Crated Travels, Safe Dogs!

I pulled up to a client's home one morning recently and noticed a dog walker picking up a neighbour's dog.  The dog walker drove a van, not unlike mine, and had well over 10 dogs loose in the back of it (don't even get me started on a dog walker that walks that many dogs at once!).  The dogs were barking, rough housing, and several tried to bolt from the van when she opened it to add the neighbour's dog to the group. I immediately began to imagine all of the possible unfortunate scenarios that could occur because her set up is essentially a ticking time bomb.  Witnessing this scene inspired me to write this blog post about transporting multiple dogs safely.  Although I am specifically writing about multiple dog transport, it is important to note that any dog in a vehicle should be safely restrained, whether one, two or ten.

According to the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario, 92 percent of drivers wear a seat belt regularly and for every one percent increase in seat belt use, five lives are saved (

www.mto.gov.on.ca

).  People wear seatbelts because being unrestrained in a vehicle that crashes can be fatal.  Why then do so many people travel with their dogs loose in their vehicles?

Having dogs loose in the back of a van, as the dog walker mentioned above did, poses a great deal of risk not only to the dog, but also to the human driver and her passengers.  What if the dogs get into a fight or a rigorous play session while the driver has the vehicle in motion?  This would cause an enormous distraction to the driver and possibly a collision.  If dogs jump into the front seat, they may impact the driver's ability to steer and drive the vehicle safely, causing risk to every being in her van as well as all of the other drivers on the road around her. In a collision, loose dogs can be thrown and seriously injured and possibly lead to driver/passenger injury as well. Larry Copeland reported in USA Today that an 80 pound unrestrained dog in a vehicle travelling at just 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force on whatever it strikes if the vehicle has a collision (

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-08-17-dogs-cars-drivers_N.htm

). That's a lot of force!!!

Safely transporting multiple dogs can require creative solutions and all solutions will require some type of restraint.  I transport four to a maximum of six dogs to and from hikes in my van daily.  They all travel in crates that I have carefully configured and installed with all of our safety in mind.

Stan+Crates.jpg

Stanley enjoying his crated travel!

Crates are placed on rubber matting, zip-tied together to create one bank of crates, and are levelled and secured by strategically placing wood beneath them and attaching the crates to the wood.  The pic above is a view of my set up from the rear of my van, and the one below is a side-view.

Side+View.jpg

Side-view of four medium sized crates

I opted for crated travel to minimize the risks described above as well as for several other reasons:

  • In the summer when the heat is extreme, I can leave the side and/or back doors of my van open when I enter a client's home to pick up/drop off their dog, giving the dogs in the van lots of fresh air.
  • If one of the dogs in my care becomes injured on a hike, a crate is the safest way to transport that dog to the vet to avoid exacerbating the injury further.
  • When I open my van to welcome another dog to my hiking group, no dog has the ability to bolt from the van.  I can open my van on the busiest of streets and there is virtually no risk of a dog bolting and getting hit by a car or being lost.
  • The dogs are more comfortable having their own, confined space in the van.  All of the dogs that hike with me seem quite happy to travel in their crates, even those that aren't crate trained at home.
  • By keeping dogs confined to crates, I am more easily able to control the cleanliness of my van, which leads to a healthier space for the dogs and me. Because the dogs are confined, they aren't coming in contact with every surface in the back of my van.  I clean all crates, exposed rubber matting and other surfaces daily so the van is clean and fresh for each hike.  Every month or so, I take all crates out of the van and clean the surfaces below the crates to ensure the highest level of cleanliness possible.  This is also when I inspect each crate to ensure they are all functioning properly.
  • I can provide fresh water for each dog in their crate, which is particularly important at the end of the hike. Without crates, this would not be possible.

While there are other ways to restrain dogs in vehicles, crated travel gives me and my clients peace of mind that the dogs are safely restrained and ready for a nice long hike when we arrive at our trail head of the day!