Co-pilot puppies

Co-pilot puppies

As much as our furry friends like to drive our cars, we still need to be careful

By Jennifer Hadley 09/02/2010

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News never fails to depress me, so I try to avoid it whenever possible, preferring instead to surf the Internet for cute pictures of animals, which, by contrast, delight me. As I was trying to kick the Noonday Demons recently, I found myself looking for videos of puppies playing with toilet paper and the like. But I also stumbled across an interesting report on the dangers of dogs in cars.
While it did kind of bum me out, since my little four-legged friend Frankenstein absolutely adores riding in the car, it was full of some useful information, including a list of the best cars for folks like me who nearly always have their pup as co-pilot.
I’m not alone, according to the survey by, conducted in conjunction with Kurgo, a company that makes pet safety travel items. More than 45 million American households — or 39 percent — count a dog as a family member. Moreover, most of us like to take our pups on day trips, to run errands and even on vacations. Unfortunately, though, this lends itself to that ever-present condition known as “distracted driving.”
Of the 1,000 dog owners surveyed, 31 percent admitted to being distracted by their dogs.  Although the specific distracting behavior of the dog isn’t listed, I’ll go ahead and say that when Frankenstein loses his mind over a motorcycle or skateboard, it startles me. While I can’t blame my dog for any of the many fender-benders I’ve been in, I can see how his sudden yapping could potentially make me swerve and bang into something or someone.  
So we know that dogs can be a distraction. What’s worse though is that 59 percent of respondents also admitted to engaging in their own distracting behaviors while their pup was in the car. So now we have a great number of people with dogs in the car who are also feeding the dog, giving the dog water, petting the dog, or best yet, playing with the dog. Cue the halo over my head because I don’t do anything of these things, and I am certainly not one of the 21 percent who allow my pup to ride on my lap.
But, to be honest, I’m not really that big of a saint, as I don’t fall into the responsible 17 percent who use a dog restraint system. I let Frankie have the run of the mill of the Xterra. But I do use the child-safety locks on the doors so he can’t go jumping out the window after a squirrel. All the same, since he is my best friend, I’m now going to have to be a little more responsible with him, and maybe even purchase him a little doggie car seat.  
Although I’m willing to give the car seat a try, being that my pup has a very strong will trapped in his tiny 14-pound body, a restraint system is going to cause a rift between us. But, I’m not out of options, thanks again to AAA, which released a list of what it has deemed to be the best cars for dog owners, based on size, accessories and more. The list includes: BMW 3-series wagon; Volvo XC60; Subaru Forester;  Hyundai Santa Fe; Honda Element; Toyota Venza; Mazda3 Wagon; Mini Clubman; Ford Escape Hybrid; Kia Soul and the Nissan Cube. 
Granted, buying a new car to keep my pup safe may not financially responsible (whatever that means), but I can’t help but ask myself: Can you really put a price tag on keeping your best friend safe? 

Contact Jennifer Hadley at


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