Despite how tempting it might be, or how cute the selfie looks on Facebook, we highly recommend that you do not allow your dog to travel on your lap in the front seat of the car, or travel either unrestrained or in a car harness, anywhere else in the car. Ever.
It may look adorable, but travelling with un-crated dogs can cause your beloved furbaby serious injury or death in an accident, even in an accident that might be minor to humans.
Car airbags explode at 320 kph (198 mph) and they deploy in a fraction of a second. You cannot react faster than an airbag to protect your dog. If it is unsafe for a child under eight to travel in the front seat of a car equipped with an airbag, imagine what an exploding airbag will do to a tiny Chihuahua.
If dogs are on the back seat and you slam the brakes on, they can be thrown forward against the front seats hard enough to break bones. For this reason, car seat-belt harness are also dangerous (watch the video above). There is too much give in them to safely restrain your dog in an accident, they break easily and it is almost impossible to find a harness that fits a Chihuahua properly, so the harness can cause harm too, perhaps compounding injuries.
If you are seriously injured, you may not be in a position to tell your rescuers there is a terrified Chihuahua somewhere in the car, probably hurt and possibly trapped. Even if the dog is unharmed, imagine your terrified Chihuahua trapped under the seat of your car when someone tries to get them out. The dog will be traumatised, probably try to bite the stranger (or even you if it is frightened enough) who is trying to extract them from the safe hidey-hole they’ve found. It will not end well for anyone.
If your dog escapes from the car after an accident, paramedics will not waste time searching for it. Emergency personnel will, however, see a dog crate and check it for an occupant, and will get the dog out of the car if they can do so safely.
Our dogs ALWAYS travel in airline crates, even on short trips, both for the protection it provides and because, in an accident, the crate can be grabbed easily and the dog extracted from the car in a hurry (imagine if the car caught fire!). We know of people of who have lost champion show dogs because the Chihuahua shot out of the car in fright the moment the door was opened after an accident, never to be seen again.
How do I train my puppy to be OK in the crate?
When you first travel with a dog in a crate, it might be unfamiliar to them. If they start to whine, IGNORE it. We cannot stress this enough. Your dog will settle in their crate once they realise there is nothing to fear from the noise and the movement, if they can feel that you are also calm and not worried about it.
Dogs are almost psychic in things like this and even from the back seat, they will know if you are becoming distressed because they are crying. This will make them even more distressed, because now they will think there is something to actually worry about and the whining will get worse.
If you take them out of the crate when they are complaining, you have not taught the dog that you love him or her. You have taught the dog that they were right to be afraid, and even worse - “whining gets me what I want”.
Your dog is safer in the crate and you will be happier knowing they are a good traveller. This makes taking them to the vet, the park or to visit friends, to work, and on holidays with you, that much easier on you and your Chihuahua.