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Dogs in Pickup Truck Beds: Safety First!

By Julia Williams

Many people see nothing wrong with letting their dog ride untethered in the open bed of a pickup truck. I can’t count the times I’ve seen a dog riding loose in the back of a pickup truck, and you probably have too. Sometimes the dog seems to be enjoying this open air experience, while other times the dog looks terrified as he struggles to maintain his balance. Regardless of whether the dog is having fun or is frightened, transporting them untethered in the back of a pickup is placing them in a very unsafe situation. It not only endangers the dog, but other motorists who could have an accident when they swerve to miss the dog if he falls out.  

An untethered dog in a pickup truck bed can easily become a projectile if the driver has to slam on his brakes, swerve to avoid something in the road, or hits an unexpected bump. I know someone who actually saw a dog fly out of an open truck bed onto a busy freeway, and the image haunts them. It’s really not something you want to see happen to any dog, because it can result in broken bones, road rash, bruises and even death if they get hit by another vehicle. Even if the dog manages to survive falling out of an open truck bed, treating his injuries could incur a sizable vet bill.

On winding roads, an untethered dog riding in an open truck bed will get bounced from side to side. Even if they don’t fall out, they can suffer bruises from continually hitting the hard walls of the truck bed. An untethered dog could also jump out of the open truck bed while it’s moving if he happens to see a cat, squirrel, another dog or something else he wants to chase. Many states have laws prohibiting the unsafe practice of transporting dogs unsecured in an open pickup truck bed. Regardless of the law, a responsible dog owner is one that makes sure their canine companion stays safe and healthy, both at home and on the road.

Thankfully, there are some options for pickup truck drivers who want to take their dog with them on their travels. The safest way to transport a dog in a pickup truck bed is to buy a topper, which allows the dog to ride in an enclosed area protected from the road, flying debris, wind, and other hazards of the open road. Another alternative is a large sturdy dog crate, such as those required for airline travel. However, the crate needs to be securely tied down to prevent it from sliding around on the truck bed floor. The cost of a sturdy crate is much less than a truck bed topper, but can still run several hundred dollars or more depending on the size and style.

A third option is to use a cross tether to secure the dog directly behind the truck’s cab. This involves fastening a rope to both sides of the truck, with a short leash in the middle for the dog. Cross tethers designed specifically for securing dogs in pickup truck beds can be found at most pet stores. A properly installed cross tether secures the dog so that he can't go over the truck bed or choke himself. The safest and most comfortable way to cross tether a dog is with the addition of a padded harness, which guards against entanglement and limits the dog’s range of motion to prevent choking. A tether-and-harness combo costs less than $50, which is such a small price to pay to ensure the safety of your canine companion.

When it comes to dogs riding in the open bed of a pickup truck, responsible pet owners don’t take chances that could endanger their four legged friend. A truck bed topper, sturdy crate or cross tethering can all help to ensure your dog stays safe on the road.

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