This page may contain affiliate links. In addition to sharing our personal experiences, we often write about products and services that we use ourselves or that we believe would be a helpful resource for you. To support our work, and remain a free website, we receive a commission from some of the links we share.
If you drive with your dog unrestrained in your car (which means the dog has the freedom to roam from your lap… to the back seat… front seat… and from window to window) and you live in California, then you may be breaking the law.
You have a potential major risk of an auto accident when you have a live pet that can be around in your face, in the steering wheel, down on the floor under your feet,” Maze said Friday. “Pets have a mind of their own and are unpredictable.” Source
I have to say, as much as I have been guilty of doing this in the past, I think driving with lapdogs should be outlawed… and in all states.
My Experiences Driving With Lapdogs
Yes, before I became an informed pet parent, I used to drive freely with my dog, unrestrained and riding on my lap, in my car.
Jersey, my American Eskimo dog, usually stayed in the front seat next to me, peering out of his own window the entire time. (But when he was a little puppy, I purposely encouraged him to ride on my lap while I drove.)
I have to admit, I thought it was “cute”, and it seemed “fun” when he would crawl onto my lap to look out my window for a change of scenery. It made driving so much more enjoyable — especially on long drives out in the country. (Though we did this when in-town driving, as well.)
Fortunately, Jersey wasn’t a hyper dog, so he didn’t run from window to window or pace back & forth while I was driving. But still… I know now him being unrestrained was dangerous — to both him and me (not to mention other drivers). And I’m lucky that we never got in an accident.
Years later, after I got married and we acquired another dog (Destin), Jersey lost his privileges for front-seat riding in the car. Now, both dogs were confined to the back seat. But they still had free roam of the entire backseat; they were not restrained. Fortunately, each of them pretty much sat still and gazed out of their own window most of the time.
But it’s a fact… you, your dog, and even other drivers can actually be placed in danger when your dogs are unrestrained in the backseat, too. Here’s how. (Hint: My dog fell out of the window and could’ve caused a wreck. Or, worse yet, injury to the dog…)
Fast-forward another few years, and our newest puppy, Tenor (now the only dog in our home) has never had the “privilege” of riding in the car unrestrained. I’m embarrassed, though proud to say, that from the day that our Black Lab fell out of the car window, all of our dogs have been safely restrained any time they’re riding in the car. It’s a lesson we learned the hard way. (Here is Tenor’s most recent set-up in the back of the Jeep.)
Just My $.02
These experiences I’ve had are only some of the reasons I think all dogs should have to be restrained when riding in cars.
No matter which state you live in. And no matter the dog’s size. Even lapdogs can become spooked, become interested in another dog or person in a vehicle, or get hurt if you have to stop suddenly or get in an accident. Not to mention the fact that dogs of all sizes — yes, even lap dogs — can be a huge source of distraction to the driver. (I’ve done it, I know.)
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles has been lobbying for years to get the state Legislature to pass measures along the lines of Maze’s bill. “They can become projectile missiles during a short stop,” says Madeleine Bernstein, president of the SPCA branch. “They can cause an accident. They can impair your ability to react to an accident. They can distract you. And they can get hurt.” Source
I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about "outside the box" Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I've always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what's 'normal' and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I'm not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've written over 500 articles for dog owners on this site!