Transporting your beloved canine companion in the back of a pickup truck is a common practice for many dog owners. The open truck bed provides ample space for your pup to sit, stand, or lie down. It also allows them to stick their head out and enjoy the rush of air as you drive.
While riding in a truck bed may be enjoyable for dogs, their safety should always come first. Using a tonneau cover on the truck bed can provide some protection from the elements. But is it truly safe for transporting dogs? There are a few important considerations.
What Exactly is a Tonneau Cover?
A tonneau cover is an accessory for pickup trucks that covers and encloses the truck bed. There are a few different types of tonneau covers:
- Hard tonneau covers are made from aluminum, fiberglass, or vinyl. They are rigid and completely enclose the bed.
- Soft tonneau covers use fabrics like vinyl, canvas, or canvas. They cover the bed but are flexible and can be folded up.
- Roll-up tonneau covers use horizontal vinyl panels that roll up towards the cab. This allows access to part or all of the bed.
- Retractable tonneau covers use horizontal slats that retract rearward into a canister by a spring-loaded system.
So in summary, a tonneau cover provides a layer of protection over the truck bed but is not fully enclosed like a truck cap or camper shell. The level of protection depends on the type of cover used.
What Risks Does a Tonneau Cover Pose for Dogs?
While a tonneau cover seems like a good way to shield your dog from the elements, there are still some significant risks to consider:
1. Potential for Injury in an Accident
Dogs in truck beds are more vulnerable in accidents, especially if they are unrestrained. A tonneau cover adds a layer of protection but does not make the back of a truck a safe location in a crash. Dogs can still be thrown from the vehicle or seriously harmed.
2. Can Fall or Jump Over the Sides
Depending on the height of the truck bed and size of the dog, an unrestrained dog could potentially fall or leap over the sides, even with a tonneau cover installed. This could lead to serious injuries if the dog hits the ground or is dragged.
3. Lack of Ventilation
If the tonneau cover fully encloses the bed, it can greatly restrict airflow. This could lead to a dangerous overheating situation, especially on hot days. Even soft covers limit air circulation.
4. No Protection in Heavy Rain or Snow
While a tonneau cover shields from light rain or snow, it does not make the truck bed watertight. Dogs left in heavy precipitation can still get wet, cold, or overheated.
5. Potential for Theft
Adding a tonneau cover can make it harder for people to see a dog in the truck bed. This could unfortunately make theft or malicious acts targeting the unattended dog more likely.
Are There Any Safe Options for Truck Bed Transport?
The risks involved with using a tonneau cover for dog transportation beg the question: is there any safe way to travel with a dog in a truck bed? There are a few options to improve safety, though they cannot guarantee complete protection:
Use a Secure Travel Cage or Carrier
A sturdy plastic or wire travel crate or carrier designed for transport can allow dogs to ride safely in the bed. Be sure it is firmly secured so it does not slide. This also contains the dog securely.
Install a Dog Car Restraint
Special tethering systems like the Snoozer Lookout Car Restraint can attach to trucks beds to safely restrain dogs for travel. This keeps them from jumping out.
Supervise at All Times
With a tall truck bed, supervision means having someone ride in the truck bed with the dog anytime the vehicle is in motion. This still does not protect from an accident.
Inside Cabin Restraint
Products like car harnesses allow you to securely buckle your dog inside the cabin of the truck. This is safest but only works for smaller dogs.
What Risks are Involved in Transporting Dogs in Truck Beds?
Before deciding if your dog can safely ride in the back of a truck, it’s important to understand the general hazards involved:
Unrestrained dogs can tumble out of truck beds if they lose their balance or are startled. Serious injuries like head/brain trauma, broken bones, or death can occur.
Hit by Debris
Dogs riding in truck beds are vulnerable to being struck by flying gravel, rocks, debris on the road. Eye injuries are common.
Harsh Weather Exposure
Precipitation, wind, and extreme heat or cold can all be dangerous for uncovered dogs riding in truck beds. Hypothermia, heat stroke, respiratory issues can result.
In a collision or sudden stop, an unsecured dog can be violently thrown from the vehicle. Impact with the ground, another vehicle, or the truck itself can be fatal.
Being in plain sight unattended makes dogs in truck beds an easy target for theft by passersby in parking lots/traffic.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Gas fumes from the exhaust can potentially accumulate under tonneau covers, poisoning dogs.
Is It Legal to Ride With a Dog Unsecured in the Truck Bed?
In addition to safety issues, there are legal implications of letting your dog ride loose in the back of a pickup truck. Regulations vary somewhat by state, but there are some general things to keep in mind:
- In most states, there are laws prohibiting drivers from unnecessarily distracting or endangering animals. Unrestrained dogs riding in truck beds fall under these statutes. You could face fines or charges for an unsecured dog.
- Some states expressly prohibit allowing a dog to ride in an unenclosed truck bed on public roads, whether restrained or not. This includes driving on highways or interstates.
- Local animal cruelty laws may also apply if an unsecured dog falls out of a truck bed and is injured or killed.
- Having an unsecured dog in the truck bed can count as an unsecured load. You could potentially be ticketed for this, just like any other uncontained cargo.
To avoid any legal issues, it is best to use some form of restraint system or secured crate when bringing dogs in truck beds. Better yet, keep your dog safely inside the cab or leave them at home.
What Are the Best Practices for Safely Transporting Dogs in Trucks?
Assuming you cannot avoid bringing your dog in your truck’s bed completely, following these tips can help minimize the hazards:
- Use a securely fixed crate or carrier designed for pet transport. Make sure it provides adequate room.
- Secure the crate to the truck bed so it cannot shift or slide during transport. Tie it down firmly.
- If feasible, remove the tonneau cover to improve ventilation and prevent heat buildup.
- Use car harnesses and restraints designed specifically for securing dogs safely. Attach them to stable anchor points.
- Avoid transporting dogs in truck beds in extreme weather conditions or on high-speed roads.
- Frequently stop on longer trips to check on your dog, provide water, and give potty breaks.
- Take measures like reflective gear to make sure your dog is visible to other drivers.
- Supervise your dog during all transportation, or leave them at home if needed. Never assume a tonneau cover alone is safe.
What Are the Best Alternatives to Transporting Dogs in Truck Beds?
While it’s enjoyable for dogs to feel the wind rushing by in an open truck bed, their well-being should be the top priority. Here are some safer alternatives:
Inside the Cabin
Letting your dog ride inside the truck’s cabin with you is safest. Use a crate or car harness specially designed to secure dogs inside vehicles.
Secured Crate in the Bed
For pickup trucks, securing a properly sized crate or carrier in the bed is safer than letting them roam loose. But supervise closely.
SUV with Secured Crate
An SUV with the crate securely stowed and tied down inside provides safety with space to move around a bit.
Dog-Friendly Shuttle Service
Some pet transport companies offer shuttle services to safely bring your dog along on trips without using your vehicle.
Dog Seat Belt Harness
Harnesses that connect to standard seat belt buckles are available for allowing dogs to ride safely buckled up in a back seat.
Pet Taxi Service
Hiring a professional pet taxi or ride share service ensures your dog is safely transported by experienced drivers and handlers.
Key Takeaways on Dog Safety With Tonneau Covers
- Tonneau covers provide limited protection but do not make transporting unrestrained dogs in truck beds safe. Serious hazards remain.
- Unrestrained dogs can potentially leap out or be violently thrown from the truck bed in an accident or sudden stop.
- Enclosures like secured crates, restraints, and supervision are required to improve safety for dogs, even with a tonneau cover.
- Alternatives like secured crating inside an SUV or having your dog ride inside the truck cabin are much safer options than an open truck bed.
- Check your state’s laws – unrestrained dogs riding in truck beds can violate distracted driving, animal cruelty, and cargo containment laws.
The bottom line is a tonneau cover should not be relied on alone to protect your beloved dog during travels in a pickup truck. Take additional safety measures or avoid truck bed transport altogether if possible.