A Dog’s Life . . .
“IT’S a dog’s life” is a 16 century phrase referring to how dogs worked hard, slept outside, were fed scraps and generally had a short life, way back then.
Nowadays though, dogs are part of the family, giving companionship, reducing stress, leading us on adventures and helping us with jobs we couldn’t possibly do alone! Today’s dogs are generally well-fed, groomed, pampered , sleep inside and live long lives — and for over 20 years, dogs were our life.
We ran a dog boarding business and seeing the range of dog situations, affections, relationships and behaviours always made life interesting. Of particular interest is the range of ways that dogs were delivered to and picked up from their holiday. We used to have the slogan “Enabling dogs and their owners to have a happy holiday” and the start of that holiday was the dog’s relationship with the vehicle in which it was delivered — but more about that later.
The relationship with our canine companions runs deep and emotional for many people who own dogs. They know many things about us which we find hard to understand but are grateful for. A recent Readers Digest article identified a number of factors that dogs know about us. They know when we are sad, mad or suspicious. They can sense our intentions and they know when we do not like someone. Dogs know when you’ve had a fight with your partner or when you need protection. They seem to sense when you are not feeling well and when you are burned-out.
Dogs are the only animal which actively seek out eye contact with humans. It’s been said that when a dog looks at you, they are hugging you with their eye — and importantly for us — dogs know when you are going away and when you are coming home.
It was a source of satisfaction when owners told us that a dog gets excited when they turned into our driveway. It was also fascinating to watch a dog’s sense of anticipation and excitement on the day the owners are returning and the excited barking when they hear their car arrive — but now, back to the dog in the car.
The mode of transport for the dog’s delivery varied from the ute where the dog was chained to the deck to being put into the boot of the car or station wagon, to a travelling cage. An increasing number were strapped into their own restraint but for most, the dog was completely unrestrained in the car. Many small dogs got on to their owners’ lap and for a number, the lap the dog occupied was the driver’s.
We had a couple of incidents where the dog leapt on to the rear seat, the owner shut the door and then the dog jumped to the front seat and locked the door with the keys still in the ignition.
I guess there is nothing more exasperating than an owner trying to coax a grinning dog to put its paws on the door lock. There’s only one thing for it then and that’s to call the AA.
But it’s not just the frustration in play here, but the potential danger. A dog locked in a hot car with the windows up in the middle of summer can heat up by 10C in 10 minutes and 20C in 30 minutes. The dog gets anxious as it can only sweat through its tongue and its paws. The more it pants the more it heats up and the dog can slip into a coma within 20 minutes.
Over the last two months of December and January 2016, the AA has had a 20 per cent increase in rescues of dogs and children from locked cars compared to the previous year. For dogs that is around 60 per month average over the whole year with the highest being 95 in August 2015. Most of these dogs were left in cars while the owner went shopping. The trend is alarming and the risk isn’t greatly reduced by leaving windows slightly open.
But it’s the unrestrained nature of dogs in cars which causes the biggest collective risk. An unrestrained dog can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or crash. It is estimated that an 11kg dog in a 50kmh crash becomes a 453kg mass flying uncontrollably inside the vehicle. A larger dog at a higher speed can be like falling from a fourth story balcony.
Most dog owners take their dogs with them in the car at some stage. In a recent study three out of 10 dog owners admitted to being distracted by the dog while driving.
This distraction can vary shifting attention, to using their hands to prevent the dog climbing into the front seat to, almost one in 5 owners admitting to driving with the dog in their lap. And let’s not forget the scourge of today’s generation- the selfie. Almost five percent of drivers admitted to taking pictures of themselves and their dog while behind the wheel.
Many European countries such as France, Germany and the UK require that dogs must be properly restrained when travelling in a car. Whether this means staying behind a dog grille in the back of a vehicle, riding in a crate or wearing a seat belt is left up to the owner.
Interestingly, Skoda is one of the first auto makers to offer a range of safety accessories to attract dog-loving motorists to the brand. Skoda’s portfolio includes seatbelt, a vertical trunk grille that stops the dog climbing into the cab and a grille which also divides the luggage area into two with the dog in one and the suitcases in the other.
Dogs are our best friend, but we don’t want unrestrained dogs to be the source of our demise.
Drive safely, enjoy your driving and share the road.
unrestrained dog can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or