In keeping with the travel theme that I’ve been pursuing as I prepare to take Frankie on a car trip, I’m going to highlight the question: What’s the best method of keeping your dog safe in the car? Seatbelts, harnesses, crates, hammock-type sheets attached to the front seat — if you’ve tried a safety device and love or hate it, I’d like to know. And if anyone has bought a particular brand of car because of dog safety concerns, do share.

I promise to post Part 2 of my Dealing with Car Fear mini-series before then, so as to provide a complete Keep ‘Em Calm, Keep ‘Em Safe package.

12 thoughts on “Friday Focus: Car Safety for Canines”

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  2. When I was a kid in the 70s, our dogs had free roam of the vehicle. Of course, it wasn’t common for humans to be strapped in either. How naive were we? I’m so glad my thinking has changed. Today, my 5 lb. Yorkie Sydney is either harnessed into a car seat, or tethered inside her seat belted in backpack. Syd seems to like her backpack more than the car seat. She’s not a good traveler unless she’s tired. Most times, as soon as the car slows and a turn signal is clicked, she begins to bark and cry, but that’s another blog issue you’ve addressed. lol As for the vehicle, it’s a Subaru Forester, but I had purchased the car prior to getting Sydney. I think this vehicle is safe for both people and pets.

    1. Ha, I grew up in NYC without a family car — or dog! — so subway safety (as in avoiding being rubbed up against by human animals) was the bigger issue. I haven’t finished the car fear series and what you say about the backpack makes me wonder if something I’m going to address in that post, i.e., the thunder shirt, might work for Sydney in the car. It sounds like she likes to be wrapped. But I’ll get to that!

  3. Well, assuming neither of the dogs are driving …

    Ty and Buster wear harnesses made of seat belt quality material. Don’t know name of harness or who makes it (Amy found them). If we are in the RV, the harness attaches to a seat belt buckle via an adjustable strap. Ty and Buster are strapped in directly behind the driver and passenger seats.

    If we are are in our Toyota RAV4 the back seats have been removed to allow more room – for Buster. The harnesses are attached via straps to bolts in the floor that held the seats.

    We take the dogs safety very seriously. One of our pet travel peeves is seeing dogs roaming free in the car. As I’ve said before, if you are driving down highway at 60 mph so is your dog. And as I’ve also said before, don’t get me started on people who let/make their dogs travel in the back of an open pick up truck. Why isn’t there a law against that?!

    1. It sounds like Ty and Buster are very safe, even if one of them (I’m not naming names) is not always happy!

      There *are* some laws against driving with unsecured dogs in pickup trucks — but not in every state. There need to be federal laws but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. We can’t even regulate against puppy mills effectively at this point!

  4. I strap my Golden Retriever in the back seat of my car with a Ruffrider Roadie seat belt. The belt is all one piece, with no clasps of any kind, and is made from the same material as automotive seat belts for humans. I learned the hard way a year ago that the plastic clasps on many canine seat belt can shatter in a crash.

  5. I didn’t exactly buy my second Mazda Miata only because of dog safety concerns — or even because the dogs love to ride in a convertible with the top down! But I was delighted to discover that Miatas (as of 2006, which is the year I bought) automatically turn off the passenger side airbag if car safety system detects a person or pup under a certain weight in the vehicle. I don’t know if that is a standard feature on all other vehicles these days, but with my old car (a 94 Miata) I had always worried about the airbag deploying in an accident and crushing either a dog or a niece or nephew.
    PS My worries were misplaced. When the ’94 was totaled in a multi-car mess, those silly old airbags never did deploy. But that’s another story.

    1. I think Frankie would enjoy a Miata. Of course I couldn’t bring along any of his luggage — or mine!

  6. I use a dog seat belt for Jessie. When I got her, I drove a sedan and a crate was not an option because it wouldn’t fit in the car fully assembled. I had initially gotten the seat belt to keep her from leaping from the car as soon as I opened the door or ‘helping’ me drive (puppy) and then later came to appreciate all the reasons she ought to be restrained for safety.

    Now I have an SUV, but we still use the seat belt. I’m not confident that I could secure a crate to the vehicle in a way that would keep it from becoming a projectile in a crash and she’s far happier sitting closer to me than she is way in the back in her crate.

  7. I’m in the crate camp. I wrote a piece for AKC Gazette about dog-car safety, and I’ve also written about dogs who ride in motorcycle sidecars. I’ll send you some links. So, I know people on both ends of the spectrum. Those who think restraint is the right thing, and those who say that dogs need to have the option to flee if an accident happens.

    1. Thanks for this and for the links to your posts. I think there’s a good case to be made for seatbelts vs crates and vice versa but I can think of no argument for no restraint. I know someone whose two greyhounds ran out into traffic when the top of her pickup popped off after she was rear-ended by a guy driving a stolen car. Some $50,000 in vet bills later — paid for by the Beading Divas, a long story but a happy one — the dogs are ok. When an accident happens, cars and traffic — and therefore grave danger — are by definition involved.

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