Sarah's Blog

Safety First

Ever heard something like this?

“I don’t need to train my dog, he’s ….only tiny/is naturally obedient/is good with the family …”

You can fill in the blanks… but what I always want to ask, is ‘what about in an emergency?’

Preparing your dog in advance for any eventuality might seem like looking at the glass half empty, but many incidents and accidents are more common than we like to think. Having a tyre blow out on the motorway might seem like a major hassle, but with an untrained or frightened dog, it can become a nightmare. Even everyday accidents, such as dropping a glass on the kitchen floor, can become dangerous if your dog doesn’t respond to your commands to stay or keep clear.

Just imagine that you are driving in the outside lane of the motorway when you notice a slight wobble in the car’s stability. By the time you have reacted and negotiated your way into the inside lane, your tyre is in sheds and you are in danger of driving on the rim of the wheel itself. Having pulled safely onto the hard shoulder, you check that everyone’s OK. ‘Everyone’ being you and your dog – or dogs – in the back of the vehicle. Now, of course, comes the dangerous part. You know that you must get out of the car and on the other side of the safety barrier, and that once you have done so, you will need to stay there until the emergency services or road-side rescue arrives to get you on the road again.

Statistics since 2000 tell us that there were around 800 deaths caused by collisions with vehicles parked on the hard shoulder. To most of us, leaving our dogs in the car to face this kind of risk is unimaginable. However, it is not just for safety reasons that most of us will get our dogs out of the car under these circumstances, as the vast majority of spare wheels are kept in the area under which the dogs are sitting – making it a practical necessity.

Of course, if you travel with your dogs safely contained in a carrier or a cage, or use a doggie seat belt, you will be able to open the safest door without fear of them jumping out. However, at some point you will need to open the door of the crate or release them from their harness, so this does not replace the need to teach a really reliable ‘wait’ command and make sure that you never, ever allow your dog to jump out of the car without first having your hand on his collar or holding his lead. This may seem an easy rule to flout at home, but once on the side of the motorway, with the traffic roaring past and your stress levels flying high, you may be glad you taught it.