Transporting the Newly Rescued Dog Safely

There are a number of situations in which a rescue volunteer worker may be transporting a recently rescued dog by automobile. In many cases the dog's behavior in the car is NOT KNOWN, therefore it is worth taking precautions against possible behaviors which could endanger dog and driver.



This post is part of a series on all the bits and pieces , ie all the little jobs, that fit together to make a successful rescue. Please feel free to foreword and re-post this in any way that furthers the cause of dog rescue.

There are a number of situations in which a rescue volunteer worker may be transporting a dog by automobile : from the pound to temporary safekeeping at your own home (pending further transport to the foster home), from pound to boarding kennel, from pound to vets (sick dog), from pound to foster care person's home (your home or someone else's), picking up dog at home of person who has found a stray dog, picking up dog at home of surrendering owner, from foster care to groomer or vet, from foster care to prospective adopters home (in this case you are probably also doing the home inspection visit -- which might better be called "inspect and advise" visit). Now basically these types of trip fall into two categories : (1) a dog whose behavior in the car is NOT KNOWN , ie any situation in which the dog has not already been in foster care and tested for its car behavior by the foster person, vs (2) any situation in which the dog is KNOWN to behave WELL in the car. Situation (2) is not a problem, but situation (1) is worth taking precautions to ensure your safety and that of the dog.

Now my approach to the situation where dog's behavior in the car is UNKNOWN is that the personal safety of the transporter and the dog and everyone else on the road requires you to assume or recognize that the dog might BEHAVE BADLY in the car. Ie that the dog might ping-pong all over, thus creating a risk of causing you to lose control of the car. I admit that my views about car safety are perhaps colored towards the paranoid by having grown up with a father who was a personal injury attorney -- ie I grew up being constantly reminded that cars can be very dangerous, maiming and killing , if the driver makes any mistakes. So I am advocating an approach of "better safe than sorry".

I probably should add that the vast majority of Bouvs DO behave very WELL in the car. Most of the ones I have rescued have been completely sedate, completely safe. But just one time in my early days I had a dog in the cab of my pickup truck who suddenly panicked and dove for the floor straight towards the accelerator. Luckily I was able to grab his collar in my right hand and keep him from reaching the floor. From then on I took the more cautious approach for that initial trip from Pound to my home. then the dog's behavior as a passenger in the cab could be safely tested out on the dirt roads surrounding my rural home.

So what does it take to be safe ? Well really just some way of confining the dog's movements so he can't jostle your arms or step on the accelerator or brake or leap out the window into traffic or behave so chaotically that you cant keep your attention on driving. How you do this depends mostly on what sort of vehicle you have got.

Pickup truck :

If there is a camper shell with a door that closes securely, and with the side windows either closed or covered by something much stronger than ordinary window screen (I recommend something called "hardware cloth" which you can put on permanently), you could either turn the dog loose or you could tie the dog up with something non-chewable, ie chain not nylon or rope or leather. I recommend tying the dog up, as then when you get to your destination and open the door to take the dog out, you wont have the possibility that he will leap out and run away. Remember, you don't know this dog and he does not know you, so be prepared for possibility that he will behave badly. Of course a crate inside the camper is even better; if you've got it , use it.

If there is no camper shell, then the only truly safe way is a crate that is firmly tied into the truck bed or bolted into the truck bed. In an emergency, let's say you find a stray dog and don't have a crate with you, you could secure the dog by the collar with a pair of chains, one going to each side -- this is like "cross-tying" a horse -- doing this so the dog cannot possibly reach either side nor the rear edge of the truck bed and lean out or jump out.

If you can't tie the dog safely in the rear, you could bring him up into the cab (where a well behaved dog should ride) and secure him as best you can with a collar tie plus seat-belt into the passengers seat. a body harness plus seat-belt would give better control. If despite this, the dog should behave so badly that your safety might be imperiled, get your car off to the side of the road and phone for help.

Van or SUV type of vehicle:

If you have a crate, that is the ideal way of course.

If you don't have a crate, tie or cross-tie the dog in the rear with a chain or pair of chains. if you have a body harness that fits the dog, put one chain onto the harness and the other onto the collar.

If the rear is sectioned off by some kind of barrier, that is wonderful. Again , I'd suggest tying the dog for security against a bolting escape when you reach your destination.

Ordinary car :

I'm assuming the car is not large enough to take a Bouv sized crate. Of course if it does take a crate, then use it if you've got it.

If there is a rear seat, use a barricade between front and rear seat. If you don't have one of the metal ones, you may be able to improvise with a stretch gate, tying it in somehow to whatever anchor-points exist in that car. Dog on other side of barrier and tied in. If you don't have a barrier, put dog in rear seat and tie him in and also put a seat-belt around him, preferably through a body harness. If you can find a friend to go along, if friend is dog-wise friend might ride in rear and control the dog. or friend might drive while you ride in rear with dog and control dog.

If car has front seat only, then you will have to secure the dog in the front seat with seat belt and a tie to the collar. If things get too wild , pull over to the side and phone for help.

Further considerations :

If you know you will be making a trip to the pound tomorrow to pick up a dog, you might consider swapping vehicles with your spouse, your roommate, or even with a friend, so you will be in a vehicle that is safest for the purpose.

One other vehicle consideration : DIRT AND ODOR. Most dogs you find at the Pound will be long long un-groomed, and so will be absolutely FILTHY and utterly REEKING, often with a stench that would make a hyena barf. So unless the dog will be in a crate, you want to give some consideration to protecting your upholstery from dirt and odor. (This is especially important if the car you are using is borrowed !!) for your own car, install seat covers that are removable and washable. then cover the covers with a cheap thrift store blanket or similar cover, which will catch most of the damage and which can easily be tossed into the wash. I suppose you could try to towel off some of the mess before loading the dog into the car, but I doubt that this will do enough good.

If you have a CELL PHONE, be sure to take it with you. If you should run into some delay (bad traffic) or car trouble on the way to the pound, you can then phone them to let them know what is happening and that you will be late. If your car breaks down totally , call the pound and call your rescue coordinator or your backup person (the person who will take your place if disaster prevents you from arriving at the pound). If you don't have a cell phone, of course these calls can and should be made from a pay phone as soon as possible -- or from the Auto Club tow truck. Also if you have a cell phone and the dog behaves dangerously badly on the way home, so much that safety requires you to pull over, then you can phone for help without needing to leave your car. Without a phone, you might have to sit there until a police or highway patrol showed up. Again, I should tell you that I have NEVER had a dog behave this badly. But if I ever have to choose between spending the night in my car with a stinky dog versus having a car crash, well their is no doubt in my mind which I would choose.

**** ALWAYS ALWAYS have an I D collar on the dog ****

Every single moment a dog is in your custody or custody of anyone in rescue, that dog should be wearing a COLLAR that has at least one PHONE NUMBER of yourself or someone else in rescue so that if the dog should by some weird accident escape, the finder of the dog can contact rescue and you will thus be able to retrieve the dog. I have some special collars with reflective coverings and tags that say "Bouvier Rescue" plus my own phone number. I also have collars that have written on them with a Sharpie pen both "rescue" plus my phone number and "vet" plus my vet's number. I put at least one of these collars, often two collars, on the dog before he leaves the pound (or wherever I am picking him up). You might want to have a collar with your own number plus a tag with the words "Bouvier rescue" plus the coordinator's number and maybe the deputy coordinator's number.

Note : when the adopter picks up the dog, before the dog enters their car, I put on the dog a collar with their number and I hand-stamp a tag with their number.

A very low cost light colored collar and a Sharpie "indelible" pen are all you need -- the pen marking will fade and need to be renewed monthly or so. Your club can order in quantity engraved tags. or you can custom engrave your own on the spot at a special machine at Petco or at Walmart. or you can buy a stamping kit that uses metal dies to and a hammer to stamp numbers into blank metal tags.


site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1/8/03 revised ?/?/03
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