Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 13, 2018

Don’t Put Dogs in the Back of Pick-Up Trucks!

Posted at 05:03PM - Comments: (29)

This morning I got up super early, so I could feed the foster puppies and mama, clean their pen, and still have time to drive an hour to pick up my 8-year-old niece, whom I was in charge of for the day. Her school year ended last week, and her camps and other organized summer activities start next week, and several people are spending a day with Ava this week to bridge the gap.

It’s a beautiful drive from my northeastern Sacramento Valley small town to her historic gold-country town, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. I drive through peach orchards and rice fields, and then start climbing in elevation into oak-studded foothills with cattle grazing the already dry, summer-brown grass, and up into an area whose topography is hidden under a solid canopy of tall pine trees. I like the drive a lot.

illegal to put dog in the back of pick up trucks

This makes me INSANE. It's also illegal to have an unsecured dog in the back of a truck in my state, but try to find a Highway Patrolman when you see this happening...

Except, this morning, as I drove along the last of the rice fields about a half mile from the two-lane highway that would take me up into the foothills, I saw an obviously lost dog on the road: a well-muscled, short, mouse-colored bully breed dog, an intact male. This isn’t your standard farm or ranch dog – and in case there was any doubt at all, the fact that he was wearing a harness, to which a four-foot leash was attached, ruled out the likelihood (for me) that he was a local dog who had roamed off his property. Most likely, in my opinion, was that he was in the back of someone’s truck, and rolled off when the person made the sharp turn onto or off of the nearby highway and onto or off of this bumpy farm-country road.

When I spotted the dog, he was trotting fast toward my car, right in the middle of the road, and there was a car stopped behind him. The driver, an elderly lady, had her window rolled down and she waved her arm out the window: “Look out!” I think she was trying to say. I stopped my car on the side of the road with the dog between us, and the dog stopped trotting. He looked left and right, and I could tell he was trying to decide which way to run. I got out of the car slowly and called brightly to him. “Hey pup! Buddy, come!” But as soon as he saw me he bolted, past the lady who was IN her car, and headed for the highway. Crap.

So I jumped in my car, sped past him, and stopped on the side of the road again, blocking his access to the highway. I looked back, hoping the other lady would get out of her car and help; she had driven off. But it didn’t matter, because the dog hadn’t hesitated. This time, when I got out of the car, he took off sideways, trotting away down a dirt road between two rice fields. I thought, maybe he would come to a dog. My dog-savvy young dog Woody was with me. I looked both ways, and called Woody out of the car. We trotted together a few feet up the dirt road, and he could see the big brawny dog trotting ahead of us by 150 feet or so. “Go get him!” I said to Woody, and Woody took off at a racehorse pace; he’s fast!

The dog looked over his shoulder when he heard Woody running toward him, and was alarmed enough to spin around to face Woody. I wasn’t worried; Woody has not yet met a dog that he could not either charm, or run away from. In this case, their tails went up, wagging, they sniffed, Woody did a couple of popping sort of playful moves, and for a minute, they just stood there. Woody looked back toward me: “Now what?” I called, “Good boy! Woody, come!” My fingers were crossed, as I trotted backward toward the car in what was meant to be a most inviting way.

No dice. Woody came at a gallop, and the dog headed off further into the rice fields.

I went back to the car, tearing up at the dog’s prospects. I had to get to my sister-in-law’s house so she could get to work. I couldn’t go driving off onto dirt farm roads – and maybe, he would approach a farmhouse and be less frightened of people in that environment. On the other hand, maybe he would head back to the highway and get hit by a car. Ugh.

When I got to my sister-in-law’s house, I posted a description of the dog and his location on a lost-dog page that serves my local area, and called the Highway Patrol, to give them a description and location of the dog, in case someone called them looking for him. And on the way back to my house with my niece, we stopped and scanned the area for 15 minutes or so, looking for any sign of the dog again. No such luck.

I have often wondered what makes so many dogs just TAKE OFF when a human approaches or addresses them when they are lost. And I have also wondered: Would MY dogs come to a strange person if they were in a panic, but someone was addressing them? “Hey Buddy! Come here!” I just don’t know. Could you teach your dog to come to anyone who called him (obviously not using his name, which a stranger would not know)? How could you SAFELY teach your dog to come to strangers in a strange place, when you were not present? Trainers, would you weigh in?

Also, last but not least: I’m sure this is preaching to the choir (our audience is more educated than most), but please make sure that anyone you know who drives with dogs in the back of their truck has their dog crated or secured with cross ties fastened to a harness. I feel so strongly that the dog had fallen out of a truck; he was so near a corner that many drivers take at a fast clip, and 10 miles from the closest town. I just HATE it when I see people taking that risk with their dogs.

Comments (29)

Oh wow, I would never travel with my dog in the back of a pick-up full stop. Not the best of experience for the dog let alone the dangers that come with it!

When traveling with dogs at anytime or in any vehicle there are many precautions that we have to take. I have camped with my staffy lots of times, we get out as much as we can and travel all over so i've had a fair amount of good and bad experiences which we've learned from!

One of the main things I have got from years of traveling and camping with my canine companion is that nothing beats a great vehicle-specific dog guard for comfort and peace of mind. In my opinion, they're much better than universal guards and safer. I have got through a few this last few years from Amazon and some online stores. However, I got my latest dog guard last year for my Subaru Outback from Travall! Really great experience with them just in case any dog lovers on here are after a quality product and are serious about pet safety when traveling.

Thanks - Matt

Posted by: Dogcamper189 | July 9, 2018 10:30 AM    Report this comment

Years ago, while traveling through Florida, I saw an odd object on the side of the road up ahead and was shocked when we got closer to realize that it was a dead German Short Haired Pointer. My companion refused to stop, citing that 'it would not be good for the fairy in my soul'.
Less than two minutes later, we drove past another dead German Short Haired Pointer, identical to the first, sprawled position on the shoulder of the road. Drawing my own conclusions, it would seem that the first one GSHP's bereaved and stressed companion, jumped out of the vehicle to join its buddy. What else could it be?
Appalling and so avoidable. I appreciate my old boyfriend's efforts to shield my soul from this horror but it has haunted me for years.

Posted by: bonniebmv | June 18, 2018 2:28 PM    Report this comment

How about dogs that are tethered in the back of a metal truck when the temperature is 105 degrees in the shade, thrown from one side of the hot metal to the other. Seen that too many times here in CA where it gets HOT. Even walking any black dog - gets very hot in the sun whether sitting on hot metal or not.

Posted by: Calirose | June 16, 2018 12:23 PM    Report this comment

There is no cure for stupid people, nor for people that just think dogs are property and are disposable. Never mind the mental cases that abuse and torture.

Posted by: GGdogmom | June 15, 2018 9:22 AM    Report this comment

in my experience (in Eastern NC ) most dogs in the back of trucks are not restrained in any manner ... in fact I commented to a driver of a truck parked at Lowe's just a few weeks ago that I appreciated his dogs being restrained -- had wide strap collars and tie-down strapping attaching to the tie down cleats on the bed of the truck ... but I don't see anywhere near as many dogs in open bed vehicles as I used to ...but still too many dogs riding on the drivers laps hanging out the window though!

Panic results from unexpected / painful events -- yes, falling out of a truck, or being involved in an accident where the air bags go off, the doors fly open, and the screeching metal, crashing, breaking glass, people (owners) screaming and the dog is outta there! and may well be further panic stricken by the sirens, fire engines, ambulances, etc and may run without direction for a great distance ... and as the last association was with vehicles/people acting in manner unfamiliar to the dog ... he's not about to approach again .... dog could have come from a LONG way away, traveling with persons from out of the area ... just one reason I never, ever transport a dog that is not in a crate, in the middle of my vehicle and strapped down.

Posted by: KatzDawgs | June 15, 2018 5:09 AM    Report this comment

Do you think these things happen in Europe? I really don't know.

Posted by: pawed@britainhill.com | June 14, 2018 7:43 PM    Report this comment

Dogs in pick up beds must be “properly” restrained in Maine where we live. I stull do not think they belong there. My husband is a police officer and tickets anyone he sees with this violation. But other cops don’t.
But what infurates me too is people driving with dogs on their laps. Selfish, ignorant AND dangerous. We are trying to find out how to change that law, but this is a state full of morons

Posted by: Phyl | June 14, 2018 5:40 PM    Report this comment

Years ago, I was driving down the freeway in California and came up to a truck where two dogs were actually ON TOP of the cab riding there. I was so shocked I hit my brakes and prayed for their poor lives.

Posted by: pap luv | June 14, 2018 5:39 PM    Report this comment

Here's some good news. When we moved to a rural area of the NC mountains 25 years ago, we often saw dead dogs on the side of the road and dogs were in the back of pick-ups frequently. Now, it has changed. I haven't seen a dog in back of a pick-up in quite some time and neither have I seen a dead dog by the side of the road. I'm not saying it never happens but a great deal of progress has been made in those 25 years and I, for one, am grateful for that. Sure, there will always be ignorant people endangering their dogs and more laws are needed (and enforced) but we have to be grateful for the changed attitude and education of many in those years.

Posted by: bet4dogs | June 14, 2018 3:26 PM    Report this comment

Reading through all the comments makes me ill and teary. What a cruel and ignorant world.

Posted by: Natalie H. | June 14, 2018 3:05 PM    Report this comment

With regard to dogs in the back of pickup trucks, dogs left inside of cars during warm weather (and it doesn't have to be that warm), and dogs...., some people are too stupid or don't care to do the right thing. That won't change. Like CA, WA also has the same reqs for dogs in the back of trucks, does it stop people from not having them appropriately double tethered--NO!
With regard to trying to assist a frightened dog on an interstate or busy road, I'll share 2 experiences. 1st time I saw a dog running along the right side of I-5 near Bellingham. At that spot, right side of interstate is large hill/small mountain, left side is the continuing downward slope of hill/mountain. I pulled over, got out, the dog had stopped running but was about 30 feet or so from me, walked slowly to the front of my car, squatted down to appear as unthreatening as possible, and with a very positive tone to my voice (hiding my fear) called to the dog. At first, it didn't do anything so I became hopeful it might respond. But it suddenly darted across the two right and two left lanes of I-5. Thankfully it was very early morning, traffic was light, and the dog made it. But I was unable to help it further. At least it was off the interstate. 2nd time was another dog on I-5, this time in the grassy center area between the north and southbound lanes. I (stupidly) left my car in the right lane southbound to hopefully stop any other cars, took out the bag of very aromatic bacon strips dog treats I now kept in my car, walked slowly to the center median, squatted down with a couple of bacon strips held out and called to the dog. This one seemed less frightened, more attentive, so I slowly approached the dog, talking friendly the whole way, until I'd cut the distance between us in half. Again I squatted down and kept talking to the dog. Up to this point, no traffic had gone by on either side. But a couple of cars suddenly went by in the northbound lanes, spooked the dog who ran into the "fast" lane southbound. A pickup truck which was approaching, driver obviously saw my car and would have seen both me and the dog in the median, puled over into the unblocked lane and hit the dog straight on as it attempted to run across that side. One of the worst things I've ever seen, the dog's body went flying into the air and landed behind the truck. A car then also ran over the dog's body. Neither of these vehicles stopped before or after. I was able to recover the dog's body but that was all I was able to do.

Posted by: Tom87 | June 14, 2018 2:25 PM    Report this comment

I once saw a pickup truck with sheets of plywood laid across the top of the box ... not in the box, folks, on top of it ... with a Doberman standing LOOSE on top of the plywood,clinging with its toenails ... on the FREEWAY at 60-70 mph. That was probably 25 years, or more, ago. I still recall this sickening image often, and it always makes my heart race. I have less and less use for humans in this world.

Posted by: Natalie H. | June 14, 2018 1:43 PM    Report this comment

Seeing dogs in the bed of a truck always infuriates me. In fact, the dog rescue group we work with specifically states for all of its adoptees that the dog will NEVER ride in the bed of a truck, even when in a crate. Some states are legislating that dogs cannot ride out in the open in truck beds. I am also angry at people who drive with their dogs, mostly toy dogs, with the windows rolled all the way down with their bodies hanging out the windows, or sitting on the driver's lap. I really wish there were laws, as with child safety seats, mandating dogs travel in cars in the passenger cabin with a seat belt restraint. Bravo to LoveGSDs for being proactive for the safety of the dog she saw. I agree that humans are stupid about the safety of their dogs. (I also see cars with young children standing up in the back seat of cars. Some people are stupid even with human children.)

Posted by: Three Dog Mom | June 14, 2018 1:18 PM    Report this comment

This drives me absolutely nuts! Back about 15 years ago when we were living in Washington state, I was in a Walmart parking lot walking back to my car when I noticed a jeep vehicle pull into a space directly across from mine. It was up on huge, off-roading tires so the seats were easily 4 to 5 feet off the ground. In the back of the vehicle was a very large yellow lab who was very anxious when his family got out of the truck and left him behind to shop. He was tied up to a roll bar with a crude rope that looked like sisel. I immediately had a bad feeling about his situation as we also had a lab at the time and know how upset they get when left alone in a strange place. Unfortunately, my gut instinct came true when he lept out of the vehicle only to start strangling as his feet could barely touch the ground. I ran over to him to hold him up high enough so he wouldn't hang himself and a few other people came to help by untying the rope. I held on tight to his collar while one man who witnessed the incident ran into the store to find the owners. They came running out a few minutes later only to put the dog back into the truck and tie him up with a shorter lead. No thank yous to anyone who saved their dog from strangling himself either. Not that I was looking for one but they just seemed so put out for having their shopping trip interrupted. Whenever I see dogs riding in the back of pickup trucks, especially on the freeway, I remember that awful incident and shudder at what could happen to any dog stuck riding in such an unsafe area.

Posted by: SueW | June 14, 2018 12:27 PM    Report this comment

Here's a happy ending twist to the loose dog article. My dad and I were driving on I-294 in Illinois. In the center lane, a collie-type dog was running northbound as fast as her legs would carry her. I told my dad that I thought we could get that dog. I pulled off the interstate onto the shoulder, well ahead of the dog. A man who was pulling a horse trailer behind me, slowed down stayed in the right hand lane, blocking the lane from traffic coming from behind. I opened the car door, called the dog, and she made a beeline for my car as if it were a life raft in the middle of the ocean. Got my dad's belt, put it over her head. She jumped in the car, and the rest is history. She had no tags, no collar. Don't know if she fell out the bed of a pick-up truck or got on the highway some other way. I spent several days calling police stations and shelters, but there was no report of a missing dog matching her description. So, she became a member of our family, and she lived a good life with us for ten years. Normally, I would never risk dealing with a stay dog on an interstate, but this time it just seemed right. It was a very good ending to what could have been a tragic story. And I still think about the nice guy pulling that horse trailer.

Posted by: Buzzie | June 14, 2018 12:23 PM    Report this comment

The incident that almost made me hurl: The scene: on the freeway in Sacramento, going around a corner, merging onto another freeway. Following a pickup truck. Dog standing on top of the truck’s cab, not tethered in any way. I exited soon thereafter. I was so freaked, didn’t think to call 911. Not sure what else I could’ve done. Thought briefly about honking, but feared the reaction that might’ve provoked in either the driver or the dog.

Posted by: Doodlesrock! | June 14, 2018 12:07 PM    Report this comment

My son learned the hard way. He lived out in wheat country where everyone had their dogs on the back of the flatbed or pickup. Driving down the road one day, with his dog on the flatbed, he never noticed the dog was missing until he got to his destination. Well he jumped back in the truck, drove down the road to find him. There he was a couple miles back sitting on the side of the road with a shattered leg. Many weeks, and many dollars later, his dog was whole again, but my son felt guilty ever since. I'm quite sure that will never happen again. Still has that dog!

Posted by: Merfee | June 14, 2018 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I live in an area where it can be in the 100s in summer and I saw a dog left in the bed of a pickup truck with no water visible and howling. It was horrific not to mention the heat of the metal of a truck in that weather. I cannot comprehend this kind of disregard for animals. That plus the danger to the animal when in motion. Unthinkable.

Posted by: genya | June 14, 2018 12:04 PM    Report this comment

I once witnessed a dog jump out of the back of a pick-up truck (owners were in a restaurant eating) and chase after a private mounted security guard at a shopping center. The horse was on cement and the rider didn't have a helmet on. The horse took off, the rider fell off, hit his head on the cement and died. Of course he should have had a helmet on but because the dog was loose in the bed of the truck, it was a very tragic preventable death.

Posted by: Sandyokeefe | June 14, 2018 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Where dog theft is common, one doesn't want one's dog coming to a stranger's call.

Posted by: Jessie | June 14, 2018 11:26 AM    Report this comment

Just be glad you don't live in Montana where this is common practice. What is worse is that the dogs are often tethered to the truck in a way that they can't even sit much less lie down. And, the tether is on a neck collar not a harness.

Posted by: GSMontana | June 14, 2018 11:16 AM    Report this comment

It's not just about "tethering" dogs in pick-ups, which is bad enough (strangulation). It's about the flatbed heating up (even a plastic crate will get hot to the touch), with no shelter from sun, when they're left in the back (like at Home Depot, hellow ???). Just as bad as leaving your dog inside the car in the summer. So just don't take the dog on errands, in the summer, period. Unless you can guarantee taking him in the store, or parking under a very shady tree!!

Posted by: Pacificsun | June 14, 2018 11:13 AM    Report this comment

The dog in the back of the pickup infuriates me also. A couple weeks ago, as I was driving to the dog park (which is inside a larger park) a dog in the car in front of me popped out the back window of the vehicle and landed on the asphalt. Luckily, the traffic on the road through the park was slight and slow. I stopped with plenty of time but the car behind me couldn't see what was going on and impatiently went around me. The escaping dog was corralled and didn't seem to be injured but it could have been a tragedy.

Posted by: mjkoranda@gmail.com | June 14, 2018 11:02 AM    Report this comment

not so sure i would like to teach my dog to come to just anybody who calls her. Not everybody has good intentions (unfortunately).

Posted by: Helena | June 14, 2018 10:54 AM    Report this comment

If you think that's bad (& it is), one morning I left early to go to the grocery store & in front of me was a pickup truck w/a pony in the back of the truck. I was blown away, totally. I guess now I've seen everything. These people need to have their animals removed from their home/property & let somebody responsible have them.....

Posted by: Hannie | June 14, 2018 10:53 AM    Report this comment

There is a vet show on Nat Geo, Dr Buckeye Bottoms, and he drives all over Hawaii with his dog most of the time untethered in the back if his pickup. You would think a vet would know better!!!

Posted by: tomatogirl | June 14, 2018 10:49 AM    Report this comment

UGH. I hate this too. I wouldn't want to teach my dogs to go to anyone who calls them. They could more easily be stolen or fed poison, etc. I love that my dogs are wary of strangers unless I tell them 'It's Ok'. I know what you mean, though that you would want your dog to go to someone if they were in danger, like in this situation. Dogs who are more stable, been properly socialized w/ people, the environment, other animals, etc. will more likely go to a stranger when they are in danger, or frightened by being lost. They can tell when a stranger is trying to help. I've been in many situations with dogs in the street and people are trying to help and the dog keeps running. I think perhaps the lesson we can learn from this is that some dogs will never be caught by a stranger and the best thing we can do is head them off to a safer place, like you did. He may have been farther from home, but hopefully escape death by a car while he's using his nose to find his way home.

Posted by: Jbreitner | June 14, 2018 10:45 AM    Report this comment

I have seen dogs teethered in the back of trucks and then they go flying out and are hanging from the side of the truck so that is not safe necessarily either. I wish people would just put their dogs in the truck or not bring them along.

Posted by: kruzingwithk9s | June 14, 2018 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Here in Ottawa, Canada, I was in heavy traffic and a pick-up in front of me had a young German Shepherd without any leash, looking very stressed, moving all over the back of the pickup truck as it stop, started, sped up and turned. He didn't look like he knew how to balance with the turns, etc.
I was really angry, upset and so scared this poor dog was going to be thrown or would try to jump into the traffic. Two young guys in the cabin of the truck, pulled into a Home Depot. I pulled in, grabbed my phone and called 911 and reported them, license #, location, etc. The police said they were dispatching someone right away.
The stupidity of humans doesn't surprise me anymore -- I just wish they would be stupid on their own and not endanger an innocent animal!

Posted by: LoveGSDs | June 14, 2018 10:35 AM    Report this comment

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