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Safe Car Travel with Your Small Dog
Reviews of car travel restraints for small dogs
Crash Test Winner Booster seats, Harnesses, Crates, Car Seats, Barriers and Seat Covers

One in five respondents to American Automobile Association (AAA) survey admit to driving with dog in their lap!
(read entire press release at http://www.aaanewsroom.net/main/Default.asp?CategoryID=7&ArticleID=789)

"An overwhelming 80 percent of respondents stated that they have driven with their pets on a variety of car trips ... only 17 percent use any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog."

As Suze Orman would say (in an exasperated tone of voice), 'Are you kidding me!' What is wrong with you people?

AAA goes on to state that unrestrained pets cause more than 30,000 accidents annually. How many small dogs do you think survive being crushed between the driver and the imploding air bag?

Please take a couple minutes and read my reviews below of the key types of car restraints. Your dog has no one to rely on for his safety but you. Don't let him down.

WARNING: This is probably obvious but NEVER, NEVER attach the car restraint to your dog's collar and risk choking or breaking your dog's neck during a crash. The restraint should attach to his body harness.

ClickIt Utility Dog Safety
Harness - Safest
Crash-Tested Car Harness
by Sleepypod (Large, Red)

ClickIt Utility Dog Safety Harness

A new entry in the dog harness category for auto travel was the first place winner in tests conducted by the Center for Pet Safety.

Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility three-point dog harness was inspired by the federal government’s required three-point seat belts for humans. This was the only harness to consistently keep a dog from launching off of the car seat.

According to the manufacturer and the safety tests, this harness reduces the chance for traumatic injuries resulting from the collision of dog with other parts of the vehicle or other passengers in case of an accident.

I bought one but as safe as it might be, there are issues. Even the extra small will be too large for the smallest Toy breeds such as the Chihuahua.

There’s a chart that shows how to measure your dog and you need to wrap a measuring tape around him in three places as shown on the diagram.

It also takes some time to master the technique of getting it on your dog and it’s not easy for small female hands (at least not for me).

Here’s a video from the manufacturer on how to use the harness. Attach it to the middle of the rear seat to have your dog in the safest position.

Kyjen Outward Hound
This one lets your dog look
out the window.

Push the car seat back as far as possible before you attach
the car booster seat.






Kyjen Outward Hound Car Booster Seat

Perfect for small dogs 15-pounds or under (ignore the ads that say you can have a 20 lb dog; it would be too small).

I use this one when I want my dog in the front seat (and I can turn off my passenger side air bag):

  • Adjustable straps make it high enough so she can look out the window
  • Front and back straps mean it's secured to a car bucket seat front and back (see photo on left)
  • It's plastic so when you want to clean it, you hose it down in a sink or in your backyard
  • I think it's safer than the styles that sit on the front seat. That means its weight shouldn't trigger the front air bag in case of an accident

Nothing is perfect however, and I suggest one modification with a potential second.

The snaps/attachments are plastic which I especially dislike for the snap from the carrier to your dog's harness. Wait until it breaks or replace it when you get the carrier with a metal one. I had an old leash and took the attachment from that. Otherwise, you can get one in the hardware section at Wal-Mart.

Replace push-in plastic one ffffffThen attach metal of car carrier
with a push-button metal one. k belt to metal attachment of your
Have shoe repair shop triple kkkkdog's harness.
stitch it to the car seat belt.

The other issue is that the carrier's belt from its back to your dog's harness is short. It won't give your dog much room to move around inside the carrier. That is safer, but if you want to allow your dog a bit more movement, you can replace it with another belt in a longer length. Again, use an old one or buy a luggage strap at Wal-Mart. Have your shoe repair person sew it to the carrier.

Don't get carried away; in a car accident, range of motion is dangerous - a dog could bounce against the back seat or floor.

For dogs over 15-pounds, I suggest the safety belt style (see below).


Harness Car Safety Seat Belt
This one attaches directly to
car seat.


Solvit Safety Harness
This one goes around car seat belt.



ggRuff Rider
Highly rated harness

Harness Dog Car Safety Seat Belt

The safest place for your dog is in the middle back seat, and this harness is a good one to use to put him there. It attaches to the car seat belt itself with metal clips. Remember, the car seat belt has been manufactured to federal safety standards so attaching to it directly is a good thing.

This one allows your dog enough motion to lie down if he wants but not so much that he can jump off the seat. Harness and buckle are sold as an unit.

The only drawbacks are that it will take a bit to adjust it to fit a smaller dog, and it's not padded. I think this one is good value for the money.


You may prefer the popular Solvit Safety Harness brand with its fleece lining although it's about the twice the cost. The Solvit style doesn't attach in safety belt mechanism. You snap in the car seat belt and then loop the Solvit one through it (see photo on right). Be sure to tighten the car safety belt as much as possible before you attach the Solvit harness.

Padding is desirable to help distribute his weight in the event of a crash. This fleece one, however, does make it heavier and stiffer than other harnesses. If your car is air conditioned it probably doesn't matter but I can't imagine a small dog would like this one if he's in a hot seat.

I personally think fleece is highly overrated for dog products. Goo attaches easily to the fleece and it's difficult to clean and keep clean.

This harness also has plastic snaps rather than metal in the back. You might find metal ones to replace those and have your shoe repair shop sew the new metal ones on. I hate plastic clip on attachments; all of them break sooner or later.


The Ruff Rider Canine Travel Restraint and Harness, which the manufacturer states is the only crash-test certified dog restraint harnesses and seatbelts in the country, has received good reviews in several dog publications. It's more expensive the others above but you may feel you're getting your money's worth.

The Roadie is a step-into harness. This is one of those products that professionals love, but it hasn't reached the popularity of the Solvit line.

You can read how it came about after the founder and his dog had a horrible car accident at http://www.ruffrider.com/.

You'll have to experiment a bit with the styles to see which type you like best. Some canine Houdini's find a way to slip out of certain styles and others simply cannot adjust to restraint in any form.

I own one. Love it for potty training; love it as a safe
haven for my dog at home.
Hate it as way to transport
a dog by car.


Crates are a solution that sounds good, but the reality is crates are not designed to withstand the impact of an auto accident.

Collapsible wire crates are easy to set up and use, but they're obviously not safe for car travel. The impact of an accident could make it fold in on your dog and a minor rear end bump could turn into a tragedy.

Non collapsible wire crates upon impact may come apart at the welds or bend inwards or break. A dog could be hurled through the car into the windshield as described below.

During a crash test conducted by Allianz Insurance Company in Germany, debris flew freely in the test car after the dog crate exploded on impact even though the crate was fastened securely in the vehicle with the seatbelt.

The crate exploded because the "dummy dog" hit the inside of the crate with such extreme force that the crate opened up and the dog continued to fly out of the car.

You can watch the video test although the audio is in German:

I couldn't find any U.S. manufacturer of dog crates that state they have been tested for car crashes. There is a United Kingdom manufacturer who makes such ones, and you can read about it here: http://www.safedog.co.uk/cratesizes.htm

Until I have some evidence that a particular crate has been designed or tested to withstand impacts, I can't recommend them for car travel.

Beautiful but I don't like
this type in a front seat

Car Seats

You can spend a lot of money on design and materials for car seats that sit on the front seat of your car. The problem is that weight on the front bucket seat is one trigger for an air bag going off in the event of a collision. The impact on your small dog could be deadly. That's why small children aren't allowed to sit in front car seats.

Call your auto dealer or email the manufacturer and ask them about the safety of having your dog in the front seat and find out what triggers the air bag to deploy.

If you can turn off your car's air bad on the passenger side, consider doing that if you want to have your dog in this type of carrier.

I just can't recommend any of these. It's one of those situations where it's made of titanium with cashmere lining and your dog loves it and you love it and everything is great - and then you get T-boned by a drunk driver.

jjjjjjjjjOK but not alone

Vehicle Safety Barrier and Seat Hammock

These are fine AFTER you've attached your dog to a car safety harness such as those described above.

A dog should NEVER be unrestrained in a moving vehicle.

Do you really want your little dog hurling through your car - maybe into a windshield, maybe into the back of your head? People, use some common sense.


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