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How Dog Seat Belts or Crates Provide Travel Safety

Updated on January 5, 2016

There are three major reasons why dogs should wear a car harness or ride in a crate when they travel. The first reason is for their safety. The second reason is for your safety. Ant the third reason is for the safety of the other passengers and possibly other people on the road.

When I go to a place where I don't have to leave my dogs in the car or places where dogs are allowed, Sephi and Maya must go with me – and they must wear their car harnesses. Drive-through banks or fast food places, parks, pet stores, or visits to a friend's house are great places to take my best girls. And as my best girls, their safety is important to me. Pet travel safety should be important to everyone. It's not just for your dog's safety, but your own safety and the safety of others as well.

My dog Maya always wears the AllSafe in the Car


Your Dog's Safety

Something as simple as a fast stop or swerving to avoid an accident can toss your dog around and cause him injury. If your dog is hanging out the window, the injuries could be worse. He could get tossed out or get choked on the window sill.

Your dog may enjoy hanging his head out the window or he may hate wearing his seat belt, but as responsible caretakers we must make small sacrifices. Your furry best friend is still going to love you and love life. Most dogs can get used to wearing a car harness or riding in a crate fairly quickly. They may even come to enjoy their safety devices like my dogs do.

Emma in her pet car seat


Driver's Safety

If you think cell phones are a distraction, a dog can be even more so. Without their restraints, Sephi and Maya would be very distracting. Sephi would have her front paws on the center console and be panting in my ear. Maya would be jumping back and forth between the front and back seats. Restraining in the back seat with a seat belt or in the cargo area with a crate, your best friend is confined safety in the back seat.

Pet Car Seats are another option, but must be used in conjunction with a crash tested car harness. Some of these seats allow dogs to ride in the front, but beware of the air bags. Airbags are not safe for your best friend.

Pierson Wearing the Ruff Rider Roadie


Passenger Safety

Imagine if you and a passenger were in a major wreck where your dog was sitting unrestrained in the back seat. No matter how small or how big the dog is, the dog could fly forward with tremendous impact. And if the dog is directly behind you or the passenger, imagine what that dog could do to you. The impact could kill not only the dog, but you or the passenger as well. With crash tested pet travel safety devices such as car harnesses or crates, your dog is safety restrained and won't become a dangerous projectile.

What You Need To Know About Crash Testing

Just because a product claims to be crash tested doesn't mean it is safe. Back in 2011, The Center for Pet Safety debunked all but a few car harness brands claims of being crash worthy. The problem with their #1 pick is that it is so restrictive that dogs are not comfortable wearing it and so owners are tempted to let their best friend wear it incorrectly, defeating the purpose. My personal favorite seat belt brands are AllSafe and Ruff Rider. They did not get the top pick because they allowed the dog too much movement in a simulated crash. But they did not break at all. Yes, your dog may get tossed more in a crash, but he will be more comfortable wearing something that isn't too confining and therefore won't try to wiggle or chew out of it. Short tether options are available for both these brands so that movement can be limited.

The Most Thoroughly Crash Tested Variocage


The Center for Pet Safety also conducted an independent crash test study on crates. This particular study is greatly flawed because of the cargo connections they used in the study. Their cargo connections were extremely strong. Real vehicles today are not this strong at all. Most can't hold more than fifteen pounds. So their conclusion that the best crates are the ones where the straps didn't break makes no sense since all cargo connections will break in realistic situations. The best crate, in my opinion, is the Variocage. This is because it is the only one that has been crash tested in multiple crash scenarios (Center for Pet Safety only did a frontal test), and because it is the only one that has a built in crumple zone, which is a safety feature that works in tandem with the safety design of the vehicle.

A pet barrier can keep your dog in the back seat

Other Pet Travel Products

If your dog won't wear a harness or won't ride in a crate, there are other options. These options do not provide as much safety, but something is better than nothing. Consider a barrier to keep your dog in the back. Barriers can be metal, cloth, or netting. There is a product called the K-9 Car Fence. It claims one type of crash testing, but be sure to research this more to confirm. The Sleepypod pet carrier is crash tested, but is only for very small animals. And there is another product called the Pet Ego Pet Tube, and a similar product called the Car-Go from Sturdi Products, which help to keep pets from being a distraction. Kennel straps may help keep a carrier in place so it doesn't become a projectile, but most plastic, wire, or soft-sided carriers do not hold up in a crash.


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