The hot weather is surely upon us as is the summer travel season. As many know, my daughter and I compete with our dogs. Summer and car travel can be a dangerous time for pets; however, you can make it safer with a little planning.
Try to drive earlier in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler. Now for long trips this is not always possible. For longer trips, trips during the day or just to be safe, your summer driving gear should include: a cooler, frozen bottles of ice (not ice packs, just regular water or soda bottles rinsed out, filled and frozen solid), window shades for the car, travel fans (both battery operated and ones that plug into your vehicle), and fresh water.
Alternate who gets out of the vehicle so there is always someone with the car so the A/C can be left on. If both people have to go inside (such as a rest area where I do not want a child going in alone), or you are travelling alone, this is where the ice and fans are employed. Each dogs gets an ice bottle, a crate fan and cold water. Additionally windows are left open a bit and the car is shaded. This will keep the dogs cool for the time it takes to go to the restroom. Make all your food stops drive-thrus.
When we are at events with the dogs, we take precautions. Many people like to bring dogs to summer events. At events, we make sure there is ice, shade, crate fans, cooling beds and some even go as far as to get cooling jackets for their dogs. You do not have to be a dog sports competitor to take these steps. Even if you are taking your dog to a family picnic or to watch a summer sports game, you need to prepare for the heat.
What if you see a pet in a car in the hotter months? STOP! CHECK! Has the owner taken steps to keep the pet cool? Again those of us who are seasoned and educated travelers with our animals know what needs to be done. If no cooling methods were employed, look for an owner. Go to stores near the vehicle and ask the manager to make an announcement. Provide the make, model, color and tag number of the vehicle. If needed call local law enforcement – call animal control – call someone. Only break windows if directed to or the animal is in bad shape (listless, unresponsive, very heavy panting and drooling, etc). Please be rational and careful before you take the law into your own hands. There are times we may have to but other times where we need to be careful and attempt to find an owner first. If not, you can end up in legal trouble. There is also the risk that the dog will not be “grateful” and “joyous.” He may decide to defend the vehicle and severely injure you or he may run off and now you are responsible for losing someone’s pet – even if they were being irresponsible.
If you are just out and about running errands, it is safest to leave your dog at home rather than waiting in a vehicle. If your dog exhibits undesired behaviors while you are out, consult with a trainer. Often when dogs are destructive when home it is because they are bored. We leave, the dog can party. There is no one to stop him or teach him better. He is not bad, angry or vindictive, most likely he is a bored dog
Karen Peak is owner of West Wind Dog Training and developed The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project in Prince William County.
A shorter version of this was in the print version of Northern VA Today, June 18, 2015.