Dog Car Safety: Seatbelts and Crash-Tested Kennels

by Sydney Hess

Golden retriever dog in back seat of car looking out of window

Did you know that the most common danger for the modern day pet is simply riding unrestrained inside of a vehicle?

Dogs are hitting the road with their humans more than ever as they continue to intertwine themselves into our day-to-day activities. Many owners have begun to wonder if the same car safety practices used for human children should also apply to their kids with paws. 

When thinking of dogs riding dangerously in cars, you may think of scenarios where  dogs are hanging half out of the window or are riding freely in the back of pickup trucks. However, the most common danger for the modern day pet is simply riding unrestrained inside of a vehicle. 

Dog Car Safety Around the World

In countries like England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, laws require citizens to buckle up their pets before hitting the road. Unfortunately, the United States is a bit behind on passing laws involving pet safety in cars. Car safety for pets in the US currently remains unregulated, though local governments may have their own laws regarding distracted driving.

Distracted driving includes having Fluffy ride on your lap, and it isn’t unheard of for owners to be ticketed if an unrestrained pet is the cause of an accident or traffic violation. As tempting as it is for Fluffy to get a front window view while we drive, this can be a huge distraction for the driver and potentially very dangerous for Fluffy.

In the event of an accident, even something relatively minor like a fender-bender, our dogs will become projectiles and can harm themselves along with any humans in their way. If a 10 pound dog becomes a projectile in a 50mph collision, the 10 pound pooch becomes 500 pounds of unrestrained force. 

Car wreck after accident with trunk destroyed 

Dog Car Harnesses and Kennels

There are quite a few different options on the market when it comes to restraining a dog safely in the car. Whether you prefer something more budget and small car friendly like a crash-tested harness, or something more extravagant like a crash-tested kennel, there is something to fit every dog parent’s lifestyle. Many companies have claimed that their products were crash-tested, but when put to the test in a crash simulation they performed incredibly poorly. It is important to go through reputable brands rather than trusting claims made by various unknown companies on Amazon. 

Here are our top picks for car harnesses: 

1. The Ruffwear Load Up Harness 

This harness is priced at $89 for any size. A pro to this harness is that the seatbelt is fed through a loop in the harness rather than fed through the harness itself, which some dogs may find uncomfortable. This harness has been tested in crash simulations and FAQ’s about the durability are available on the Ruffland website.

2. The Kurgo Impact Dog Car Harness

The Kurgo Impact Car Harness runs at $78.95 for any size. Similar to the Ruffwear harness, the seatbelt is fed through a loop rather than through the harness. Kurgo states that the harness was put to the test in a dog specific crash simulation. 

3. The Sleepypod Clickit Sport Harness

The Sleepypod Clickit Harness and Sleepypod Clickit Terrain Plus are priced around ~$126. The Terrain Plus is able to be converted into a regular walking harness, so loading up and out is quick and easy. The Sleepypod harness has extensive safety testing behind it, making it a solid option for safety obsessed pet parents. Crash testing information is easily found on the Sleepypod website. One drawback to these harnesses is that the seatbelt is fed through the back of the harness instead of through an independent loop, so some dogs may find it difficult to get comfortable in the car while wearing this. 

4. The EZYDOG Drive Dog Car Harness 

The EZYDOG Drive Car Harness comes in at $125 per harness. This harness has been through crash testing and has safety information available on their website. The harness has an easy one-time fit and a comfortable and sturdy chest plate. 

Here are our top picks for car kennels:

1. The Ruffland Kennel 

Starting off with the most budget-friendly car kennel, the Ruffland ranges in price from ~$200 for the smallest kennel to about ~$500 for the largest. Rufflands can be made in a variety of different door configurations so that even the largest kennel can fit in most smaller cars. They offer single and double door kennels that can be modified to your needs. These kennels are delivered ready to ride with no assembly to take any human error out of the equation, and are made using “Ruff Flex Technology” so the material absorbs shock on impact rather than cracking and crumbling. 

2. The Gunner Kennel 

Gunner Kennels range from about ~$550 for a small to ~$900 for a large. These are a bit more of an investment, but their crash ratings and quality justify their pricing. Gunner Kennels are double walled for extra protection and offer additional features like back up safety latches in the case of a door latch failure. They are a bit less customizable than the Ruffland as there is only one single-door option, so they may not fit easily in all vehicles. 

3. The Variocage 

 The Variocage is perhaps the most customizable (and the most expensive) kennel ranging from ~$1000 for a single kennel to ~$2400 for a double. This kennel is often the choice pick for those with multi-dog households, as the double kennel allows each dog plenty of space while not completely obstructing the driver's view. There are a wide variety of different sizes and the company is able to provide information on what design would best fit the exact model of your car. Variocage is the most rigorously crash-tested kennel in the world, so owners can rest assured that their pups will be safe in case of an accident. The company originated in Sweden, so all products are held to the regulated European standards for pet car safety. 

4. The Sleepypod 

The Sleepypod kennel is perfect for small pups who love to be on the go. This kennel converts from a bed, to a carrier, to a carseat and doesn’t skimp on comfort or safety. This bed is priced at $224.99 and is currently only available for pets 15 pounds and under. 

Whatever method you choose for your pup’s car travel, remember that some restraint is better than none at all! 

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