Helping your dog be safe AND happy

Updated: Feb 20

You want your dog to be happy. Hands down, that’s what it’s all about. So the thought of buckling up your dog - sounds so….restricting.

But he likes to put his head out the window.

He loves to lay in my lap.

He won’t like the carrier.

Totally understandable.

But on the other hand, you want your dog to be safe too, right? When you come to a sudden stop, putting your arm out to hold your dog back isn’t the most effective way to secure your dog. And if you’re in a crash, that’s DEFINITELY not going to work.

Dogs jump out of windows. They flee crashes because they're scared. Dogs are constantly lost, injured, and killed in car crashes. One simple thing can reduce this from happening - a certified dog seatbelt.

Your dog needs to be safe AND happy.

That’s why it’s important to give your dog time to get accustomed to the seatbelt before using it. If you set it up just right, you can have a really happy car rider who’s also protected in the car.

With carriers, set it up inside the house to start with. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Let your pup explore the carrier on his own terms. Toss some kibble and treats inside there throughout the day. Put your dog’s favorite toys inside. Maybe a bone or a frozen Kong. Don’t force your dog to step in, but rather wait for your dog to do it himself. It might be on day 1 or on day 14, and that’s okay. Consistently make the carrier THE place to go for meals, treats and toys, and you’ll have a dog who’s happy to be inside the carrier in no time.

With harnesses, put the harness next to your dog’s food and water dishes. Have the harness laying out in various fun places around the house where your dog likes to be. Sprinkle kibble and treats on and around the harness. After your dog is comfortable around the harness, start putting the harness on your dog.

One paw in, treat and praise.

Another paw in, treat and praise. Connect the buckles, treat and praise.

Break it down into tiny steps. If your dog is very anxious around harness, stop the moment before your dog becomes uncomfortable. Keep it a positive experience! You can add on another step later on.

When your dog is a happy participant in either getting into or putting on the seatbelt gear, it’s time to take the training to the car.

Do not buckle your dog in and go for an 8 hour road trip on the first day! You’ll need to start small. Short, 5-10 minute trips around the neighborhood, and build up to longer distances. Go to a variety of places that your dog likes. Take this beyond the vet!

If you’re planning a long trip with your dog, get your seatbelt early. Give your dog ample time to get used to this. If you do the work now and set your dog up for success, you’re going to have such ease for the rest of your time together. Imagine the freedom and peace of mind you’ll have, knowing your dog is safe AND happy every time you get in the car.

For more info and to view a video tutorial by dog trainer Susan Sanderson on putting on the Sleepypod harness, visit page 22 in the Riding Certified magazine.

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