My two dogs go crazy for a ride in the car. All I have to do is jingle my keys, and they race to meet me at the door. If they could call shotgun, they would.
In the past, I’ve let them roam freely around the car and hang their heads out the windows, ears blowing in the breeze. But then I read that a 60-pound dog can become a 3,000-pound projectile in an automobile accident. We’ve used dog car seat belts ever since.
Indeed, certified dog trainer Nicole Ellis, member of Rover’s Dog People panel, says, “one of the first things I tell pet owners to get is a car safety harness.”
Riding in Cars with Dogs
A moving vehicle presents a host of dangers to unrestrained dogs. Enthusiastic dogs can leap out open windows; dogs who hang their heads out the window can be injured by external debris; airbags deployed in an accident can injure dogs sitting in the front seat; and as mentioned, a loose dog in the backseat during a collision can become a dangerous projectile.
It’s no fun pondering these frightening scenarios, especially when, for so many of our dogs, a ride in the car is a joyous occasion. But the simple precaution of a doggie seatbelt can keep your joy ride safe. You reach to fasten your own seatbelt every time you get in the car—why not do the same for your dog?
Dog Seat Belts = No Distractions
Dog seat belts help to prevent driver distraction. According to the U.S. government website for distracted driving, in 2012 approximately 421,000 people were injured in accidents involving distracted drivers. Another study co-sponsored by AAA determined that over 60% of dog guardians engage in distracting behavior with their dogs in the car.
Dog distractions can cause you to take your eyes off the road, and lead to serious accident and injury. Dog seat belts keep your pup in place, minimizing distraction so you can focus on the drive.
Choosing the Right Dog Car Seat Belts
An effective dog seat belt works much like the belt you buckle up yourself: it should maintain your dog’s stability in the car, and restrain her movement under duress. Unfortunately, there are not yet standard regulations and requirements for dog seat belts the way there are for human restraints.
As a result, consumer reports and product tests are your best resources to select the right dog restraint for your ride. The Center for Pet Safety provides results from a 2013 test of dog seat belts and harnesses, and they recommend the Sleepypod Clickit Utility Harness for its overall function and safety features.
A lot of the harnesses on the market say crash tested or made for the car but have failed these tests. – Nicole Ellis, trainer
Trainer Nicole Ellis is a big fan of this brand. She says, “my favorite harness is by SleepyPod, as all their products have passed the Center for Pet Safety testing. … A lot of the harnesses on the market say crash tested or made for the car but have failed these tests.”
What about Using a Carrier Instead?
Once again, the Center for Pet Safety has provided a huge benefit to the pet owner community by crash testing dog car seats and carriers. They found in a 2015 test that not a single one of the pet car seats for small dogs performed well in an impact.
Instead, they recommend securing a small dog in one of the general pet carriers that rate well for safety.
The SleepyPod carriers range from $101 and up. They are not cheap, but the quality ensures long-lasting safety.
Gunner Kennels are designed for use outdoors and are popular with hunters; they are super-sturdy and include many reinforcements that keep dogs safe in an impact. This quality comes at a high price: upwards of $320. For some dog owners, this may be a worthwhile investment, especially if they frequently drive long distances with their dog.
Getting Your Dog Used to a Harness
Some dogs find seatbelt harnesses uncomfortable at first, so you’ll want to introduce it gradually before taking it for a test ride. Make sure your introductory sessions involve plenty of treats.
But before you know it, putting a seatbelt on your dog will become second nature, and you and your road hound can hit the asphalt safely and distraction-free. Enjoy the ride!
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Featured image: Sleepypod website