Although very few of us would consider driving with our child unrestrained in our car, the same does not apply to our dogs. This is shown through the staggering statistic that 84% of American’s regularly drive with their dog’s unrestrained in their cars.

Driving around with your dog loose in your vehicle is dangerous to both dogs and their owners. 

Dogs have no way of anticipating a collision, or if a driver is going to brake suddenly. The majority of dogs also fall into a weight bracket that if a driver is to brake suddenly at 30 miles per hour or over, then they will likely be flung out of their resting position, regardless of whether they are sitting or laying down.

To help you keep your dog safe when in your car, here are the options that you have when it comes to restraining your dog, and the factors that you should consider when deciding how to best travel with your dog.

1. Keeping your dog in your back seat with a seatbelt attached to a harness

Traveling with your dog in the back seat of your car, attached to your seatbelt with a harness, offers them the best of both worlds when it comes to comfort and safety. Sat like this, your dog has the ability to stretch out and move around (to an extent) but will still be securely held if you were to have a collision or need to brake suddenly.

To secure your dog in this way, you will first need to buy a dog harness and a carabiner, which both together will cost around $30.

With your dog in the back seat of the car, simply fasten your seatbelt, and attach the fastened seatbelt to your dog’s harness with the carabiner. The seatbelt should be attached to the harness at the point where it would go over a human passenger’s torso (rather than over their lap). The idea here is that if you were to break suddenly, then the seatbelt that your dog is attached to would go taught and prevent your pet from being thrown into the seat in front of it. This means that, like with humans, you can only keep your dog restrained in this way if they are over 25 lbs. If they are lighter than this then you cannot guarantee that a seatbelt will go taught if you were to brake suddenly.

2. Keeping your dog in a kennel in the back of your car

Perhaps the safest option on this list, keeping your dog in a kennel in the back of your car is ideal if you drive a large hatchback or an SUV. If your dog is riding in the trunk of your car, the biggest danger to them if you have a collision is that they will either fall or slide or back seats of the vehicle. If you put your dog in a kennel, and put the kennel flush into a corner against the back and the side of your vehicle, then this completely negates the danger of your dog colliding into these parts of the car. Naturally, you will need a kennel that is large enough that your dog can lie inside of it and still have a bit of extra room to stretch and change position.

3. Keeping your dog in an open seat box

An open seat box is essentially a car seat designed for dogs. It attaches to a car seat, but the actual part where a dog sits takes the form of an open box, meaning that a dog cannot immediately scramble out of the seat.

The “walls” of an open seat box are padded, making them comfortable for your dog. They are only really suitable for younger or smaller dogs, as larger dogs simply will not fit in them. For this reason, they are a great option for dogs that are too light to be restrained by seatbelts attached to harnesses.

You still want to keep your dog restrained while seated in their seat box. The best way to do this is to put them on their leash and attach the handle of their leash to the headrest of their car seat. The leash should be short enough to prevent your dog from colliding into the dashboard or windscreen in the case of a high-speed collision. 

Preventing accidents when traveling with your pet: distracted driving

A survey of pet owners suggested that 60% of those who regularly drive with their pet in their car get distracted by their animal passengers. This is a problem, particularly given that distracted driving contributes to more accidents each year than drink driving. 

Some ways to reduce the distraction potential of driving with your pet include:

  • Make sure that your pet has been well fed, given water, and taken to the toilet before you set off on your journey
  • If you are traveling with another passenger, make it their responsibility to care for your pet’s needs
  • If possible keep your pet out of stroking distance when you are driving
  • Let your pet out of the car at least every two hours so they do not become restless during the journey.

This article was written by Mike Skoropad, CEO of tire retailer United Tires.


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