Crate training in the car can be a real lifesaver, literally. According to a survey conducted by Kurgo and AAA, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of force. As a Certified Veterinary Technician, I’ve seen dogs come into the clinic after a car accident in which they weren’t secured. After seeing some of these cases and the lacerations, I’ve become a big advocate for dog seat belts and carriers. All three of my dogs ride in a soft-sided crate in our car.
Let’s be honest, dogs can be distracting when they’re loose in the car. They want you to share coffee, breakfast bars, and kisses while you’re driving. In addition to keeping human snacks to yourself, some of the major reasons you’ll want to consider a car crate include:
- Looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
- One of every ten fatal crashes in the U.S. involves distraction.
- If the car windows break or the doors pop open in an accident, a loose dog can escape or get injured.
Note: while this article focuses on car crates, dog seat belts or car harnesses are also good options.
Crate Training Tips for Dogs in Cars
Crate training in the car is nearly the same as crate training in your home. You’ll want to give your dog plenty of positive reinforcement and patience.
- Take your dog for a walk before you put them in their crate, as you want their bladder to be empty.
- Once he’s in the crate, start out with short trips, such as going to the post office and back.
- Offer praise for successful trips. It’s great to pull over and reward her with treats! Continue to drive short distances with stops in between to give everyone a break.
- Consider the type of trip you’re taking before deciding whether to bring your dog. If it’s warm outside and you need to stop throughout your errands, consider going without your dog. You don’t want to leave them crated in the car while you’re out and about.
- Once you know the travel experience is pleasant for your dog, you can gradually increase the length of the rides.
Dr. Marty Becker, DVM suggests:
“First, limit your dog’s food and water intake for a couple of hours before any trip. Lower the car windows a few inches to provide fresh air and to equalize the air pressure, and keep the air temperature in the car cool. Get your dog used to being in a crate, and then to sitting in the crate while it’s in the car (maybe provide a fun toy to distract him).”
Dog Car Crate Safety
In order to provide enough protection, the crate needs to be snugly fitted into the car. This video provides a helpful visual.
Safety first when it comes to our dogs. The following crates, recommended by pet safety experts, are by far the best brands on the market.
Best Hard-Sided Crate for the Car
- These crates are known to be indestructible.
- One of the only brands to receive a 5-Star crash test rating from the Center for Pet Safety. Other crates burst on impact in tests, but not the Gunner.
- Comes in different sizes for small to large dogs.
- Rubber feet keep it in place; reviewers note it doesn’t jiggle around.
Best Soft-Sided Crate for the Car
- It’s a safety-tested pet car seat rolled into one uniquely dome-shaped package.
- A top performer in independent crash testing.
- Reviewers note its comfortable design for dogs.
- Sleepypod also makes one the best-rated dog car harnesses on the market; they know their pet car safety.
Pick one up for $184.20.
Best Crate with Latch System
- It passed the very stringent FMVSS 213 CRASH Test, which is used to test child safety seats.
- The ISOFIX-Latch connection keeps the carrier securely place en route.
Get one for $149.99.
Be sure to weigh and measure your dog before purchasing a crate. It’s important to get the right fit, both for security and comfort. Then, determine where you’ll put the crate in the car. A snug fit helps minimize the chance of your dog getting injured!
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Featured image: Harley tries out the SleepyPod mobile pet bed.