Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog!
Driving a convertible. The bipeds were bit by that bug on our trips to Florida. They loved it. Dad liked the sense of freedom and Mom kept leaning back to let the sun kiss her face. Sometimes her hands would fly up in the air and she’d squeal in delight, making Dad laugh. No one cared that their hair was getting messed up. Oh, the wind, the sun … the freedom!
“When I’m behind the wheel
Horses of gas and steel
The highway is my home
In fiberglass and chrome
Fantasy car, top down
Let’s take a ride you can’t forget
Come on pretty puppy, ride with me…”
We also noticed that when you’re driving a convertible, you start to look at the world in a different way. You don’t just look around you; you also look up. Mom noticed things such as how some trees reached across the road to hold hands, creating perfect boulevards and providing shade. Large birds soared above and Mom’s hands instinctively rushed to protect me from birds of prey.
Ah yes. Safety. How safe is it to drive a convertible with a little dog like me? Or with any dog for that matter?
#1 – Not Contained
The first thing to consider in a convertible is that your canine is no longer contained within the car. At home, I always ride in my booster seat in the back seat of the car. When we’re on the road travelling outside of North America, my carrier often does double duty and serves as my booster seat. I am totally secured into the vehicle. I can’t jump out. I can’t escape. Should we stop at a red light, I will not suddenly bound out of the car and pursue a squirrel.
If you are traveling with a canine, make sure you have him or her properly restrained or harnessed into the car. There are many solutions out there. Find one that works well for your dog. Keep your dog’s size and strength in mind. And never, never, assume your dog will not jump out of the car. Also make sure your pet is microchipped and has a collar should they indeed get away.
#2 – The Wind
As nice as all that wind was for the bipeds, I personally found it to be a bit much. Once again, the solution came in the form of my carrier. Mom secured the mesh cover over top, creating a breathable barrier between the wind and me. I nuzzled down and let the now less aggressive wind caress my back.
Too much wind may not be as much of an issue for large dogs. I often see them with their tongues flapping in the wind, eyes shut in delight, a string of drool trailing behind. (shiver) However, don’t forget the basic rule that allowing any canine to ride with his or her head out the window, stuck into the wind, is just not a good idea.
Dust, dirt, rocks and anything else on the road can scratch or puncture your dog’s eyes and earflaps can swell and become tender, if not damaged. When earflaps repeatedly beat against a dog’s skull, blood pools in the earflaps, causing pain and scarring. This can lead to lifelong ear problems. I have one buddy who’s bipeds tie his long ears up with a scrunchy for his 5 minute a day “treat” of putting his head out the window of the car on his way home from the dog park.
No matter how tiny or big your pet, do what you can to ensure your dog isn’t blown away. In addition to something like my carrier, consider raising the side windows. In most convertible cars, that pushes the wind over the car instead of into it. Also, as you slow down, you reduce the strength of the wind. Savor the trip and enjoy the drive leisurely.
#3 – The Eyes
Our vet told us that summer brings her all sorts of eye injuries. We already said it, but it’s worth saying again: people open the window to let their canine enjoy the wind without realizing that any of the debris scattered on the road will be kicked up by the cars in front and by the front tires of your own vehicle.
Just take a look at your windshield – see those nicks and dead bugs? – or at the front of your car – the chipped paint and minor dents? Think about that damage to your dog’s eyes.
In a convertible, give your dog the advantage by moving him or her towards the center of the back seat. Don’t forget to restrain your pet so he or she is not launched into the front window during an emergency stop! Still, although reduced, the threat of eye damage persists, so consider Doggles. They are a great solution for protecting canine eyes when the top – or windows – are down. If Doggles are not an option (Like my friend Scooter says – they are not a good option for long hours on the road due to too much pressure around the eyes. He would know, he’s riding a motorcycle across the USA with his biped!) then once again, consider a proper carrier that can double as a booster seat.
#4 – The Sun
When the top comes off, the sun comes in. Be aware that your dog will get warmer a lot faster than you will. With the wind, we don’t often feel the sun and heat, but they are there. Mom tells me that many a biped has suffered the pain of sunburn as a result of not realizing how strong the sun was while driving with the top down. That lovely breeze can lead you astray and lull you into a false sense of comfort.
Make sure you provide your dog with some shade with either a carrier, moving them to a shady spot in the car or bringing the top up from time to time. Mom found that placing me at her feet was a great solution if not the safest in an accident. When I was at risk of overheating, she would turn on the cool air to blow gently at her feet and that would cool me off.
Wind and sun will also dehydrate a canine quickly. Provide and plan for lots of water breaks. And lastly, consider a sun guard for your pet especially if he or she has fair skin or you’re anticipating a long drive.
#5 – Allergies
A ride in the car with the top down can be particularly irritating for a dog (or biped) with allergies. All that pollen and dust flying into your dog’s face could cause an allergic reaction. If your dog has allergies, keep this in mind, and as always, be sure you are equipped with what your dog would need for relief from an allergic reaction.
Given these risks, bipeds must wonder why we dogs enjoy a convertible ride as much as we do?
Well, we canines have such a keen sense of smell that being able to put our noses or entire heads into the breeze blowing past a car is like a natural high. We can catch so many different smells and stories passing through the air, and because the car is moving fast, these smells are changing at a dizzying speed. We dogs see the world through scent. So for us, having the top – or windows – down to enjoy a strong outside breeze is like watching some beautiful scenery pass by.
So go ahead, let your dog enjoy your open window or convertible. Just be safe! And follow our Top 5 Safety Tips for driving a convertible with a dog!
“In my car
I’m captain of my destiny
In my car
Pretty pup, come cruise with me
Come for a drive
And we’ll arrive
(With thanks to the Beach Boys for their song, “In My Car.” And with apologies for my adaptations!)
Note: Originally published January 2013. Updated, edited and revised.