It’s only fitting then that the new blog start with a chat about summer road trips. We’ll cover a few topics on this one so I have broken our summer road trip down into a few parts.
I’m an avid road tripper. I love road trips because for me the best part of a vacation is getting to share a new place and experience with my dogs. Kodi went on his first “big trip” the summer we drove to the western coast of Vancouver Island. Previous to that our family once trekked from Alberta to Ontario with a little dog in the back of the minivan. Together my dogs and I have tramped between provinces, crossed international borders, camped, slept in the back seat of the car, crashed on couches, and once we even got to stay at a five star hotel (boy do they know how to treat a dog!).
But as I sit here writing this particular post I have fans running in the daycare and I have the blinds pulled to keep the heat barricaded out, and I remember that some of those trips we took together we took on hot days in cars that didn’t have air conditioning. It seems fitting today, as I hide the dogs from the 30+ degree weather outside that I share some tips and tricks about keeping your dog cool when the world around him is hot.
I’m going to jump right to the point that I probably don’t have to cover, but I will anyway, for your dog’s safety, your safety, and your car’s safety.
Do not leave your dog in the car on a hot day.
Simple right? You didn’t need to be told that, but I’ll elaborate. There are three major dangers to your dog present if you leave them in your car. Bet you thought it was just the one.
Cracking a window is almost always not enough to allow air to flow out of your vehicle, and if the air outside is hot anyway you’re not replacing hot air with cool, you’re just replacing hot air with slightly less hot air. It’s not enough to protect your dog.
In order to get enough ventilation to help your dog, you end up putting your dog at risk. Windows that are left too far down present their own dangers to dogs. If the windows are down far enough to allow your dog’s head to get through, your dog may escape. They might take off looking for shade or they might chase down the ice cream truck. Who knows.
The other problem with leaving the window too far down is that it allows other people access to your dog, that is, people who don’t think your dog should be in the hot car, or think your dog is in distress will reach in there, unlock the door, and open it allowing your dog to escape.
If your dog doesn’t escape he or she might become frightened by the stranger breaking into your car and they may bite. This gets you and your dog in to trouble even if your dog was just protecting your car.
If you leave your dog, the third risk is that someone will damage your vehicle and possibly steal your pet. Well meaning passers by are put in a tough position when they see a dog in a hot car, even tougher if the dog appears distressed. Some people aren’t sure what the laws are around this situation, some think they have the right to damage your vehicle and take your animal. This means you risk having your windows smashed by rocks, bricks, hammers etc. You risk having your dog stolen by someone who believes that you are an unfit dog owner because you ran into the store to buy milk on the way home from the park.
If you see an animal in distress confined in a hot car and you feel you need to do something about it please follow these steps:
1. Stop. Think before you act.
2. Record the colour, make, model, and license plate of the vehicle and using this information have the owner paged in the store or business where the car is parked.
3. Call authorities. Use your discretion. Is this an immediate emergency? If not, call the non-emergency phone number for the local police department. If you feel it is an immediate emergency, call the emergency number. In either case, explain the situation calmly. Ranting, raving, and cursing wastes time and time is precious.
4. Listen. You will be given instructions on what to do next and on what not to do.
5. Wait. This can be the hard part. Monitor the dog’s condition. If possible erect a blanket or tarp for shade but understand that tampering with the vehicle itself is a crime.
6. If you do choose to remove the dog from the vehicle you must stay at the scene and wait for police. You may or may not be charged.
7. Do not engage or confront the driver if they return. This is for your personal safety. You do not know this person, they may not be safe.
The internet is pretty comprehensive on the subject of not leaving your dog in the car. I have just added my owner version to the vast number of articles telling you not to do this. What I have not found readily available are tips for when you have absolutely no choice. Sometimes, in life, we don’t. So while K9High doesn’t endorse leaving pets in hot cars, here are some extra precautions you can take. These tips do not, under any circumstances, eliminate the danger to your dog, but they may help. Please also be aware that Calgary bylaws state that dogs are not allowed to be left unattended in vehicles when weather conditions are not suitable.
1. Park in the shade. Not partial shade, total shade, preferably that offered by a tall building, even if you have to walk several blocks to get where you are going. Be aware of where the sun is now, and where it will be going. The shade needs to last the entire time. Parking near water, and on dirt instead of pavement can also reduce heat.
2. Open all windows as wide as possible without allowing you to stick your arm through them. This will provide as much air flow as possible without allowing strangers to reach through and unlock your doors.
3. If possible, use fans to circulate air out of your car, but always test car cooling gadgets before trusting your pet with them.
4. Provide water. There are plenty of non-spill dishes on the market that are great for the car, but make sure your pet knows how to use them before you depend on them.
5. Cover ALL windows. A sun screen in the front windshield is not enough. Use blankets or towels and close them in the doors to provide curtains on ALL windows in your vehicle. Hanging them on the outside prevents the sun from hitting the glass which keeps the heat out of your car as it is absorbed by the towels and blankets instead. This also prevents people from seeing that you have left your dog in your car. You can also cover the car in reflective sheets as long as you choose ones that allow air to continue to flow freely.
7. Check your dog often.
If you are going to be in the position where you have no choice but to bring your dog with you and leave them in the car consider investing in a high end remote car starter. There are starters on the market now that allow you to monitor the temperature inside your vehicle so you can turn on your engine and your air conditioning whenever you need to.
Remember that the heat inside a parked car can become fatal in as little as 15 minutes. Leaving your dog unattended in a parked car in adverse weather conditions is illegal. Leave your dog at home or with a buddy whenever possible, even if it is inconvenient. You will be saving his life.
Future topics to be discussed on our Summer Road Trip are:
Beating the Heat: Tips and tricks to help keep your dog cool on a hot holiday
Buckle Up!: Safe car restraint for dogs
Manners Matter: Behaving yourselves when you stay at hotels with your pets