Road safety tips for dog owners

We all want to keep our precious pooches as safe as possible. Unfortunately, roads and traffic are a potential danger for dogs. Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe around our busy roads.

Sadly, every year our vets see dogs that have been injured in road accidents. With a few precautions and some simple training, you can help keep your dog safer around roads.

 

Keep your dog on a lead

The simplest step you can take is to keep your dog under close control and on a short lead. Even if you dog is really well behaved and always comes when they’re called, it only takes a moment’s distraction or a little fright for an accident to happen.

A good quality lead, attached to your dog’s collar or harness will mean you can keep your dog close to your side while you’re walking next to busy roads. Don’t be tempted to give your dog more freedom by using an extender lead – they don’t give you the control you need if your dog suddenly dashes off.

There are plenty of pet-friendly places where you can safely give your dog a run off the lead. If you decide to let your dog off the lead in a park or open space, always check that these are secure with fences and your dog can’t get onto any nearby roads.

 

Teach your dog road awareness

Your dog can’t learn the Green Cross Code. They don’t know that they need to stop, look, listen and wait at curbs until it’s safe to cross. If your dog knows a few simple commands – like ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ – you can help them learn some road sense which will help to keep them safe.

As you walk towards the curb, keep them on a close lead and ask your dog to ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ until the road is clear and safe to cross. When it is safe to do so, calmly give the command to ‘walk’ and carefully cross the road. Don’t forget to give them a healthy treat and lots of praise once you’re safely across the road. When your dog’s got the hang of it, you can slowly cut down on the number of treats they’re given.

It’s important to keep your training positive and not to punish your dog if they make any mistakes. Read more about reward-based training here.

 

Teach your dog ‘stop’ and ‘come away’

Is your dog is a bit of an escape artist or are they easily distracted when you’re out for a walk? It’s a good idea to teach them a few commands in case they run towards a road. Teaching them a command like ‘no!’ or ‘stop!’ could put your dog’s brakes on in an emergency. ‘Come away’ or ‘come here’ will then bring your dog away from danger.

It’s a good idea to practice these commands around the house when it’s quiet so your dog knows them really well. Build up to practising them in more challenging situations so that you know your dog will listen, even with all the distractions around outside.

 

Make sure you and your dog can be seen

This is especially important if you’re walking your dog in the dark or other poor visibility conditions – for example, walking at twilight during the winter or to avoid a summer heatwave, in in foggy conditions. Light coloured clothes or a high visibility jacket can help drivers spot you walking along the road but make sure they can spot your dog, too. A reflective lead, high visibility dog coat or an LED collar can help your dog stand out.

 

Collar, tag, microchip and insurance… in case the worst happens.

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. It’s really important that you can be contacted in an emergency if your dog does get into an accident on the road. By law, your dog must be microchipped and be registered to your most up-to-date contact details. They also need to wear a collar and identification like a tag – showing your name, address and contact number – whenever they’re out and about.

If your dog is in a traffic accident, they could have some serious injuries. Vet bills can quickly add up. Pet Insurance can help you cover the cost of any accidents and unexpected treatment. You’ll be able to focus on your dog’s recovery instead of worrying about money. Make sure you look into the small print of any insurance you take out so you’ll have peace of mind that it will cover you for everything you and your dog might need. Our guide to pet insurance explains some of the things to look out for.