Canine Safety Tips 
by Pamela Jo

As I go from day to day working with my rescues, I can't help but observe so many dangerous [and stupid] habits we humans complacently develop. So I thought I would put a few down for contemplation and consideration...

Dogs in cars. I often see many people driving around with their tiny dogs in their laps or hanging out of windows [this is a bit of an ego talking, saying "hey, look at me and my pretty dog!"]. My experience in working with veterinarians has opened my eyes to the many dangers these habits can put our beloved pets in. Not only can the dog get injured by getting slammed into the dashboard or thrown out of the car if you have to stop quickly [to avoid hitting another car, person or animal in the road] but if the dog gets caught up in the steering wheel or inhibits our arm movements in any way, it can mean disaster to the driver, his passengers, and others on the road. Do what's right, not what looks cool!

Some of the conditions caused by dogs hanging out of windows are frequent eye infections, foreign objects in the eyes, and breathing in an inordinate amount of dust particles [when on dirt roads] which causes breathing problems, allergies and lung scarring. The real disasters strike when the driver has to swerve or stop short to avoid an accident and the dog goes flying out the window, only to be hit by another car or it's own, causing a serious accident or injury to the dog.  Unfortunately these are all common situations we experience in Animal Clinics everywhere, every day. So please rethink your driving habits, put the ego in the back seat, and keep the safety of your pet a priority. The safest way for your dog to travel is in a seat-belt type harness. The harness secures your dog from flying forward in the event of an abrupt stop, swerve or accident. These are available in many different sizes and at most pet stores and they allow the dog to sit up or lie down comfortably. A crate is also recommended if the crate is secured so that it won't be a flying projectile in case you have to swerve or stop short.

Riding in the bed of an open Pick-Up Truck. Needless to say, this is an obviously dangerous habit, and illegal in most states. Yet every day I see these ignorant practices on the roads and highways... dogs pacing back and forth across the bed of the truck, standing on the wheelwell with their heads hanging over, prancing up and down barking at everything [this is really due to anxiety and nervousness, not happiness as many people think]. If people only knew how many fatal and serious accidents happen from dogs getting thrown out of open-bed trucks maybe they would consider a safer way of transporting their pets. When I have suggested to drivers an alternate method, they usually say something like "oh, I've been doing this for years with no accidents" ... or, "mind your own business." Well, it only takes once and if we really care about our companions, we should protect and care for them in a responsible manner, and not take that risk. A camper shell is a safe way to contain your canines, or have them ride in the cab with you. If you consider your pet "a member of the family" - like most people tell me they do - then please make their safety a priority.

Tying your dog in an open bed on a single leash can be even more deadly. Too many times a dog is thrown over the side only to be hung and dragged over tires and caught up in wheel wells, with thePetBuckle Kwik-Connect Truck Bed Tether dog restraint driver oblivious that his dog is no longer on board. If you live in a rural area and drive slowly and you have no alternative,  then cross tie him. This means that one leash is secured to the right front corner of the bed, short enough so that the dog cannot get his head over the railing on the left side. The second leash is secured to the left front corner of the bed, short enough so that the dog cannot get his head over the railing on the right side. This method keeps the dog pretty much in the center of the bed, with enough room to sit or lie down. It actually keeps them calmer because they feel safer. But inside the cab is always the safest both for you, your dog and other drivers!

Leaving your windows down for ventilation - Countless dogs die every year after their owners leave them in parked cars for long or short periods of time, thinking their dog is safe but not realizing the dangers animals face in this situation. Leaving your dog in a parked car even for a short period of time can prove fatal.

The temperature inside the car might not seem excessive when you first stop but the temperature inside a stationary car can rapidly increase to double the outside temperature. This can happen very quickly, within six to ten minutes.

The inside of a parked car will soon become far hotter than the outside temperature simply because a car traps the heat from the sun just like a greenhouse. This is why warm temperatures outside can quickly become deadly temperatures inside a stationary car. Even on comparatively cool days a car's internal temperature can rocket and keeping the windows open a few inches hardly slows the rise at all. Sometimes it is cloudy when you leave the car, but when the sun comes out, the heat rises fast!

Add to this the fact that your dog has on a fur coat that is designed as an insulator to trap heat, so you can really begin to see why leaving dogs in parked cars can be so fatal. Also, they cannot sweat to cool down and have to rely on panting and their paws to regulate their body temperature and if the seats are warm, this is also a hinderance.

The advice can only be this - never leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day, even for a few minutes. Leaving the window open a few inches, parking in the shade, or even leaving the dog a bowl of water is NOT adequate. A dog left in a car on a hot or even warm day can suffer heat stress, brain damage, and ultimately fatal heat stroke within just 10 minutes. Some overcast [or cooler] days we think they are just fine, only to come out and find the sun has come out and the dog is overheating. Please think ahead and be responsible!

If you come across a dog that has been left in a car on a warm day, call the Police on 911 for assistance. They will be able to take appropriate action, if necessary breaking into the car to release the dog. It is also worth noting that owners who put an animal at risk by leaving it inside a locked car could face fines and prosecution as this is illegal in 14 states.

Walking on the side of the road with your dog on leash... Always walk facing traffic so you can react quickly if a driver doesn't see you or your dog. Keep the dog on the inside [not the road side], and don't allow your dog to have enough lead that he can get out in the road and get clipped by a car. Always wear bright or light colors when walking - especially at night - and if possible, carry a flashlight and move it about when cars approach. Always have a reflector or red blinking light on your dog's collar so that drivers can see him in the dark. Reflectors on your shoes are a plus for your safety too.

Choke Collars - can actually do more damage when not used properly and can even make a dog pull more, causing damage to their trachea. Since they create tension, they can also trigger the dog to be more aggressive. Talk to a trainer and learn to use a choke collar correctly. There is a right way to put it on - and a wrong way. Strong jerks or pulls to the side can injure the dog's neck and spine causing injury that you won't find out about until later, so be gentle and assertive but not rough. Pain and fear is not the route to obedience. 

Consider some other methods of training your dog not to pull. There are now many training collars that are more effective and less damaging. Pinch collars [sometimes referred to as prong collars as seen in the photo] have saved many human shoulders! It is a self-correcting collar that closes around the dogs neck with equal pressure, avoiding the intense pressure on the trachea that choke collars exert. It's important to put the collar on correctly - if it is too loose, it can catch on things or even open up and come off. If it is too tight, it can cause undue stress for the dog.  Choke chains and Pinch collars should only be used when training, and should be removed otherwise! If a chain choke or pinch collar is left on, and the dog plays [or fights] with another dog, it can be lethal. Teeth get caught up in the links and it can break teeth, jaws, or strangle. If you are trying to separate two dogs that are tangled, it could result in bites or severe injury! These collars can also get caught on fences and choke your dog. Pinch collars, when used properly during training, will result in quicker response from the dog. They should not be used to create pain or fear, but should be used gently and at short intervals. They are now very popular with women, kids, seniors and people with injuries or disabilities that may not have the strength or balance to walk a dog that pulls. It only takes about 20%, or less energy to get the same or more response from a dog wearing a prong collar versus a choke or flat buckle collar. The dog will soon graduate to less leash pulling and will be able to wear his old nylon collar again in no time. It's all good leadership and new habits.

Halti and Gentle Leader Collars -Like Pinch Collars and Choke Chains, these halters can cause cervical and spinal injuries to dogs if used improperly. If the dog lunges, or if the handler is not experienced and becomes too aggressive with jerking or pulling, the action turns the head swiftly to the side causing a whiplash effect. Veterinarians usually like Haltis and Gentle Leaders because they make it easier to do an examination, and the dog is contained in an exam room. In a controlled situation like this there is little risk of the dog getting injured. If the dog tries to bite, you have more control.

We feel that some of these tools are unnecessary for most dogs for normal every day use, and definitely not fun at the dog park. They have their purpose with training, however, and are excellent in certain circumstances for dogs that pull. Head halters don't always teach the dog to be well behaved unless you accompany it with other positive training techniques, but they do encourage the dog to be more submissive and calm in the long run. Some very active or hyper dogs often revert to their "normal" behavior when it is off. Many dogs usually dislike them and try and get them off because they put uncomfortable pressure against the eyes or muzzle - which often interferes with getting them to focus on your training. So check the straps regularly to make sure they are not putting pressure on the dog's eyes or pinching. Halties and Gentle Leaders and other head halters are good tools when used properly and in the right circumstances and are useful as a restraint to subdue overactive dogs.

No-Pull Harness - this harness has the connection in the front of the dog at the chest area. It prevents him from pulling by causing him to move to the side, therefore throwing him off balance. If you use this all the time and are constantly pulling your dog roughly to the side, it can contribute to an imbalance in the dog's spine and put stress on the hind quarters, hips or knees. Again, gentle corrections are more effective. These tools should only be used when training, not as an every day walking aid. The idea is not to hurt, injure or scare the dog but to train your dog to respond to your commands so that eventually you can walk him calmly on a comfortable collar or normal harness. 

All the above-mentioned aids are helpful to get your dogs into good habits. Dogs that don't do well with Choke Chains or Prong Collars sometimes do well with Halties or a No-Pull Harness ... but remember, a routine course of training should always accompany these tools so that your pet understands what it is that you want!

Always choose a tool that works best with your particular canine. The goal is to avoid aggressiveness, fear or pain for both of you! Always practice reward-based training.

There are some good DVD's on dog training that you can rent or buy that are very helpful in teaching your dogs that you are the leader, not them! Check out one of our three website stores on our Shopping page for books and DVDs that may help. Have fun with your dog!

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