Reprinted from the Summer 2012 issue of "What's New", the quarterly newsletter of the KBTF.
I haven't forgotten the lecture I got as part of the very first obedience training Nips, my KBT, and I attended. It was the summer and the young trainer was doing her thing on safe traveling with a dog. "Would you travel, she asked, "with a loose bowling ball in your car? What would happen if you had to stop suddenly? Where would the bowling ball go? I remember the vision I had of Nips, still a puppy, flying towards the window, me frantically trying to save her.
The moral of the trainer's story: buy and use a dog safety belt.
I went home, googled 'doggie-seatbelts' and in less than a week, thanks to paying for expedited shipping, was seat-belting Nips into the car for the next training session. Imagine my surprise when I started asking around to see who else had heeded the trainer's suggestion: No one, not a single soul. I presume, I hope, I pray that none of the dogs in that training group ended up flying through the car like a loose bowling ball, but I don't know.
What I do know if this: I see lots of loose dogs traveling with their otherwise caring owners. And I know this: I ordered the puppy version of the doggie-seatbelt, which Nips soon outgrew and never got around to ordering the next size up until writing this article. It is summer once again and time for all of us to take our dogs to the park and the all other places they love to go in the car. Let's examine some basic summer travel safety tips.
Nips checks out the front seat before going for a ride. She is harnessed in the back appropriately but still has the ability to stick her nose in the front a little.
Editor's note: Randy's KBT Nips passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after this story was written and her photo taken. Nips will long be remembered by us all as she frequently was a key part of Randy's Stories
Let's start with a trick question to get our brains in a creative mode: Should our KBT's travel with their heads out the window? If we think of our dogs in terms of how we would treat our children or our grandchildren what would our answer be? Would we allow our kids or grandkids to ride in our car with their heads sticking out the window? I think not. Would we allow our kids or grandkids to ride in our car without being seat-belted (or otherwise secured)? I hope not. Would we let our five year old go out in the blazing summer sun without sun screen? I doubt it. Or would we encourage a three year old to jump off into the lake before we knew for sure he could swim? I assume not, and yet, how many of these activities do we do with our Kerries?
Head out the window? No! A thousand times No! Crack the window but keep the head inside. That's easy. But what about securing the dog in the car? You may not know this but the Foundation's rescue policy specifically states that all rescue dogs shall be crated during transportation. This is always the safer alternative, especially when the Kerry is a rescued dog who has been through a lot of trauma. A crate always helps a dog feel safe, genetically harkening back to those days their pre-canine ancestors lived in caves or dens. But who wants to deal with a huge crate? There are portable crates with a steel frames and cloth sides with brackets to seat belt into a car seat.
However, these are for puppies or very small dogs, ten pounds and under. One Kerry alternative is the Remington collapsible cloth sided dog crate which comes in four sizes and seems like a good alternative. I would consider sewing straps on one side of the collapsible crate so that I could seat belt it in, or making slits in the fabric so that I could run a seat belt through the steel frame to help hold it in place. The Remington is available throughwww.DogKennels.com. However there are other options available.
Perhaps a better and more portable alternative is the doggie seat-belt which is called a harness system in some of the online stores. There are several varieties and systems available. One such system, which I currently use with my Kerry Nips, is the Solvit system (available on www.discountramps.com)
The system is a sturdy looking harness that has metal connectors (not plastic so less likely to break during an accident) and integrates into the seat belt system. It comes in four sizes and so there is a size that will accommodate a KBT. My Nips required a size 'Large' and is quite comfortable wearing it in the harness in the back seat of our car where she still has room to move a bit about when harnessed in . And I don't have to worry about a "bowling ball" loose in the back seat. This system, and others similar to it, is a two-part system with both a car harness and walking harness. You can detach the actual harness about your dog from the part that attached to your seat belt in the car and use it for walking, attaching your leash to the link.
The harness could be put in the front seat; however just as in the child rule, your KBT should be located always in the back seat for maximum safety.
Another solution, if you don't mind your auto's back seat looking a bit like a police car, is the pet barrier, available in a variety of sizes, and is advertised as keeping your pet in the backseat of the car. This was a serious consideration for me since Nips and I sometimes struggle as to whom gets the passenger seat when we are both riding in my wife's car. However, since there is no drilling involved in the instillation, it is questionable as to whether the barrier could withstand the force of a 40-plus pound dog being hurled toward it during a sudden stop. It could possibly prevent a dog from being thrown through a windshield or into the front seat. So this is a 'use at your own risk recommendation. Whichever device you may choose, remember that in an accident human occupants may need emergency extraction or medical care.
An unrestrained dog that has been through an accident will be confused and perhaps aggressive as strangers attempt to enter the car and make physical contact with you. A secured dog will be much easier for rescue personnel to deal with so that they can provide their life saving attention to you and the other human occupants in your vehicle.
No one intends on ever needing this kind of attention, especially on a short drive to the vet or the animal park or to the drive up window at the local bank. However according to automobile insurance statistics, more than 52% of accidents happen within five miles of your home and 23% of these occur less than one mile from home. This means even a short drive has the potential for accidents to happen and we need to be prepared for them.
Sermons aside, let's consider two or three remaining summer-fun items: Doggie life jackets, doggie sun tan lotion, and doggie sun glasses. Theoretically, a KBT can swim and can be taught water retrieval. Since my KBT will not even step in a puddle of water and absolutely refuses to leave the front porch when it is raining, I sometimes have my doubts about this supposed affinity to water.
A number of web-sites sell life jackets for dogs in a variety of sizes. This is a 'better safe than sorry' recommendation if you are frequenting the beach. Note the photo of Meghan, Judy Wick's KBT, modeling one type of life jacket. You can see the jacket has a "handle' on the top.
Some are made with two handles, one front and the other towards the back. These handles can be used to pull your KBT out of the water in emergencies. The entire vest is a fine floatation device that can allow your Kerry a relaxing time in the water.
Although not listed in the standard medical reference I use (UCDAVIS School of Veterinary Medicine Book of Dogs, Mordecai Siegal, editor, Harper Collins, 1995) a number of web sites insist that dogs can acquire a sun burn. The burn-likely dogs are the hairless or light-haired dogs which certainly is not a description of a KBT.
Dogs do not tend to burn as seriously as their human owners, but it still can be a concern. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 is supposed to be sufficient to prevent burn.
Important note: The websites recommend avoiding sunscreen with PABA (paraaminobenzoic acid) as it is dangerous to dogs if ingested and we all know
our Kerries will attempt to lick off any medication, cream, or whatever we put on them.
For more information on dog sunburn see:http://www.ehow.com/how_2058156_deal-dog-sunburn.html
Fini enjoys wearing her Doggles as both a fashion statement and to protect her eyes while riding motorcycle/sidecar with her owner.
The last fun item for consideration is dog specific sun glasses which are also known as 'Doggles.' The advantage to the Doggles, which are made with straps to keep them on your KBT's face, is that not only do they protect the eyes from ultraviolet light which is more prevalent in the summer, they additionally protect the dog's eyes from wind, dirt and sand.
They come in a variety of colors, lens tints, and decorations. My granddaughter refers to my KBT as a 'fashion dog' when she is fresh from the groomer. The Doggles will certainly give any dog a 'high fashion' look. As you can see from the photo of Kelly Kam's Fini wearing her Doggles, it does indeed give a special "look' to the wearer.
Yet the practical side can be seen in the photo of Fini riding with her owner in her own motorcycle sidecar (see page 5). Without the Doggles, Fini's eyes would be subject to dust and debris from the road as they motor along. Doggles can be purchased from various websites and in some pet stores.
We have covered safety areas from the serious to the sublime. Here's hoping that everyone has a safe and fun summer with his or her KBT's.