There’s a very good reason why we fasten out seatbelt before driving anywhere, yet it’s easy to forget that when you have your dog along for the ride they are just as vulnerable to being injured should you have to stop sharply, or worst case scenario you have an accident of some kind.
Even a low impact shunt can be a disaster for any person or pet without a safety restraint. Which is probably the biggest reason as to why you will want a safe dog car seat
Of course, there are lots of other reasons why dogs should be secured while in a car. Some of which include:
- The driver’s safety – loose dogs are free to clamber around from seat to seat, which is both distracting and dangerous, especially if they decide to climb onto your lap while you are driving.
- Studies suggest that around 60% of people traveling with a dog are distracted at some point in the journey, and at least half a million people a year are injured due to the accidents these distractions actually cause.
- The safety of all passengers – if you ever studied physics you’ll remember that an object gains force when it moves quickly, so your medium sized dog being thrown forward at speed would weigh the same as a good-sized bear.
- It’s not unknown for loose dogs to hang their heads out of open windows, risking injury. Some even like to exit a moving vehicle by that route, often due to having spotted something interesting ‘on the outside’.
- It’s generally the law that any animal in a car must be restrained in some way. In many cases both car and pet insurance policies have a similar clause in their policy small print.
Types of dog seatbelts
Some dog owners choose to install a mesh guard which separates their pet from the passengers, but this alone doesn’t protect the animal in case of an accident, so it’s always best to go for a proper dog seatbelt instead. As there are lots of different types to choose between it’s worth checking out the best options for your dog before hitting the stores.
You can do that right here, with this ultimate guide which covers all angles of what’s available, so you don’t have to.
Secured crates and carriers
Not all dogs travel well, some get anxious, others may be prone to car sickness. In these cases a comfortable bed in the confined space of a specially designed dog crate or carrier can be a good solution. However, it’s not enough to simply crate your pet and then place it in a convenient spot of the car as both dog and carrier become a potentially lethal missile.
Don’t be tempted to place it in the back set with a regular belt around it either, as it’s unlikely to stay fast in a collision. Instead choose a specially designed attachment which can be used to secure the carrier to the seatbelt.
These are popular with smaller dogs, and rather like a child’s car safety seat they keep your pet secure but not isolated from the humans on board. If you like this option make sure you also purchase and use a harness which will safely secure the dog to the seat.
Be very careful when looking at products labeled as ‘dog seatbelts’, as some are nothing more than a kind of lead which clips onto the dog’ collar at one end, and is inserted into the seat belt buckle slot at the other.
While this type of restraint will top your dog moving beyond the range of the belt it will not protect it at all from injury if you have a rash, in fact it could even cause further damage to your dog due to the stress placed on its neck.
The best kind of dog seatbelt clips onto a harness and are then secured using the existing seatbelt slots, but be careful not to mix these up with the type that simply loop the car’s actual seatbelts through a basic harness, as these don’t perform well in tests.
These are a good option for medium sized and larger dogs which will travel quite happily without a crate, and most harnesses come with an attachment which can be secured to your existing car seatbelts very easily.
Harnesses are designed to cause less harm to a dog in the event of an accident as the forward force is more evenly distributed throughout their body than it would be if they were simply say attached to a seatbelt by their lead. Some dogs take a while to get used to a harness, so allow time to get them comfortable wearing one.
Make sure the harness is snug fitting, as any give puts your dog at risk of whiplash. Look for harnesses with thick straps, preferably padded, which are secured around the dog’s back rather than its neck. If your pet can sit upright or ay down comfortably you have the right fit.
- Check the anchor points are sturdy and unlikely to come apart easily.
- How easy is it to release? Especially check if the release point placed where your dog could accidentally trigger it while you are driving.
- Harnesses with 3 point attachments are generally a better option.
- Avoid using the front seat for your dog, as even with a harness an inflated side passenger airbag can be dangerous for them. (If you don’t have this feature and your dog is calm during car journeys it’s probably okay.)
Suggestions and thoughts
Getting the right kind of dog restraint is tricky, perhaps because manufacturer’s face the conundrum of producing a range of products to suit a huge variety of dogs, which we know come in all shapes and sizes.
It’s not an impossible task, but it does take some thought, and in most cases the better products are going to cost a more than the less safe options. However, it’s always a worthwhile investment as being able to carry your dog safely in the car has got to be the priority.