There are 17,158,195 cars in Australia. That’s a whole lotta traffic and good reason for teaching our kids road safety. It’s also why pet road safety is vital. According to the Conversation 10 million animals are hit by cars in our country each year. Many of these are dogs and cats.
Pets colliding with cars is unfortunately something we see frequently within our dog and cat owner member base. It’s not uncommon for us to receive claims for vet bills totalling over $10,000. You can imagine why – the cost of surgery, hospitalisation, medication, follow up vet check-ups and more adds up quickly.
As pet lovers, we make it our business to find ways to protect pets before things go wrong. Because as any kind of parent knows, prevention wins over cure any day of the week.
Pet road safety 101
In this article we look at top ways to avoid your pet getting hurt in a car accident. The sad truth is that people often lose their pets to car accidents. Even if pets do recover from being hit by a car, some live with lifelong damage and permanent aches and pains.
There are simple steps you can take to avoid this happening to your cat or dog.
In this pet road safety guide, we cover the following:
- Dog road safety training
- Lead training
- Escape proofing your home
- Pet road safety protective gear
- Pet safety in cars
- Defensive driving
We teach our kids to look left, right and left again before crossing streets. From a young age they learn about red, amber and green traffic lights and what each of these means. Although this is a communicable safety language that’s easy to share with our human children, there are equivalent lessons for fur babies.
Because after all, they’re our kids too.
Dog road safety training
Dogs have been our best friends for as long as we can remember, and with good reason. Dogs and humans have co-evolved through a series of mutual needs from safety and food to territory. Even though pets can behave in unpredictable ways, dogs can and love to be trained.
Applying the right type and amount of dog road safety training is the number one way to safeguard them when out and about. Dogs are faster than we are so trying to control their unforeseen actions can be pretty futile.
However, once they know a routine, not only can they do it with 100% efficiency but they also love it.
Training your fur baby to be street wise could be the best way to keep them from being hit by a car. You can’t control other drivers, but knowing your pet has street smarts is within your reach.
Roads as boundaries
The best way to teach pet road safety is through positive reinforcement dog training. Dogs love our attention, so you downright overlook the actions you don’t want and immediately reward your pet when they do the correct actions.
A road is a boundary. That’s the reality and is exactly what you want to teach Rover. Here’s how:
|1.||Find a quiet street|
|2.||Use a hands-free leash that clips onto you|
|3.||Walk in small circles on and off the road|
|4.||When your dog follows you, ignore and go back to the curb|
|5.||Any moment your dog stays on the curb, reward them|
Watch how effective this is and how it’s done in this video:
Keeping them on the lead
This is an obvious one but important to highlight. If your dog or cat is on a leash and/or harness that holds tight to their body and can’t be yanked out of your hand then you can keep them from heading into traffic.
As their owner you’re responsible for their actions – not them. The law says so (read about third party liability pet insurance here for the answer why). Get your responsible pet parent pants on and keep them tethered and close to you when you’re outside your property boundary.
They should only be off-leash when you’re 100% comfortable and confident that they’re in an area they can’t escape from. Or, when you’re 100% sure that your ‘roads as boundaries’ training has paid off and they won’t run off onto a road.
Making your property escape proof
Before you bring a dog or cat home you should be pet proofing your property to the nth degree. Don’t want your dog to get out? Check the perimeter of your fencing for ways they can get over or dig under and then fix it. Don’t want kitty to because the neighbourhood cat? Keep them in a secure catio attached to the house or in the backyard.
Make sure your gates, doors and windows are always closed and locked. Or, keep them open to a point where a pet can’t squeeze through. Think about pet doors carefully – will you get a lockable one? Where will it be located so it keeps them safe?
Training always plays a key role here too. The American Kennel Club also has a worthwhile article to read and video to watch on this.
Pet protective gear
As a driver your eyes are primarily trained to notice other cars. This is beneficial for other car-goers but not so much for pedestrians, cyclists and pets. Thankfully, new cars are safer than old cars, boasting plenty of car safety features to help us avoid moving objects on the roads.
That said, pets still get knocked by cars every day, many times a day. Lack of proper training for pets is a likely cause, as is their curiosity for crossing boundaries. Distracted driving may also be.
As we mentioned earlier, your pet’s best defence is having proper pet road safety training. Second to that, you can also get them reflective jackets, collars and leashes that help make them visible.
If you read our article on Dress Your Pet Up Day, you’ll know pets aren’t always fond of wearing clothes. With all their fur they find it difficult to regulate their temperature anyways. Add a layer unscrupulously and you could be contributing to them getting sick from overheating, especially in the Australian climate.
Pet safety in cars
Travelling in cars poses oodles of potential room for mishaps. Your untrained cat or dog jumping in or out of your car whether it’s moving or stationary is hazardous. There’s also the pesky danger of pets sleeping under parked cars – they seem to find them irresistible!
Thankfully, you can help ensure your pet is safe, both in and around the car.
Here are our top tips to bookmark for easy reference:
- Your ultimate guide to pet safety in cars
- Rules of the road for pets in cars
- Your guide to travelling with pets
- Puppy proofing your house (indoors and out, including where you park and drive from)
Defensive driving for people and pets
Then there’s the other side of the wheel too. Yes, pets can suddenly dash out in front of your car and yes you need to do everything you can to be a safe driver. Ideally though, every pet has adequate road safety training.
After all when a cat or dog heads onto the road they aren’t just putting themselves in danger. They’re also putting every human out on the road in danger. That’s why responsible pet parenting means giving your cat or dog all the tools they need to be well adjusted around roads and cars.
Being a safe driver is all about mitigating risk. One way you can do this is by reminding yourself of and practicing defensive driving skills. Another is understanding road behaviour in Australia. Because as it turns out, context radically affects our driving culture. In other words, when we’re out on an open road we tend to let our guard down whereas in busier traffic dense metropoles we’re more attentive.
Read about regional vs metro driving habits to get the full picture. Knowing yourself better as a driver is a great way to contribute to pet road safety for other people and their pets’ sake.
The role of pet insurance and car insurance
Whether you’re protecting your pet, your car or both at the same, having reliable and affordable insurance goes a long way. You can’t place a value on your protecting pet’s wellbeing. And replacing or repairing your car without the fuss of covering costs alone is a financial lifesaver.
The peace of mind that pet insurance and car insurance can bring is priceless. Besides this we offer plenty of discounts for both policy types. For example, click below to start your plans today and we’ll give you at least one month of free pet insurance.