For farm folks living in more rural areas, taking the family dog for a ride in the bed of your pickup has become a perfectly routine daily occurrence. Nobody complains, and the dog loves it.
With no traffic and usually limited speeds, giving Bowser breath of fresh air can be somewhat safe.
For those of us who live in the populated cities, however, the old-time days of taking your furry pal for a ride in the back of your truck is an extremely dangerous idea, Dr. Thomas Gus, a veterinarian at University Animal Hospital, said.
“It is absolutely irresponsible to drive in city traffic, or on freeways, with your dog in the back of your pickup truck,” Gus said.
“There are a number of risks involved.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States, 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents involving riding in truck beds. Although it is not illegal in Arizona, a number of states have banned this form of pet travel.
“In more rural and agriculture societies, the dogs were more tools of the trade to herd animals,” Gus said. “I also don’t believe people had such an emotional connection with their dogs – we’ve taken them from the yard to the bedroom.”
With cars traveling at higher speeds on city roads, it becomes a much bigger risk to travel with your four-legged companion in your truck bed.
“The obvious risk is an animal becoming distracted and jumping out of a moving vehicle,” Gus said. “Humans think through things like that, and some dogs do, but most dogs don’t.”
Gus said he realized this personally when his dog attempted to jump out of an open window in his vehicle while driving on a city road.
“I was able to grab his tail, luckily, and slowed to a stop to pull him back in,” he said. “I see a lot of pet owners come in with injured dogs that jumped out of a moving car.”
There are leash options available to better secure your dog riding in the truck bed, but even with those come other hazards of getting in an accident, or having to quickly swerve or reduce your speed to avoid a traffic collision.
“If you were even close to getting in an accident, your dog would be sliding around and could easily be thrown from the vehicle,” Gus said. “A leash might improve the situation, but it would add nothing to the protection if there was an accident.”
Seatbelt options are available in local pet stores, for use inside the vehicle. Gus said he has not yet seen one used, but believes it to be a protective measure if an accident were to occur.
Other than the obvious overly excited dog jumping after something from a moving vehicle, additional risks are also at play.
Regarding passenger dogs riding inside cars, but with heads out of the window, there is some concern to the wind’s wear on the dog’s eyes, Gus said.
“Prolonged exposure to high wind forces certainly could be traumatic to an unprotected eye,” Gus said. “With short trips, it’s probably not an issue.”
Gus added that dog owners traveling with their pets should be careful during Arizona’s monsoon and dust storm season, when it is much more likely for dirt to enter the dog’s eyes.
On weekend hiking travels, I recently caught a glimpse of an ear-flapping dog catching smells out of an open car window, outfitted with protective goggles – apparently a recent option to keep insects and dust out of your pet’s eyes.
Though I have not seen them available in local pet stores, custom goggles for adventuring pets might be a viable option.
Dr. Gus isn’t quite so sure. “If you were unlucky enough to have some road debris, or even insects that might impact the dog, it could be serious,” he said. “There are lots of times when it’s just a better idea to keep the windows up.”