Spring is in the air and if we can find a way to get out between weekend cold spells it is time to be taking the dog outside for hikes and other activities.  There are, however a few precautions that dog owners need to take to keep the excursion from becoming a disaster.

          First, keep in mind that on a sunny day a car heats up to deadly level in a matter of minutes.  When you dash into a store to make a quick purchase or grab a quick bite to eat you should feel comfortable leaving your pet in the car for the exact number of minutes you could feel comfortable placing your dog in a 250 degree oven. (In case you are not sure how many minutes that would be, the correct answer is zero) I know the dog loves to come along on errands, but is it really worth risking her life to take her with you to buy milk at the grocery store?

          On the way to a fantastic afternoon of Frisbee catching at the dog park most dogs will want to stick their heads out the window, but keep in mind that flying debris can cause damage to eyes and faces when traveling at highway speeds.  More seriously, dogs often get the sudden notion into their heads that they need to jump out of the car while it is moving if something catches their interest, especially when the driver is slowing down for a light or a stop sign.  If a motivated dog can squeeze herself out the window she will, and when she hits the ground at even 15 miles per hour the injuries are usually severe.  If the dog is unlucky and the driver of the car behind yours can’t swerve into the car next to him or into the ditch on the side of the road to avoid her, she may get to experience both hitting the ground at 15 miles per hour and being run over by the following car.  Save everyone some grief and keep the windows rolled up enough that it is physically impossible for your dog to force her body out no matter how hard she may try.  Better yet, have her restrained in a kennel or a seat belt harness so she will be safer in the case of an accident and she won’t be causing you to crash because she is tap dancing on your head while you are trying to drive.

          Riding unrestrained in the back of a pickup truck is a particularly good way to incur  extreme injuries.  Dogs don’t have a magical ability to balance themselves in the back of a truck any better than a 5 year old kid does.  They get dumped out around corners or decide to jump out because they have no sense.  Almost every single person who has to deal with the injuries caused when a dog falls out of a pickup seems absolutely surprised and shocked that this could happen.  I am telling everyone now, before the catastrophe, that injuries not only can happen, they will happen when a dog rides unrestrained in the back of the pickup.  The dogs that manage to survive the fall are among the most horrible trauma cases I see and saving their lives is usually an extremely painful and expensive  process.  The only way a dog can be even remotely safe in the back of a pickup truck is if they are inside a closed kennel that is secured to the bed.

          So enjoy all the great outdoor activities that are available out here to share with your dog, just take a few common sense precautions so you don’t end up at my hospital wringing your hands and saying “I had no idea this could happen..”