The Dog Is

Explain to your clients the great peace of mind that can come from knowing exactly what scene they will be walking into upon their arrival home – their dogs, happily wagging, safely contained in a crate, nothing in their home destroyed.  Day after day, consistently.

Home Security Systems

Many people these days have home security systems.  Remind your clients that if their alarm system goes off and the police are notified, the police WILL enter their home, with or without them present.  Wouldn’t your clients rather know their dog is safely out of harm’s way due to being happily crate trained?

Windows = Automatic Dog Trainers

When dogs have access to windows during the day because they are free roaming, they can learn some valuable lessons.  Valuable to them, at least.  These include: barking scares the mail carrier away; barking scares pedestrians away; barking scares passing dogs away; barking scares delivery people away.  That means your client’s dog has learned that barking excessively makes things go away.  This is not really a lesson most people want their dogs to possess!  Crate training keeps the dogs away from windows, preventing them from getting over-aroused multiple times throughout each day.

Learn To Relax

Dogs that are permitted to roam around the house, pestering the cats, barking out the windows, and finding other ways of entertaining themselves have a high probability of getting into trouble.  Crate training teaches dogs to relax and enjoy downtime, especially when left with a lovely chew toy or work-to-eat toy in their crate.

No Issues With Other Household Animals

Many of your clients will be multi-pet owners.  Whether those pets are all dogs, dogs and cats, dogs and birds, or some other combination, crate training ensures the safety of all animals in the household.  Encouraging your clients to crate train means they will not ever have to be concerned about coming home to an injured or dead pet due to a fight that may have started over something as insubstantial (to people) as a tissue on the floor or play that escalated without supervision.  Clients enjoy knowing that all of their beloved pets are safe and happy and will remain so.

Many clients may balk at the idea of crate training.  Being able to calmly explain different benefits of it will enable them to start working through their antipathy towards the idea.

What are some other reasons you can think of to encourage crate training?

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