Looking forward to hitting the road with your dog? Even though they’re great company to cruise with, it’s not always easy to keep dogs safe in the car. Whether you’re just going for a short drive or taking a longer road trip, don’t forget to take basic precautions when you take your dog along. Puppy kisses can be just a little distracting while you’re driving and dog distractions can cause you to take your eyes off the road, and lead to serious accidents and injuries.
So as well as keeping your dog safe if there’s an accident, dog seat belts keep your best friend in place, minimising distraction so you can focus on the drive.
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 a loose dog in the back seat during a collision can become a dangerous projectile. A 32 kg dog, like a Lab, will be thrown forward in a 30 mph crash with such sheer force that it would weigh the equivalent of 100 kg—safety experts call this the ‘canine cannonball’ effect.
A 32 kg dog, like a Lab, will be thrown forward in a 30 mph crash with such sheer force that it would weigh the equivalent of 100 kg—safety experts call this the ‘canine cannonball’ effect.
It’s no fun pondering these frightening scenarios, especially when, for so many of our dogs, a drive in the car is a joyous occasion. But the simple precaution of a doggy seatbelt can keep your joy ride safe. And not only that, it’s the law: rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
Choosing the Right Dog Car Seat Belts
There are plenty of sturdy, well-padded harnesses available on the high street with seat-belt features, but many of them won’t keep your dog restrained in a crash. In fact, though a lot of the harnesses on the market that say they’re crash-tested or made for the car, they have failed these tests.
A lot of the harnesses on the market that say they’re crash-tested or made for the car but they have failed these tests.
Unfortunately, there are not yet standard regulations and requirements for dog seat belts the way there are for human restraints. That’s why we’ve done our research and rounded up the safest dog seat belts around. The following choices have been crash-tested and they either comply with European ECE regulation 16 (which covers human safety restraints and all aspects of construction including the materials used) or they’ve been approved by The Centre for Pet Safety, which is the only independent non-profit organisation working to further the safety of pet products and develop standards.
The EzyDog Drive Harness complies with ‘human standard’ safety regulations. It passed the EU ECE Regulation 16 standard, which is also the standard that child safety restraints are required to meet. It’s equipped with handy D-rings so you can escort your dog to and from the car, then simply feed the seat belt through both webbing handles on the top of the harness, click into the seat belt buckle and you’re ready to go. Like most of the safest dog harnesses on this list, the price tag isn’t cheap but any pet owner who’s serious about safety should think carefully about whether they can afford to be without it. The EzyDog Drive Harness is available in small, medium, and large sizes.
The Sleepypod ClickIt Sport harness earned a safety certification and a 5-star rating from the Centre for Pet Safety. It features a three-point safety restraint that ensures that your dog’s entire torso is secured when travelling. It has handy D-rings so that you can use ClickIt Sport as both a seat belt and a walking harness. The harness is available in small, medium, large, and extra large sizes but unfortunately it is not suited for greyhounds, whippets, salukis, Afghan hounds or borzois. The Centre for Pet Safety has only tested and certified Sleepypod Clickit Sport harnesses for dogs between 8-40 kg.
Just like the Sleepypod ClickIt Sport, the SleepyPod ClickIt Terrain secured a 5-star rating from the Centre for Pet Safety and it also features a three-point safety restraint to keep your dog’s entire torso secured in the event of a crash. It’s a lightweight harness that is equally suited for everyday walking and is cushioned for safety and comfort. The harness is also available in small, medium, large, and extra large sizes but unfortunately it is not suited for greyhounds, whippets, salukis, Afghan hounds or borzois. The Centre for Pet Safety has only tested and certified Sleepypod Clickit Terrain harnesses for dogs between 8-40 kg.
The Rocketeer Pack by ZuGoPet earned a safety certification and a 5-star rating from the Centre for Pet Safety who requested evidence from an authoritative expert to ensure the position of the pet was appropriate and safe. ZuGoPet’s designer had already had The Rocketeer Pack reviewed by a Veterinary Orthopaedic Surgeon during their early product development stages. The harness features a multiple point safety restraint system much like the that used in child seats. Its anchor strap fits over the back of the seat and the adjustable harness slips directly onto your dog, however, your car must have baby seat connections in order for this harness to be used. Some dogs may not enjoy the position of being lifted off the seat, and in tests they only seem to be comfortable for 60-90 minutes. The Rocketeer Pack is suitable for dogs with hip and knee issues, and is available in extra small, small, medium, large and extra large sizes, yet the Centre for Pet Safety has only tested and certified this harness for dogs under 11 kg.
Getting Your Dog Used to a Harness
The RSPCA points out that it’s important to “ensure your pet is used to wearing the harness before introducing them to being clipped into the seatbelt.” Some dogs find seat-belt harnesses uncomfortable at first, so you’ll want to introduce it gradually before taking it for a test drive. 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 little buddy can hit the asphalt safely and distraction-free. Enjoy the ride!