Spring has finally sprung on the south shore! And with the spring weather comes all the happy dogs with their heads out car windows; ears flapping in the breeze and lips curled back from the wind. They look so happy they actually seem to be smiling!

Even though the look of ecstasy on Fido’s face is undeniable, we really need to consider the safety of our pets when they are in this precarious position. Contemplate this; when humans get into a car we fasten our safety belts without thinking. When we ride our bicycles, we wear helmets. We don’t let our children stick their heads out the window traveling down a highway; we secure them in their car seats before putting the car in drive. So why don’t we secure man’s best friend when we travel?

Clearly dogs love the wind in their face but sadly, really bad things can happen to them this way. At a minimum, objects like sticks, rocks and even insects can strike them with tremendous force. Remember the damage done to your windshield by that tiny pebble? Corneal damage to a dog’s eye is not uncommon and not so easily repaired. Similarly, road projectiles can find their way into a dog’s nose or ears and cause severe inflammation.

A far worse situation would occur if your dog jumps out of your open car window or is thrown from the car during a swerve or collision. At a minimum, if he exits the car during motion, you’ll be lucky if he only ends up with road rash or a broken leg (assuming he’s not hit by another car). An unrestrained dog in the back seat of an automobile can easily transform into a small missile during sudden braking or swerving which could potentially cause fatal injuries to the dog and even to a passenger in the car.

Find the right restraint for your dog. My personal preference is to secure them in a crate if your car is large enough to accommodate one. The crate must be kept snug so it does not slide around the vehicle. Position it on the floor, between the seats or you can place it in the back of an SUV and secure it with bungee cords. If your dog is happy sitting upright in the car, using a harness with a seatbelt attachment is a great choice. You can also choose a barrier option for the back of an SUV. None of these have the same safety efficiency as human seatbelts however, any of these options will improve the safety and well-being of your dog when traveling in your car. It’s always a good idea to train your dog to become accustomed to a new restraining system by taking short trips, using positive reinforcement and gradually extending the drive time.