4 Ways to Safely Secure & Restrain a Dog When Traveling in a Car
Many dog owners don’t know this but some states have laws around pet travels in vehicles. For example, in New Jersey, dog-owning drivers can face a fine of up to $1,000 if the dog isn’t placed in a carrier or isn’t buckled up to the seat of a moving vehicle.
Regardless of what the pet travel laws and regulations are like in your state, dogs should always be secured in a moving vehicle, not just for their safety but for yours as well. Here are some important steps for dog owners who will be driving frequently with their furry pal.
1. Get a Crash-Tested Travel Crate
A crash-tested travel crate provides great protection for your dog in the event of a car accident. The most popular brands include Variocage, Gunner Kennels, Pet Mate Vari Kennel, and Ruff Tuff. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) is a great resource for crate test results.
Travel crates work for dogs of all sizes but you may find your options to be somewhat limited if you have a large-sized dog or if you have a small-sized vehicle. There are a few things to keep in mind when you select a travel crate for your dog.
- Size: the dog crate shouldn’t have too much space. It should be just big enough for the dog to get up and turn around. The bigger the crate space, the greater the likelihood of the dog getting thrown around in the event of an accident.
- Type: avoid wire crates and soft-sided crates as they aren’t designed to handle the force generated from a car collision. A car travel crate should be made of heavy-duty material.
- Crash Test: there aren’t a whole lot of official regulations in the pet safety market so it’s important to rely on organizations such as the Center for Pet Safety to determine which travel crates actually provide a high level of protection for your pets.
- Dog Weight: make sure the travel crate supports your dog’s weight. The restrictions are typically listed in the product guidelines. The Gunner Kennels G1 crate, for example, can fit dogs of up to 75 lb.
2. Lock the Car Windows & Doors
Your dog may somehow find a way to open the car window or door while the vehicle is moving. Make sure you remove such possibilities by locking the car windows and doors.
First, every car should have a feature called the child safety lock (typically found in the edge of the rear door). When the child lock is activated, there is no way for the car door to be opened from the inside.
Second, lock up all the windows. It may seem nice to let your dog stick his head out the window, but in reality, it’s actually a very dangerous behavior. There are many unfortunate stories of dogs jumping out of a moving vehicle after seeing something that excites them. Don’t let that happen to your dog.
3. Use a Dog Harness or Seat Belt
You can use a dog harness or dog seat belt as an alternative to travel crates. One of the most popular dog safety harness brands is the Sleepypod Clickit. It can also be used as a walking harness. Here are a couple of things to look out for when selecting a safety harness.
- Crash Test: again, it’s important to find a dog harness or dog seat belt that has passed the necessary crash tests. CPS provides a list of approved harnesses.
- Size: the size of the dog safety harness is based on chest measurements (around the dog’s rib cage). If your dog falls under two size types then we suggest you try the larger one first.
- Functionality: you can kill two birds with one stone by getting a dog safety harness that also works as a walking harness. Sleepypod is one brand that serves a dual functionality.
4. Secure the Dog in the Backseat
We recommend securing your dog to the backseat of the car for a number of reasons. First, your dog may provide some unwanted distractions if he is in the front seat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016.
Second, some studies have found that the backseat is safer than the front seat, although this may change depending on how the accident occurs. The researchers from the University of Buffalo found that the backseat is 59 to 86 percent safer than the front.
Travel Crates vs. Belts vs. Harnesses
One isn’t necessarily better than the other. You’ll need to consider many different factors such as budget, the size of the dog, the layout of the vehicle, and the duration of the travel.
For example, travel crates may work better for people who have independent dogs and have cars with ample backseat space. Safety harnesses, on the other hand, may work better for dog owners who are only taking their pet for short and infrequent rides.