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Blog Driving Tips

Dog Car Safety: A Complete Guide to Seats, Harnesses, and More...

We've heard all sorts of strategies for keeping humans safe in the car, but what about dog car safety? Whether your favourite furry friend likes to ride shotgun or stretch out in the backseat, you may want to consider your options for keeping your pet safe in the car. We’ve created a quick and comprehensive guide to help you keep both fun and safety at a maximum!

Pure, unadulterated joy is seeing a dog with their head sticking out of a car window. We want them to enjoy the ride, but their safety (and yours) is a top priority.

A quarter of dog owners use their arms to prevent their dog from being launched forward when braking suddenly. This is a problem because it’s dangerous for a driver to not have both hands on the wheel at all times.

In the event of a crash, even the smallest dog can generate up to 500 pounds of projectile force. A bigger dog, like a husky, could become a 2,400-pound projectile! Any unrestrained animal, but especially larger dogs, would be at risk of serious injury or even death in an accident.

How can I keep my dog safe in the car?

Keeping your dog secured while in the car will keep them, you, your passengers and even other drivers safe. There are many products on the market to help keep your dog safe while in the car. Finding the right one will depend on your type of car and type of dog.

There are three main methods of securing dogs while your car in motion:

  • Dog carrier or crate
  • Dog harness
  • Dog car seat or booster seat
  • Dog car barrier
  • Dog car hammock

Dog Crates

They're good for big and small dogs but allow little to no mobility. It’s recommended that they also have a harness on them while in the crate as well, which is an extra expense. In the event of a bad crash, the crate can give them extra protection from the frame of the cage and prevents them from running loose if someone other than you lets them out. It’s important to note: some dogs experience anxiety when locked inside a crate or carrier. Test it out with your pooch first.

Dog Harnesses

They're lightweight and work with your existing backseat hardware. They let your pet roam around in the backseat but will keep them secure in the event of a crash. It’s vital to accurately measure your dog (chest circumference, height, and weight) before purchasing a harness. They work just as well as a dog car seat. Some dogs really don’t like harnesses. It’s best to condition your pet as early as possible with any safety devices, so start when they’re a puppy. But, if you have an older dog, using a little Pavlovian psychology (lots of treats) during smaller rides to get them used to it first may just be the trick!

Dog Car Seats

They are mainly for very small- to medium-sized dogs since they often need “extra padding” while travelling. These booster seats may or may not come with a built-in harness. Some dogs get motion sickness when the car moving and some reports suggest that dog car seats can help with it. You also want to make sure the sides of the seat is high enough to prevent them from falling out of it due to sudden stops.

Dog Car Barriers

Dog car barriers act as a physical boundary between you and your dog. Just as a baby gate keeps a toddler from going down a flight of stairs, a dog car barrier keeps your pet from coming to the front seats of a car. This prevents potentially distracting or dangerous situations with a dog vying for your attention. As an added benefit, barriers can help some dogs feel more secure and at ease. Barriers are commonly used for larger breeds, but they are available in different materials like fabric and metal to suit your needs.

Dog Car Hammocks

Another option is a dog hammock, also called a dog car seat cover. Unlike traditional car seat covers, dog hammocks hook onto the headrests of the front and back seats. While they don’t fully secure your dog in place, they do provide a dedicated area for your pet. They can be especially useful for senior dogs or pets with medical conditions. Often made of easy-to-clean and waterproof materials, dog car hammocks help protect your upholstery from water, mud, fur, and the occasional chewing.

When you’re ready to shop, the first thing you should do is look at the reviews and try to find ones that come from owners with a dog like yours. Check the pros and cons next. If you want a car seat, make sure you have the room to spare, as they’re the bulkiest option.

How do I choose the right dog car seat or harness for my dog?

Consider your pet’s size: Just like with a child’s car seat, dog car seats are made to fit certain sizes of canine companions. The size of the seat matters, but not as much as the weight limit. Weigh your pooch and bring that number with you when you shop. If he’s a puppy, then research how heavy your dog may become and make sure the seat can hold your pup when its all grown up. The larger the dog, the more likely they’ll require a harness instead. We’re pretty sure there isn’t a dog car seat big enough in the world to fit a St. Bernard!

Car compatibility: Some dog car seats need headrests to install the car seat, and some cars don’t have them in the back. If you need to put the dog seat in the middle back seat of your car, and your car doesn’t have a shoulder strap for that middle seat, it may not work as many dog car seats require a shoulder strap for installation.

Convenient canine cleanup: If you’re transporting your pet to and from your favourite walking spots, you may have a wet and muddy dog to take home. In that case, you should choose a harness or look for a car seat that’s easy to clean.

Think chew-proof: If your dog likes to chew on whatever happens to be close by, the materials you use to secure your pet should be doggie-tested. The last thing you want is for them to chew through the padding, or worse, chew through a harness strap. Some dog owners also prefer metal clips to plastic clips, as they’re more durable and less prone to snapping or cracking in cold weather and ample usage.

My dog has anxiety in the car. What can I do?

There are a lot of helpful products to help ease doggie anxiety that are vet approved.

Hemp chews (1-2 hours prior to a car ride) can help with anxiety, and make your dog kind of sleepy. A spray called Rescue Remedy is another natural, herbal spray that can help keep your dog calm. (It also works for dogs who are scared in thunderstorms or fireworks.)

Dog hammocks and barriers can also help calm pets by providing a familiar and enclosed area. In addition, for dogs that get excited about things outside the car, like bikes, other dogs, and pedestrians, a barrier can restrict their view and lessen reactivity.

Lastly, the Thundershirt is an owner-praised “vest” that helps comfort your dog. The Thundershirt may not work if you’re using a harness and may be best used on a dog that’s in a crate, only.

How to clean dog hair from your car

Most dogs shed, and their fur sticks like Velcro to your car’s upholstery. If you haven’t invested in dog-friendly seat covers, it’s a good plan to clean the seats and hard surfaces to get rid of the excess hair. 

  • Vacuum the bulk of the loose hair from the upholstery and floors. A brush attachment will help. 
  • Use a lint roller to capture stuck-on hair from the upholstery and carpet. 
  • A wet cloth will pick up hair from the dash and other plastic surfaces, or you could invest in detailing putty to be most effective.

Find your next car with Canada Drives

Before you decide which car seat, harness, or crate is right for your dog, you might be considering a new car first. Canada Drives has been helping Canadians find vehicles with great auto finance rates since 2010. Get started with Canada Drives and shop hundreds of certified vehicles today.

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