• Melissa Henchen

Summer Safety Series: Hot Cars

As much as I love summer, it brings with it a slew of dog-related safety concerns. From the topic of this week's post — hot cars — to the inevitable slew of dogs lost on the 4th of July, the worst part of these safety concerns is that they're always the same ones. Honestly, I'd love to be tackling new problems instead of writing about the danger of hot cars when my social media feeds are already saturated with similar posts, but this year I've already seen dogs left in cars at the grocery store, at the post office, even at restaurants. Sometimes, Facebook feels like a bunch of dog people sharing things we all already know, and the information doesn't get where it needs to go. With that in mind, I would challenge you to not just share this post on social media, but to share this information face-to-face. Addressing these topics directly — especially if you feel the person should already know better — can be inconvenient, but if you've got the guts and you've got the time, it's the biggest way to make difference.

"Too hot" happens too fast

In warm weather, the interior of your car gets about 20 degrees hotter than the outside air in 10 minutes. Using that metric, even leaving your dog in a car on a 70 degree day doesn't sound so great, does it? While we're at it, that 10 minutes means 10 actual minutes, not the figurative minutes a lot of us use. How many times have you said "I'll be there in five minutes" and it was actually 15? How many times have you run into the post office for stamps and there's only one clerk working and a grandma trying to send birthday presents to her 18 grandkids who all live in different states? That unexpected inconvenience can be the difference between an uncomfortable dog and a dog with heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a killer

Maybe some people think all this fuss about hot cars is some kind of treehugger nonsense, but heatstroke will kill your dog. If it doesn't kill your dog, it will cause irreversible damage to their liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. Short-haired dogs are't immune to this; in fact, dogs with short snouts like bulldogs, boxers, and pugs are among the most susceptible to overheating, and owning a breed like this means you have to be extremely careful. Good dog owners take their dog's comfort and happiness into consideration anyway, but this very quickly turns from a matter of comfort and happiness into a matter of survival.

Unattended is unsafe

Leaving your car running with the AC on doesn't guarantee your dog's safety. For one thing, leaving your keys in the car means somebody can steal your car, or your dog, or both. For another thing, if your dog becomes anxious or bored and starts jumping around, they can lock you out, turn the AC off, turn the heat on, knock your car out of park, or any combination of these.

Practice makes perfect bad behavior

Frankly, leaving your dog in the car on a temperate 50 degree day still isn't a good idea. If a dog practices a behavior repeatedly, it tends to have more staying power. That's a "yeah, duh" when we're talking about sit and down, but for some reason, most people don't apply it to negatives. If you have a dog who has issues with reactivity, stranger aggression, or barrier frustration, leaving them to freak out in the car every time a person, dog, or cyclist passes is only going to make that issue worse. They're not going to "get used to it;" they're going to get more reactive, more aggressive, and more frustrated.

If you're taking your dog everywhere because they have separation anxiety, I feel for you. I have a dog who struggled with separation anxiety, and I know how upsetting it can be to run an errand and come home to the mess your dog made. However, that circumstance doesn't mean your dog isn't susceptible to all of the above risks, so it's time to find a force-free professional to help you. Separation anxiety is a common issue, and there are plenty of ways to manage and improve your dog's behavior.

That's it for this week, so thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next post in the Summer Safety series, "Fear of fireworks."

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