Father’s day gift ideas dear to a dad’s heart

What do you do when Father’s Day is just around the corner and you’re stumped for a good, original gift idea?   Here at Pet Barrier, we have a couple suggestions that give protection to three things that are dear to a dad’s heart – his kids, his dogs, and his car.

Did you know that the AAA has calculated that the average American driver spends around seven 40-hour working weeks behind the wheel of a car in a year? This means that passengers including our children and our dogs are spending more time in our vehicles than we may realize, so giving extra thought to making vehicles as comfortable as possible is a priority.

Travall_Guard_Child_Safety_01.png

You may already have the best car seat for your child’s age, height, and weight, but there is one addition that you may not have thought about – a Travall® Guard. During a collision items that are unsecured in the trunk can be flung around the vehicle, putting passengers at risk of injury.  This can occur during the smallest fender bender or even when braking hard.  To shield vulnerable infants and young kids from these items, savvy parents are installing vehicle-specific barriers to keep kids protected and maximize valuable trunk space at the same time. Pet parents enjoy the ability to drive with fewer distractions while their favorite pooch is securely positioned to the rear of the vehicle.

Dogs in back of Jeep

Travall has been manufacturing the Travall® Guard for nearly thirty years.  Its use has grown rapidly by Europeans who understand and embrace the benefits of using vehicle-specific barriers in their vehicles.   Thankfully, the Travall® Guard is now available in America, so that we can provide that same level of protection for our most precious cargo.

The barrier offers a snug, precision fit, that can be installed without medication to your vehicle.  Installation takes an average of 30 minutes and unlike traditional, permanently installed cargo barriers, the Travall® Guard can be removed in minutes for use at another time. To give you further peace of mind and confidence in your purchase, the Travall® Guard comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It’s the one essential piece of gear that children and dogs won’t outgrow.

Want an additional suggestion? Consider vehicle-specific rubber car mats to give full-coverage protection against dropped sippy cups and other spills.  We hear Travall has an excellent range…

Visit https://www.travall.com to discover the Travall products available for Dad’s vehicle and make his day.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Why we Want US Healthcare to go to the Dogs

Have you ever had to spend any time in the hospital as a patient?  If you have, it is likely that you may have experienced periods of feeling low, anxious, stressed, and frustrated as a result of your illness or injury and because of being away from family, friends, and your home. If any of this sounds like your hospital experience, you were not alone, as it is not uncommon for hospitalized patients to experience a downturn in mental wellbeing, sometimes with physiological changes too.

In order to counteract some of these multi-factor stressors that hospitalized patients experience, many hospitals have introduced a variety of therapeutic programs.  One program that you are increasingly likely to see on that list is animal-assisted therapy sometimes simply called pet therapy.

Why is animal-assisted therapy being used?

The idea of animal-assisted therapy is not new.  For many years, it was considered to be a “nice” thing for hospital patients to experience, but thanks to increasing amounts of research into the topic by clinicians, there has been proven to be a wider range of benefits.

boy-with-pet-therapy-dog

What are the benefits of animal-assisted therapy to patients?

An article by Cole, Gawlinski, Steers, and Kotlerman1 in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that when patients had only a 12-minute visit from a pet, there was an improvement in heart and lung function and a significant lowering of blood pressure, a reduction in the release of harmful hormones, and a decrease in anxiety.  The study was conducted with hospitalized heart failure patients. It indicated that there was far more benefit shown in those patients that received a visit from a pet than in those patients who were only visited by a human volunteer or those who were left alone.

Specifically, the benefits to patients of animal-assisted therapy include:

Mental health benefits

  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced problem behaviors for patients with dementia (less agitation, less verbal aggression, and more social behavior)
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Reduced tension
  • Reduced confusion
  • Improved self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Increased socialization
  • Reduced boredom

Physical health benefits

  • Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure when exposed to stress
  • Reduced serum epinephrine concentrations
  • Lower pain perception
  • Endorphins (oxytocin) released giving a calming effect
  • Reduced need for medication

man-petting-dog-in-hospital

What are the dangers for patients?

If patients are allergic to pets, animal-assisted therapy cannot be used. Guidelines from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) indicate that only dogs should be used, not cats. Cats cannot be trained in the same way as dogs, with more likelihood of scratches and bites from cats.  Additionally, people are more likely to be allergic to cats than to dogs.

There has been a lot of research done on the benefit of having dogs in the hospital, but not much research on the spread of bacteria from having dogs in the hospital rooms. The SHEA developed new guidelines for how hospitals can approach having pets visiting with patients at the hospital. Dogs used for pet therapy purposes and their handlers need to undergo specific training and be evaluated prior to having hospital access and ideally should be certified by a pet training organization. The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists the organizations through which it accepts dogs to have received their certification and to be given the official title of AKC Therapy Dog.

A study done in a Canadian hospital tested dogs’ paws and fur prior to hospital entry and then again after visiting patients.  Of the 26 dogs studied, one picked up C Difficile on his paws during the visit and one had MRSA on his fur and on the handler’s hands following the visit.2 This highlights that although sanitizing pets is difficult, there is a definite need for thorough handwashing by anyone visiting patients prior to visiting and following the visit. When visiting with multiple patients, handwashing between visits is essential.

Hospitals have very distinct protocols in place to ensure that the transmission of infection is kept at a minimum. The animals have to be clean, vaccinated, trained, and have a good temperament before being allowed into the hospital in the first place.  In some cases, such as patients in isolation units or patients in the intensive care unit, pet therapy can only take place with extra measures in place, but in certain situations it is unsuitable.

lady-receiving-pet-therapy

Examples of successful animal-assisted therapy?

There are two types of patient-pet interactions: animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activity. Animal-assisted therapy is specifically directed toward patients with cancer, heart disease, or mental health concerns and needs to have a credentialed staff member involved in the process.  Animal-assisted activities have a wider scope and are typically used to provide comfort and enjoyment focusing on mental health benefits rather than trying to achieve specific physiological outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, etc. This latter form of activity is typically staffed by volunteer handlers.

Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is an example of a hospital where canines have successfully been introduced in the Caring Canines program.

 

memorial-sloane-kettering-caring-canines
President of Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center with Caring Canines employees

 

There are many programs of a similar type being introduced across the nation as the full benefits are increasingly being understood.  Dogs are not only being used in surgical and treatment settings but are being used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Tasks such as brushing a dog can make for more interesting arm strengthening exercises for patients than just doing weight training.3  Dogs can also be used to encourage walking and other rehabilitative exercises.

More and more research is being done on the subject of pet therapy to ascertain the relative merits.  Here at Pet Barrier, we think the answer is simple.  If having a therapy or activity session with a dog can at the bare minimum brighten a patient’s day during difficult times, pet therapy is absolutely worth it. It has been clinically proven that animal-assisted therapy achieves far more than that, with benefits to patients’ mental and physical health being achieved across all age groups, from children through to seniors.  Animal-assisted therapy and activity should be available at all healthcare facilities across the nation. Is US healthcare going to the dogs? We welcome it!

We’d love to hear about your experiences with pet therapy – please share if you are able.

References

1.       Gole, Gawlinski, Steers, Kotlerman. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With Heart Failure. Am J Crit Care. November 2007 vol. 16 no. 6 575-585

2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/therapy-dogs-and-hospital-infections/?_r=0 Tara Parker-Pope May 11, 2009

3. Haggard, A. (1985). A patient’s best friend. American Journal of Nursing. 85(12), 1374-1376

 

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 3, Lifestyle

 

Part 3: Your lifestyle

 

When you are a busy adult, whether because of work commitments, child care, caring for senior family members, pet care,  or perhaps all of the aforementioned, it is often easy to make the mistake of putting yourself last.  Admittedly in this 3-part series, I am posting this last, which shows I’m as guilty of thinking along these lines as anybody.  Whenever I’ve put my needs first, I’ve always felt a little bit guilty, but recent events at my veterinarian’s office made me rethink what I had previously thought of as selfish actions on my part.

motherjuggling

I was attending an appointment with my dog when another dog’s owner experienced a heart attack in the waiting room. Fortunately, the outcome of a long and convoluted story was that the dog’s owner recovered well and the dog received care during the recuperation period.  It left me with the realization that in order to ensure someone else’s welfare, we need to ensure our own welfare. Ultimately, if we don’t take proper care of ourselves, we become unable to care for others. Isn’t it, therefore, a wise investment to make time for yourself this spring by reviewing your lifestyle and maybe giving it an overhaul if it is falling short?

 

 

Rethink your workout habits

You work out to stay fit and healthy, but if your routine hasn’t really changed in many years, maybe it could do with a refresh to keep you interested and challenged.  If you enjoy working out with your dog, activities like canine parcours or doga could be of interest to you.  If you love walking with your dog, but are thinking about progressing to running, maybe alternating jogging with walking with your pup may be a good way to ease both of you into the sport.

yoga

Improve your diet

We’re not talking about dangerous diets or detox programs, but simply evaluating what you eat and seeing how you can boost your nutritional intake can be beneficial.  An easy way to start is with a food diary, in which you write down what and how much you have eaten for every meal for a couple of weeks (or longer if you prefer).  You will probably be surprised by the results.  If you find your diet is particularly low in vegetables, that is an easy fix.  Additionally, if you notice that there is a lot of repetition in your meals, you can add more variety to give a broader range of nutrients and more interest for your palate. In the last couple years particularly, many  TV chefs, TV doctors, and celebrity fitness trainers have been focusing on increasing nutritional value in meals to try to help people reduce weight, prevent disease, and ultimately add years to their lives. Their suggested recipes are often simple to fix, absolutely delicious, and many are available free online – it’s worth googling.

superfood-salad

Take more time for yourself

No matter what hobbies you have and how you prefer to take time for yourself, make certain that you build some of this time into your week. Make a list of the things that you really want to do for yourself and the things that help you relax. Then look at what you actually do on a daily basis and determine what tasks can be eliminated or even outsourced.  If you spend all your spare time catching up on household duties, maybe some of those tasks can be shared with a spouse, leaving you some time to attend a language lesson, catch up on a good book, or whatever you want to do that’s just for you.

Nurture your friendships

Friends getting together

Friendships are vital, whether we have busy lives or not. Try to stay in touch with friends on a weekly basis, even if just by phone, and try to get together as often as possible. Friendships help us to feel connected, boost happiness levels, reduce stress, and may even help in preventing early onset dementia.

best-friends

 

Your Mom was right,  spring cleaning is an important addition to every person’s calendar, but not just for keeping your house spiffy. Take time for yourself, it’s not selfish, it’s essential!

 

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Why Distracted Driving is Driving me to Distraction

“You can never have too many…” have been the words to start many quotes over the decades, from a variety of people ranging from authors to actors.  Most of these quotes are completed with words such as “friends,” “shoes,” or “books.” At Pet Barrier, I say, “You can never have too many reminders about distracted driving.”  Regular blog followers may remember a couple of posts on distracted driving in 2016 and you may be asking why, with all the subjects that I could be writing about, I am covering the topic of distracted driving yet again.  The answer is simple and sobering. Distracted driving is now considered to be at epidemic levels in the US.1

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US traffic accident fatalities rose by 7.2% in 2015, which is the largest increase in the last 50 years. Early estimates by the NHTSA for the first 9 months of 2016 indicate that fatalities have increased by a further 8%.  After having experienced many years of decline in fatality rates during the early 2000s, this trend toward an increase in fatalities is worrying.

 

distracted-driver

What exactly is distracted driving?

Many people consider themselves to be cautious, considerate, safe drivers and sometimes don’t realize that things that they do in addition to driving can be fatal. Causes of distractions on the road are numerous, ranging from events occurring outside the vehicle, restless pets or children or adult passengers within the vehicle, eating, drinking, shaving, applying makeup, smoking, adjusting controls on the stereo, downloading music, dealing with hand-held devices, and last but by no means least, using cell phones for phone calls and texting.

According to EndDD,there are three types of distraction:

  1. Manual distractions – your hands are taken away from the steering wheel to perform a task. An example is reaching for a soda
  2. Visual distractions – your eyes are taken off the road. They give the example of when you spill the soda and look down at your clothes to see the outcome
  3. Cognitive distractions – your mind wanders away from the task at hand. They finish the example with you thinking about how to get your clothes cleaned.

In Washington State alone, 30% of fatal road accidents in 2016 were caused by distracted driving. Taking your eye off the road for even 2 seconds can result in an accident. If you talk on a cell phone while driving, your risk of an accident quadruples.  If you text while driving, your risk of an accident is increased by eight times.  According to Alexis Myers of the Associated Press,14 states currently ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a car. 46 states prohibit texting messaging for all drivers.  Research by AAAsuggests that even when drivers put down the phone or the navigation device, the driver is still not fully engaged with the task of driving as the driver’s mind still remains distracted. An article by Bart Jansen in USA Today indicated that millennials are the age group most likely to engage in risky practices behind the wheel.Although the millennial statistics were the highest, other age groups did not fare well either. This suggests that greater education and awareness across the entire population of driving age would be advantageous.  

How can you avoid driving distractions?

There will always be incidents that arise when we are driving that are totally unexpected and cannot be planned for ahead of the journey.  But for many of the distracted driving scenarios, a little bit of planning ahead by trying to manage these distractions before setting out on the road can help to avoid some of these distractions entirely.

Turn cell phones off or switch to silent, before starting your journey

No phone call, social media update, or text message is more important than a person’s life. Don’t talk, or (even worse) text, on the phone while driving.  If you absolutely need to make a call or send a text message during your journey, pull over and make the call or send the text when your vehicle is stationary. As for selfies, nobody wants to see a selfie of you driving, they’d far rather see you in person and more importantly alive.

Take care of personal hygiene before getting in the car

This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but we’ve all seen drivers shaving on their commute, or applying mascara.  It is far better to take care of your personal hygiene before setting out on a journey.  If you can’t do that then wait until you get to your destination to apply your makeup or remove your stubble.

woman-putting-on-make-up-while-driving

Secure pets correctly

Ensure that pets are securely placed to the rear of your vehicle.  Using a vehicle-specific pet barrier is an excellent choice and if you have multiple pets, having a trunk divider added to this mix can prevent them from becoming rambunctious during a journey.  Other options are to harness your pet in one of the rear seats, in a similar way to using a seat belt. There are a wide variety of products on the market to ensure your pet is positioned in the most appropriate area of the vehicle so that the driver is not suddenly surprised by a furry friend wanting a hug.  Check out what can work best for your vehicle and for your pet.

 travall-dg-04

Set your GPS system before starting the journey

This also applies if your GPS system is on your cell phone. Ensure that the device is located in an area where you can see both the device and the road easily and clearly and ensure it can be operated hands free.

Eat and drink before or after your journey, not during it

Your car will remain cleaner, your clothes will be cleaner,  and more importantly you will not be distracted from the road.

eating-while-driving

 

Take care of your kid’s needs before starting the journey

Ensure that children are comfortable and securely buckled in a car seat that is appropriate for their current age, height, and weight.  Make sure that they have their toys, pacifiers, sippy cup or whatever else they need within their easy reach, so they are able to get to items, leaving the driver free to deal with the important task of driving.  If a toy or any other item gets dropped on the floor, leave it there until you can get to a safe place to pull over. Don’t try to reach behind your seat to return it to the child while you are driving.

child-ready-for-a-journey

 

 

The following You Tube video was put together by The Try Guysas they considered the effects of distracted driving.  They were certainly surprised by the results.

The Try Guys Try Distracted Driving

 

Don’t become complacent about driving.  Every trip, take the time to plan ahead and when you are driving ensure that your mind is on the road and not on the other things going on in your life.  Multitasking behind the wheel is simply asking for trouble. Retweet, share on Facebook, reblog, or do whatever you can to get the message out to friends, family, and strangers, so that everyone, no matter what age, is educated about and fully understands the risks of distracted driving.  Let’s all work to make American roads safer for 2017 and beyond.

Do you have any tips that have helped avoid distractions when you’ve been traveling with pets, kids or other passengers?  We’d love to hear about them.

Please drive mindfully every trip – every life is worth it!

References

  1. Darrow B. http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/distracted-driving-epidemic/ September 14, 2016
  2. http://www.enddd.org/the-facts-about-distracted-driving/
  3. Myers A. Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide in Wash. Associated          Press. Feb 12, 2017 – 10:12 AM
  4. https://www.aaafoundation.org/distracted-driving
  5. Jansen B. Millennial drivers are highway hazards, survey shows. USA Today. Feb 15, 2017.
  6. The Try Guys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atx1Jh6YP0

 

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5 Amazing (but true) Things About Dogparents

Encouraging kids to grow up to be well-rounded individuals is something that every parent or caregiver tries to achieve.  We already know that having a pet in the home makes for a memorable childhood, but we perhaps fail to appreciate the more profound effects that pet ownership has upon child development. It is typical to ask friends to become godparents and be involved in our children’s lives, but what about the role of dogparents that our pets perform, sometimes without us even realizing. Aspects such as physical and social development, to name just a couple, are enhanced if a child helps to nurture a pet at home.

Benefits of pet ownership for children

Physical development

Dog walking is a great form of exercise and an easy way to burn calories. In a world where our kids live more sedentary lives and are more prone to obesity than previous generations, going for a daily walk or run with the dog is a great habit to form. Fantastic for the child’s physical and mental health, it is a habit that can be continued into adulthood.

boy-running-with-dog

Social development

Encouraging a child to be respectful and caring of a pet, also transitions into his or her treatment of other people. There are obviously exceptions, but for the most part, children who have been shown how to behave with pets and have looked after a pet have a tendency to become more caring, more compassionate and more responsible adults. Emotional intelligence, interpersonal interaction, and impulse control are vital attributes to have. Acquiring and further developing these strengths can be facilitated by pet ownership. It is very important to note that simply having a pet in the home is not sufficient for these skills to be acquired. It is vital that kids are shown the best ways in which to interact with and treat other living creatures and they often learn these skills from examples set by parents or caregivers. Kids with dogs have plenty of opportunities to learn patience, kindness, sharing, and generosity; all character traits that can help them to develop closer human friendships. In providing care for an animal they also start to develop some basic parenting skills useful for later in life.

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is the way in which information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory all develop through childhood into adulthood. As we know, not all learning takes place in a classroom. Having a pet in the family can help with all aspects of cognitive development.  Encouraging a child to read about his own dog’s breed, to be involved in puppy care and the training of the dog, and to be involved in learning how to care for the dog are all valuable ways of learning. Reading skills and confidence improve when a child reads to a pet, and some school districts are introducing READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programs with these benefits in mind.

child-reading-to-a-dog

Emotional development

Caring for a dog allows a child to interact with a live being without being judged. This enables self-esteem to build and can help a shy kid overcome timidity.  Dogs also make superb service helpers for children living with physical or behavioral health conditions.

Interacting with dogs also releases endorphins in a child’s body, making the child happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. Additionally, as dogs have a relatively short life cycle, children learn about life and death and how to work through the bereavement and grief process.

girl-whispering-to-dog

Immune system development

In a 2015 study published in JAMA Pediatrics1, Swedish scientists analyzed the relationship between dog ownership in the first year of a child’s life and the incidence of asthma in children up to the age of six. They found that children in Sweden who have grown up with dogs in the house since birth had a 15% decreased risk of asthma by the time they attended school compared with children whose families did not have a dog. The researchers believe the findings would also be applicable to other developed countries such as the US.

How do you increase kid-dog interaction?

Get the kids involved! There are lots of little tasks involved in pet care and if your children are involved in some of them it can make them feel important and responsible.  For young children, setting up a chart with small rewards for tasks completed can be a good way to start – there are even apps for that these days! Carrying out simple age-appropriate duties like filling the dog bowl with fresh water or measuring out kibble can make children feel more grown up, trusted and helpful.

girl-feeding-dog

Give your dog extra praise and attention, for being a terrific dogparent, helping you in your quest to raise your kid to be a balanced, content adult.

Why not share how having a pet has enhanced your child’s development?

Reference

  1. Fall T, Lundholm C, Örtqvist AK, et al. Early exposure to dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169:e153219. doi:1001/jamapediatrics. 2015.3219. Epub 2015 Nov.

Resolutions: for kids, for pets, for you

count-down-to-midnight

 

Happy New Year readers! We’ve once again reached that time of year when people take a look at their lives and try to figure out whether they are meeting their own personal goals and if not what they are going to change and how.  If you read my previous blog post, you’ll know I touched upon this topic with regard to dogs only a few days ago. OK, I admit it,  I am feeling particularly motivated to make positive improvements in my own life and trying to assist my kids and my dog in doing the same.

New Year’s resolutions are nothing new.  The tradition began in the 18th century BC, when the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year. Millions of people carry on with the tradition today and many have great results. According to the American Medical Association, approximately 40% of Americans participate in the New Year’s resolution tradition and 46% of those who make common resolutions such as weight loss or increasing exercise were over 10-times more likely to succeed compared to only 4% who chose not to make resolutions. Based on that data, it’s a great time to try to make a few simple changes.

Kids

As a parent you are continually helping your children achieve goals in every aspect of their lives. Encouraging them in making New Year’s resolutions is a good way to reinforce some of the behaviors you have already been trying to instill and to further develop some excellent character traits. So how do you approach resolutions without everyone wanting to give up after the first couple of days?

family-celebrating-new-year

Pick age-appropriate goals

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives suggestions of resolutions that are suitable for different age groups. For example, preschoolers can be encouraged to pick up toys and put them away after playing, while tweens can be persuaded to wear a bike helmet every time they go on a bike.

Be realistic

If the goal is not realistic, the child will not be successful.  Make sure that what your child wants to achieve is actually possible given their current age, development and other circumstances. If it is currently too daunting, maybe reduce it to more manageable tasks.  Alternatively, instead of picking one specific goal, you could aim for a selection of positive new life experiences throughout the year, such as trying a specific food, reading a particular book, or trying a different activity, etc.

Encourage tenacity

Using a reward chart can work well in getting young children to stick to a resolution they have set.  Younger kids respond well to small, frequent rewards, but it can also help in encouraging older children to remain on track. For older age groups try setting longer term targets with a larger reward at the end.

Lead by example

If your children see you trying to stick to your resolution, they are more likely to persevere too.  If your goals are along similar lines, such as trying to exercise more frequently, then try to do things in parallel.  Why not go for a jog while your son or daughter is at soccer practice?

 

Pets

dog-with-happy-new-year-hat

Making resolutions on behalf of your pets is also good in helping them to lead longer, more fulfilling lives and can further increase the bonds between dog and owner.  Again, typical resolutions like increasing exercise levels and reducing caloric intake are worthwhile goals to set (see my previous blog post).  If you already give your dog plenty of exercise, have plenty of interaction with other dogs, and don’t have any dietary concerns etc, there may be other areas of your pet’s life that could be improved in the coming year.  Have you considered whether they are riding safely enough in your vehicle?  If the answer to that is no, then maybe installing a vehicle-specific pet barrier to keep them secure on a journey would be a good, positive change in your dog’s life.

 

You

As with resolutions for children and pets, unless you choose a resolution for yourself that is realistic, you aren’t going to persist for very long, if at all.  Pick one aspect of your life that you really want to improve and then look at achieving it in workable, attainable segments.  For example, if you want to lose 10 lbs, break it down into a target of 1 lb per week achieved by doing specific activities, such as walking every morning or taking the stairs at work, within that time frame. Reward systems aren’t just for kids, give yourself little treats along the way for goals achieved. Equally, don’t lose heart if you don’t quite meet your target – maybe tweak what you are doing, but keep at it.

Do you have any tips or hints for sticking to New Year’s resolutions?  We’d love to hear them. As for my resolutions?  Well, enriching my vocabulary with a new word a week is one of my personal goals – blog readers, you have been forewarned!

Wishing you a peaceful and fulfilling 2017.

happy-new-year-2017

 

 

Staying Safe on the Road

 

With the extreme weather conditions currently affecting many parts of the United States, and millions of Americans preparing to drive home for the Holidays, what can be done to keep your loved ones safer in snow and ice?

ice-and-snow

Prepare your vehicle for winter

  • Install snow tires on your vehicle, not all-season radials.  Snow tires give extra traction in ice and snow.
  • Make sure your spare tire is also a snow tire.
  • Ensure your tires are correctly inflated.
  • Chains add another level of safety.
  • Upgrade your coolant levels.
  • Use windshield cleaner rated for winter conditions.
  • Check your battery and replace it if unreliable.
  • Carry a bag of sand, both for weight and traction, and a snow shovel.
  • It’s not always easy to change your vehicle, but if you will be travelling in winter conditions as a matter of habit, choose a vehicle with front wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or 4-wheel drive.  Rear wheel drive vehicles are more difficult to handle in icy conditions.
  • Install a Travall vehicle-specific pet barrier
  • Keep locks from freezing up by using WD-40

man-putting-chains-on-tires

Know the road conditions 

First and foremost, if the conditions are not safe, do not go! If you absolutely must, then plan your route well in advance.  Check road safety conditions before you leave and try to check conditions as the journey progresses.

Check the weather forecast before you leave

Try to check out the weather forecast for your current location, your final destination and for points along the route.  If you are aware of weather warnings, there will be fewer surprises on the way. Carry chains if snow is expected and if you’ll be travelling in hills or mountains. Ensure that everyone travelling has the appropriate clothing for the anticipated weather conditions. Having coats, hats, gloves and sturdy boots in the car is essential if you will be travelling in snowy conditions.

Fuel up

Start off with a full tank of gas and where possible don’t allow your tank to drop below half way. You may have to stop off at the gas station more frequently, but you don’t want to run out of gas in snowy conditions.

Prepare for driving in wintry conditions

Know how to drive in icy or snowy conditions.  Use an empty parking lot to practice steering out of a skid.  Drive more slowly than usual and slower than the posted speed limits.  Allow more distance between you and other vehicles. Pump brakes gently and use gears to slow down.

Carry an emergency survival kit 

  • First aid kit
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Garbage sacks that could double as a tarp or rain poncho
  • High energy food like granola bars or dried fruit.
  • A portable stove
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Candles (use for light and to keep the vehicle warm)
  • Tin can for melting snow for water.
  • Coats, wool socks, gloves, scarves and other winter clothing

first-aid-kit

Where possible use main roads

This may not always be an option, but try to stick to major routes, so if you do become stranded you can be found more quickly and easily.

Additional driving tips

  • Drive according to the conditions.
  • Reduce speed in poor visibility, where there is snow, or if ice may have formed.
  • Stay in a higher gear to help keep control of the vehicle and avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
  • Maintain larger safer stopping distances, you may have to double or even triple your stopping distance.
  • Use dimmed headlights in poor visibility and snow, so others can see you.
  • Use rear fog lights.

If you get stranded stay with your vehicle

If you need to keep the engine running to keep warm, ensure that the exhaust is not clogged with snow.

Try to keep mobile devices charged so you can call for assistance if necessary

 america-in-snow

Wherever you are driving during the Holidays, we wish you a good and safe journey. Happy Holidays!

dogs-driving-truck-home-for-christmas

 

 

Distractionless driving with children and dogs

This week continues the posts about driving safer by avoiding distractions. Last time, I encouraged you to keep your attention on the road by ignoring your cell phone and not fiddling with the entertainment system or GPS. As promised, today I’ll be touching on tips for driving safer with children and dogs in the car.

Both children and dogs can be a pretty big distraction when you’re driving, but in different ways. Dogs generally form a distraction when they are free to run around in the car, unrestrained. When this is the case, they can startle the driver by nudging them or suddenly licking them. Even a dog who suddenly starts breathing right next to your ear because he wants to see out the windshield, can take you by surprise.

Suddenly seeing this in your mirror will startle you
Suddenly seeing this in your mirror will startle you

But maybe your pooch does none of this and sits politely on the backseat. Even then, you might get distracted as you are likely to be tempted to look back and see how your dog is doing. Taking your eyes off the road for even a second is potentially dangerous. Luckily, there is a simple solution: keep your dog restrained in a safe manner when he is in the car. This way, he cannot reach you and you will know without having to look that he is safe. There are several ways to achieve this, some like a kennel or a pet barrier are better than for instance a special seat belt or harness for reasons I have explained before.

Sleeping child: a rare sight
Sleeping child: a rare sight

Keeping your young children from distracting you can be a harder task. They too will seek your attention but instead of nudging you, they are more prone to shouting and screaming. Whether it’s demanding sweets or fighting with a sibling, it’s hard to ignore and the urge to look back and intervene will be strong. However, this would endanger you all. Instead, when going on a trip make sure you are prepared and have different ways of keeping

Trouble ahead
Trouble ahead

the kids occupied. This can take many forms, from having plenty of (preferably healthy) snacks to bringing toys, books, films and such. Of course, the good old fashioned ways of playing games such as I spy and singing songs works too, as long as you can still pay enough attention to the road while participating.

Next time when going somewhere with your dog or child, try to keep these simple tips in mind and try to focus on what’s going on outside the car and not what’s happening inside. Take measures to avoid distraction or just leave it to your co-pilot to handle it, if you are lucky enough to have one. Safe driving!