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Pet Friendly House

Car Restraints for Dogs | How to Safely Transport Your Dog

Picture of a dog in a blue car

If you own a dog; at some point, you are going to need to transport him somewhere. Many dogs love travelling in the car with their families, so much so that it becomes a favorite part of their day. Still, there are many considerations to factor into travelling with your best canine pal along for the ride. While some owners allow their dogs to travel in the passenger seat without any restraints, this could end disastrously if they were ever to fall victim to an accident. The news abounds with tales of dogs fleeing the scene of a crash never to be seen again and even to lives tragically cut short due to the impact received during an accident. It certainly bears some serious consideration. What are the best car restraints for dogs on the market? Is it possible to safely transport your dog in your vehicle?

Is it safe to let your dog travel loose in your car?

The truth is your dog is going to enjoy car rides a lot more if he is allowed free rein of the vehicle. Many love to hang their heads out the window, their tongues lolling happily in the wind. Others still like to perch on their owner’s lap or even to put their paws on the shoulders of their owners while they drive. If you are just taking a short little jaunt to the coffee shop or to the grocery store, chances are nothing is going to happen. But what if it does?

We often think that we can see an accident coming long before it happens. Unfortunately, historically, this has been proven false many times over. Even if you were able to see a collision coming before it occurs, the G forces at work would not allow even the most quick-acting hand to stop the forward motion of your dog hitting the windshield, causing certain injury and most often death.

But not only could a loose pet BE in an accident, they could potentially cause one as well. Even the best behaved pet can, at times, be unpredictable. The dog you think would never crawl under your feet while you drive may think they detect the presence of a tasty treat right under your shoe and make a dive for it, inadvertently causing a collision. Many dogs have been known to stand on power buttons that control windows, giving them the freedom to jump out of a moving vehicle to their own peril, and others still have become projectile objects when a car becomes airborne due to a crash, causing injury and harm to themselves and others in the vehicle.

Yes, dogs prefer to be loose in the car. But the one question each owner must ask themselves is, “Is it worth it?” That one moment of guilt where you give in to the puppy dog eyes could lead to a lifetime of grief and regret over a pet who died a tragic and unseemly death.

Research shows that 84 percent of pet owners who travel with dogs are not restraining them in any way. 60 percent of this same group admits to distracted driving due to their loose dog, 52 percent enjoy petting their dog while they drive, and 17 percent actually allow their dogs to sit directly on their laps while operating a motor vehicle. What does this mean? It means that drivers with unrestrained pets are hazardous. Any time your full attention is not devoted to the road and operating your motor vehicle, you put yourself, your dog, and others at serious risk.

Consider these statistics outlined by Allianz in their article “Keeping Pets Safe in the Car:”

“If a car crashes at a speed of just 25mph, an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight. A large-size dog weighing 75 lbs., for example, can achieve an impact force of 3,000 pounds in a car crash, which could be a lethal blow for both a passenger and the pet.”

By comparison, CNN reports that:

“Even for smaller pets traveling at just 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 10-lbs dog will exert 300 pounds of pressure in an accident, according to Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, traffic safety programs manager for AAA. Without a crash tested safety restraint, that pint-size pooch can injure passengers and become severely injured on impact.”

The Best Car Restraints for Safely Transporting Dogs

The fact is car restraints save lives. Purchasing and using a crash-tested safety restraint for your dog may save Fido’s life, but it may also save yours. Regardless of which item you choose to purchase to keep your dog safely restrained, be certain that you select something that has undergone crash tests, and that displays the results publicly. Not all restraint systems are up to the task of providing true safety during a collision. You’ll want to make sure you purchase one that is.

Here are some car restraint options for dogs for you to consider:

  • Dog harnesses

Dog harnesses are excellent tools to keep your dog safe while travelling in the car. Typically, they are sold as a heavy duty harness with a tether that attaches to your seatbelt, providing the security you need to keep your dog from freely roaming the vehicle. However, it is important to be certain that the harness you choose is the correct fit; otherwise, you may find Fido wiggles his way out of it when you are not looking, thus providing no safety benefits for Fido but an emptier wallet for you.

Dog harness restraints are mostly recommended for small to medium-sized dogs. It is especially important to be certain the dog harness you select has undergone crash testing to be sure it is durable enough to withstand impact without snapping. For the utmost in safety precautions, the tether should be relatively short so as to inhibit much movement.

Typically, harness restraints are not good for chewers or particularly mischievous dogs known for Houdini-like behavior.  These types of harnesses are generally not every day household harnesses suitable for regular wear and dog walks. For best results, these harnesses should be put on specifically for use with the car restraint system and removed once the dog arrives home.

  • Dog seat belts

Dog seat belts consist of a tether which attaches to your dog’s collar or harness then snaps in place into your seatbelt coupler. Seatbelt restraints do restrict your dog’s movement; however, should an accident occur, your dog would still experience some thrashing around depending on the length of the tether. A safer option than car barriers, the seatbelt runs second place to harnesses which provide more secure features to keep Fido protected in case of an accident. 

  • Dog crates/kennels

Crates are the most common type of restraint owners employ with their dogs. Most families already have them, and in most cases, the dog is already quite comfortable in what he considers his “home away from home.” However, not all crates are sturdy enough to withstand an impact. All crates can become projectiles if not placed properly and secured in place.

Some of the most heavy duty kennels on the market are Gunner Kennels. Gunner Kennels are made of heavy duty construction and are available as stationary or portable units. They come with straps to assist you with properly securing them to the interior of your vehicle, and they have earned a 5 star safety rating in multiple crash tests. Gunner Kennels do come with a hefty price tag, but they are also accompanied by an excellent guarantee and the assurance that should an accident happen, your best canine pal is safe in his crate.

Experts recommend that crates be placed in the middle of the vehicle if possible. They should always be safely tied down or secured in some fashion to provide proper protection.

If crates are your restraint of choice for your dog, be sure you buy the correct size. Too large a kennel will cause excess jostling around which cause your dog harm should a collision occur. Most high quality crate companies with crash test ratings to their credit such as Impact Dog Crates and Gunner Kennels offer measurement services to ensure you purchase the right size for your dog.

Always remove collars and tags before putting your dog in his crate to prevent accidental snagging that could lead to asphyxiation. 

  • Dog barriers

Dog barriers are available in wire and mesh forms. Their job is primarily to restrict your dog’s access to specific parts of your vehicle and from where you sit trying to concentrate on the road. Dog barriers are more about keeping your dog separate from you than actually providing any safety precautions in the event of a crash. They are a better solution for larger dogs who would not be suited to harnesses or seatbelt style restraints.

If you opt to purchase a car barrier, be certain you buy the correct size and that it is installed to manufacturer specifications. You will also want to be sure that the type you choose is sturdy and not prone to wear from chewing or pawing at the material.

Always bear in mind that if a car barrier is your sole form of protection for your dog that your dog WILL become a projectile in case of impact. For this reason, it is recommended that barriers are used in conjunction with a crate for the utmost in safety precautions.

There is no doubt that dogs love to go for car rides with their owners!  To keep Fido safe, consider purchasing a car restraint for your beloved pooch today. It just might save his life!

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