How to Train Your Dog for Holiday Road Trips

You’ve wrapped the gifts and checked the road conditions. But there’s something else you should do before you head for Grandma’s house — train your dog to handle the journey.

On top of too much food and contentious Scrabble matches, the holiday season is synonymous with long road trips — and this often includes the ruler of your roost: your dog. But if Fido (or Fida) has never been in the car before, how ready will they be to make the trip?

Most of us are familiar with the iconic image of the happy backseat hound: head out the window and tongue flapping in the breeze. But not all dogs take so easily to riding in a vehicle. A furry friend that’s yelping in terror, scratching the upholstery, or getting nauseated isn’t going to make it any easier for you to focus on the roads. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that a diversion lasting only 2 seconds greatly increases your risk of a car accident.

So take a break from holiday-sweater-dressing your pooch, and use these training tips to help your dog love your ride.

Coax your dog into the car the first several times

Unless you wheel around town in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, chances are your everyday vehicle will look intimidating to your pup. Instead of just dropping Fido in the backseat and hoping for the best, lure your dog in using a beloved treat or toy (for my own teething dog, Lucille, that would of course be my ankles). Practice doing this in advance of your holiday trip to give your dog time to make the connection between being in your ride and being excited.

Start the engine, but don’t go anywhere

After your dog is used to the backseat of the car, you can introduce it to the sound of the engine. While my car idles, I like to offer Lucille rewards as long as she is acting calm — if she gets nervous or starts making noise, I don’t offer any rewards and ignore her until she simmers down. With this conditioning, your dog should make the same connection.

Keep the car clean

Obviously, your pup is no neat freak (if you’re anything like me, you’ve got aliving room blanketed in shredded wrapping paper and mangled garland to prove it). But for your swinging-tailed sidekick to focus on this new environment, the car must be free of distractions (other than the treats or toys used for conditioning). If your dog’s attention keeps jumping to tree air fresheners or cookie crumbs, it’ll have a hard time making any meaningful progress.

Gradually increase the length of car trips

If your dog becomes uncomfortable during the long drive to Grandma’s place, it could make negative associations about the car for life. So keep drives short before slowly extending them. (In other words, find another companion for your annual North Pole pilgrimage.)

Don’t feed your dog in a moving car

Kibble and a sharp curve could spell carsickness. And, like humans, dogs usually aren’t eager to return to places where they’ve gotten sick. In fact, I’ve found it’s wise to give your pup plenty of time outside to get rid of whatever, ahem, presents it has before hopping in the car.

Head to the park or pet store, pronto

The first destinations for your pup can make a huge impression. Riding with dogs to scarier spots like the vet (or in Lucille’s case, a mailman academy) right off the bat will likely make them feel skeptical of the car. Start with happy jaunts to the park or pet store to associate your vehicle with fun, friends, and rawhide.

Use a pet restraint

Of course, these are great for securing your pet physically. But pet restraints are also great for emotional support. Get your dog used to its harness, crate, or special seat at home so the restraint can provide a familiar and calming influence when you transport your pooch to the car.

To learn more about driving with dogs, animal safety restraints (and other accessories) for the car, or the statistics behind how your furry friend could distract your driving, check out our insight on driving with pets.

5 Home Security Methods to Ditch This Holiday

For many, the holiday season brings to mind some pretty important questions:

1) Am I traveling to visit friends or relatives?
2) Am I leaving my house or apartment all by itself to guard my jewelry, electronics, and personal info?
3) How do I make sure my home is safe and sound while I’m away?

Even with a home alarm, an empty, unattended home is vulnerable. (Anyone who’s seen Home Alone knows that.) And it turns out, those security methods you were taught as a kid can actually aid a burglar in entering your abode.

So let’s take a moment to learn about these faux-effective security methods and find out what you should do instead.

Keeping a light on

What you may have heard: Keeping a light on will make a home burglar think someone is there.

Why this might not work so well: Unless they’re reading the world’s longest book nonstop, most people turn lights on and off continuously throughout the day. So if one suspiciously stays on, it’s a giveaway that no one’s home.

What to do instead: Install timers that randomly flick lights on and off.

Letting your dog play bouncer

What you may have heard: This will scare the bejeezus out of a burglar.

Why this might not work so well: It’s not the sight of a dog that burglars hate, but rather the sound. Thieves will find it hard to work with a loud, yapping type getting in their way. And your giant dog, while intimidating to look at, could easily stay mum if the burglar happens to be familiar (like a handyman who worked on your home).

What to do instead: Let the dog relax and set a security alarm while you’re away. You’ll be alerted much faster than a bark — and, depending on your alarm system, probably just as soon as the police.

Growing full shrubs to keep burglars away from windows

What you may have heard: A tall (and one would hope prickly) shrub is an obstacle thieves just won’t want to deal with.

Why this might not work so well: Burglars can easily counter thorns or foliage with layered clothing, gloves, and cutters. And conversely, a thick patch of greenery makes the perfect hiding place.

What to do instead: Get those hedge trimmers and sculpt away.

Planting a security company’s sign in your yard

What you may have heard: Putting up an alarm company’s sign (or sticker) will keep thieves at bay.

Why this might not work so well: You could be overplaying your hand. While having a security system is good, advertising which company you use might not be. Tech-savvy burglars could access their plans and find flaws in the setup.

What to do instead: Use a generic sign to show that you do indeed have protection … but from whom, no one knows. The more obstacles you create, the more likely it is that a burglar will move on in search of an easier target.

Using social media to share the season’s greetings

What you may have heard: OK, this isn’t so much a full-fledged myth as it is a complacent mistake, but it bears mentioning anyway. After all, who hasn’t taken holiday vacation photos and posted them online without so much as second thought?

Why this no good for home security: Announcing online that you’re away from home (surprise, surprise) is interesting news to more than just your Twitter followers.

What to do instead: Share your travel plans — but do it face-to-face (not Facebook-to-Facebook) with your friends or neighbors. That way, they can discreetly check in on your pad.

Some security methods are worth following — like protecting your home with insurance

No matter how much myth-busting we do, home burglaries can still happen. And if they do, you can be prepared with a reliable homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Good Things Come in Small Packages: Esurance Is Now Available in Rhode Island

Esurance now proudly offers car insurance coverage in Rhode Island. In order to welcome the Ocean State to the Esurance family, let us introduce you to this state’s awesomeness.

Good things really do come in small packages

Rhode Island proves this famous adage in more ways than one. It may be the smallest state on the map with its petite 1,214 square miles, but the Ocean State’s residents pack a powerful punch … or should we say, serve? Home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Rhode Island is actually the second most densely populated state in the entire U.S., right behind New Jersey.

Big things in a small state

Don’t let Rhode Island’s tiny size fool you. For starters, the Ocean State has the longest name of any U.S. state: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. (Try saying that 10 times fast.)

If you ever find yourself cruising through the Ocean State, be sure to swing by Providence and scope out the famous big blue termite atop Big Blue Bug Solutions (formerly known as New England Pest Control). This 58-foot long bug is 928 times the size of an actual termite.

Central Falls is the Ocean State’s smallest city with just a 1.2 square-mile span. But looks can be deceiving: it’s packed with more than 19,000 inhabitants.

A state of firsts

When it comes to rolling up both sleeves and jumping into the action headfirst, Rhode Island is the ultimate revolutionary. Here’s a list of notable firsts:

  • Rhode Island is home to the first torpedo boat ever constructed.
  • The first African American regiment to fight for America did so in the Battle of Rhode Island.
  • The inaugural National Lawn Tennis Championship (Rhode Islanders sure like tennis!) was hosted in the Ocean State back in 1881.
  • Polo players took to the field for the first time (in the U.S., that is) in Rhode Island back in 1879.
  • History buffs may also be fascinated to learn that Rhode Island actually kick-started the Industrial Revolution with the first water-powered cotton mill.

A beach bum’s dream

Rhode Island may be only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, but it’s got nearly 400 miles of shoreline and dozens of beaches.

Ready to take the Esurance plunge?

If you have friends or family in Rhode Island, let them know we’ve arrived. And if you’re from Rhode Island, check out our Rhode Island car insurance facts and important driver information. When you’re ready to snag your Esurance quote, you can get it here.

Photo Diary: 10 Observations About the 2012 L.A. Auto Show

Entering the 2012 L.A. Auto Show, I think I had the same rush of questions that pretty much everyone in that position does:

Does this town really have that many car-lovers? Can I touch the cars? Can I drive them? Can I have them? Did I remember to make a mental note of where I parked? Will someone try to sell me a car that looks like a shark?

(If you’re curious, the answers are: yes, usually, occasionally but only outside, maybe but only in exchange for money, oh God no, and yes.)

Luckily, once you’re inside, you stop asking questions — and start drawing conclusions. Here’s my photo diary of the event and 10 (pretty much) infallible truths I learned. You can click the photos to make them bigger.

1. Bright colors are in; Hollywood stops are out

Fiat 500e making its world debut.


Chevy Tru 140S concept car boasts 40 mpg while also making you crave a Starburst.

2. Bond drives an Aston Martin — and you won’t soon forget it!

Because, well, Aston Martin won’t let you.

3. The (much anticipated) “Coolest Font” award goes to: Porsche

Why do I like that so much?
That same Porsche GTS in full view.

4. This is now officially my favorite car ever

The aforementioned shark car from The Morgan Motor Company.

5. The future is now, and it’s hogging all the best lighting

Nissan Hi-Cross Concept, making its North American debut, boasts a hybrid power train and seating for 7 in 3 rows of seats.
BMW i3 Coupe, making its world debut, is an all-electric vehicle capable of hitting 0 to 62 mph in less than 8 seconds.
The Mercedes-Benz Ener-G Force concept car runs on hydrogen and electric power. Though it’s designed (loosely) as the highway patrol car of 2025 L.A., it’s more likely it’ll turn into a villainous Transformer 5 seconds from now. Someone please double-check that I’m still alive.

6. The “Most-Curvaceous” award goes to: BMW

Their i8 Spyder, making its North American debut. Va-va-voom. (And it’s a plug-in hybrid no less!)

7. Someone at Porsche mixed up their shipments

“I’m so very alone.”

8. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is supposedly the tiniest consumer car in America …

… story checks out. (That’s me, nearly reaching headlight-to-taillight.)

9. Mini is planning a top-secret move into home decor

Just an ordinary lamppost, you say?
How dare you!

10. The “Most-Whimsical Display” award goes to: Chevy

Camaro on a giant Hot Wheels track. Ah, that takes me back.

So just how good was the L.A. Auto Show?

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then these pics say it all.

Holiday Gifts for Your Car: an Open Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

How are you? I am fine. I’m sure you’ve been getting a lot of mail lately. And I bet those elves of yours are all revved up on gingerbread as they work double-time, enduring paper cuts from wish lists as long as I-80 and migraines from translating crayon drawings. It can’t be easy stashing toys under millions of trees in just one night (let alone climbing out of all the chimneys. And how do you get into apartments? I have so many questions.). But Santa, kids aren’t the only ones with holiday hopes and dreams.

You might have noticed I Polar Expressed this letter straight to your front door. It was expensive, but I didn’t want it to get lost among all the drummers drumming and pipers piping. I think I deserve a gift this year. I passed my 60,000 mile checkup with flying colors, and my “Check Engine” light hasn’t gone on once!

Contrary to popular gift-giving lore, I do not want to smell like cherries or have a fancy bath. No, I’m hoping for something different. In my travels to work or Grandmother’s house, I’ve seen a lot of Carstaches. That’s right, they’re moustaches for car grilles. And, as a car, I can assure you this is just what I need.

I spend a lot of time outdoors. I don’t mean to brag, but … I’m pretty brave. I’ll go face-first into snow, I can handle dust like a champ, and even though I hate going out in the storm, I’m tough enough to do it safely. I even have 2 Rudolph-inspired lights to help other cars see me in the dark.   

You and that snowman buddy of yours understand how cold it can get out there. Maybe not as cold as the North Pole, but still chilly enough to make it hard for me to do my job. I’m looking for something to keep me warm — something functional, yet stylish. (Please do not send UGGs.) I need some pizzazz! Something to take that on-ramp by the horns and announce, “Hey drivers! Don’t get all up in this grille!”

Do you hear what I hear? I need a Carstache, Santa. And I’m not alone. Holland sported tons of Carstaches during the 2010 World Cup. And Lyft, the popular “on-demand ride-sharing” app in San Francisco (My hometown! Do you like sourdough bread?) uses the pink ones to mark their vehicles.

These Carstaches are the majestic glory of Ethan Eyler’s creativity. Like me, he spent a lot of time daydreaming while he sat in traffic. Ethan quit his 9-5, picked up some fake hair (naturally), and baked a prototype in his own oven to measure the ‘stache’s melting point. He’s sold almost 15,000 of them to date. So Santa, if he’s not already on your Nice List, he should be: He’s the one who thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if cars had moustaches?” AND THEN DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I’m not asking for much: just 34 inches of weather-resistant faux fur in the shape of a moustache. I can even sweeten the deal with 10 percent off if you buy it online and use the code ESURANCE at checkout before December 25.

Thanks, Santa. If I could high-five you, I would.     

Your pal,

The 2005 Honda Civic parked outside Esurance

(PS: I think I’m more of a Wisdom Grey.)