The Casa de Kolchak dogs and I spend a fair bit of time in the car.
When you have dogs who think they’re peoples, they like to go everywhere with you. Truth be told? I like to have them along for the ride. So many of our favourite things – trips to the lake house, walking in the woods, nights at the drive in, the beach – all start with a car ride, sometimes long car rides on fast moving highways. Naturally, I want my dogs to be safe in the car. I’m going to feel like a real jerk if my dogs fly through the windshield while I’m all excited about a day at the beach.
I’m still a bit of a fuss budget though, so when it came to choosing a seat belt for my dogs, I was a little overwhelmed. There are SO MANY options and our Kol’s Notes facebook peeps can attest that I have struggled with this for WAY TOO LONG. I decided that I needed to make a list of what was important to me and just pick something already.
What I want in a dog seat belt:
- Crash tested
A few years ago, this didn’t even occur to me. I mean, it’s called a seat belt, so clearly it’s for safety right? Wrong. A lot of tether-style restraints, including the ones we currently have, are designed to keep your dog from moving around in the car, not to keep them safe in event of a crash. Not all car harnesses are crash tested or safety rated and certifying that the materials will survive a crash isn’t the same as certifying that your dog should. This time around, safety is my main concern and I’m reading all of the fine print to make sure I can feel good about my choice.
- Well Made
I like when things are made of quality materials, have reliable stitching and are easy to keep clean and maintain. I’m willing to pay a bit more to ensure I’m buying canine car harnesses that are going to last and look good for a long time to come.
- Safe as a Walking Harness
Generally, when we go for a ride in the car, we’re going somewhere. The park, the beach, an event, shopping, the groomer etc. The idea of trying to wrassle my freakishly strong puggle out of a car harness and into a walking harness in a busy parking lot makes me super nervous.
- Can be worn with a jacket
We live in a rainforest, and not the cool rainforest, just the wet one. It is a long, rainy winter here at Casa de Kolchak and waterproof coats are my first line of defense against wet dog smell. If the car harness can be used as a walking harness, I also need to be able to put a coat over it.
- Easy to put on
Some days getting harnesses on these dogs is like nailing jello to a tree. If the harness can’t go from car to walk, it needs to be fairly easy to use.
- Would it be asking too much if it was stylish?
I took to the interwebs to research all the choices that are out there.
I immediately rejected a handful of harnesses, including the Ezy Dog harness we currently use, as they didn’t offer any form of crash or safety testing. That left me with only a few choices and it was a lot less overwhelming.
Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Harness
$25 on Amazon
- Well made and long lasting. Felix has been wearing an older version of this harness for nearly 5 years and it still looks nearly new.
- Tested using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems – see the brand’s certified crash test report here
- Works as a walking harness.
- Can be worn with or without a jacket
- It’s not terribly easy to put on or take off
- The size of the clip on the harness is a little awkwardly sized – it can be awkward to clip small leash hardware on and off
- It sits a little high on the neck for my liking. If your dog is a puller, it could possibly contribute to tracheal injury.
Ruffwear Load Up Harness
$80 on Amazon
- Great online reviews
- I like the V cut of the front panel
- The tether is sewn right into the harness, which means you can’t lose it or forget it at home.
- Tested using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems – see the brand’s summary of test results here.
- Not designed to use as a walking harness
- I’m not 100% confident in the design of the hardware. They kind of push in and then are kept in by pressure and not by securing them. I have a puggle that thinks he is Houdini. I feel like he could figure these out, maybe?
Canine Friendly Dog Safety Harness
$75 on Amazon
- Crash tested
- Works in the car or as a walking harness.
- The V-cut of the neck means it wont press on Felix’s trachea when he pulls.
- RC Pets is a local company and I love shopping local!
- While the brand says the harness is crash tested, I couldn’t find any reliable information as to what standard it was tested against.
- After reading a few reviews, it seems like tangling is a fairly common challenge and we know Koly will want to get tangled up.
- Won’t work with our coats without alterations.
AllSafe Seatbelt Dog Restraint Car Safety Harness
Up to $160 on Amazon
- Crash tested in Europe and the US and apparently, it’s Europe’s #1 Crash Tested Pet Safety Harness
- Can be used as a walking harness
- Leash hook is placed so it can be used under our coats.
- V cut of the neck means it doesn’t put pressure on the dog’s trachea
- It actually is pretty snazzy with it’s stylish V-neck and reflective striping.
- You can buy 6″ and longer tethers to allow your dog more freedom on the seat that can make this harness unsafe. The company acknowledges that the safest use of the harness is without a tether, but still offers them.
- The excess strap material (see photo above) looks really silly to me and I can see it being annoying and dragging in mud etc.
Sleepypod ClickIt Sport
$70 on Sleepypod.com
- I’ve been humming and hawing over the Sleepypod harnesses since they introduced their Clickit Utility harness a few years ago. That harness needed special hardware to use it, making it impractical for us, as we often travel in different vehicles and with friends. The Clickit Sport is much more accessible and practical for us.
- It’s tested using the same dynamic crash tests used to test child safety restraints.
- It can be used as a walking harness
- The position of the leash clip allows it to be used under our coats
- Oh heck, is it stylish. It even comes in our site colours (turquoise and orange). I heart that real hard.
- A few reviews say it doesn’t allow for much movement/comfort for the dogs
- It looks a bit complicated to fit/use
- While it’s good for some walks, reviews suggest it’s not a good choice for long or rugged walks
Even after narrowing the field, I was still really confused as to which safety harness was going to be right for my dogs.
I spent a lot of time going back and forth between the Allsafe and the Sleepypod harness. Both had a lot going for them. I love all the safety features about the Sleepypod ClickIt Sport, but the whole comfort/usability thing made me nervous. The Allsafe just looks…easy. I like easy.
Then I discovered the Center for Pet Safety website.
CPS is a non-profit dedicated to studying pet safety in the car. These folks know their stuff and even created their own standard for pet safety in the vehicle, setting a maximum distance your pet can travel from the seat, the maximum their neck can move safely and more. This standard doesn’t just test if your car harness is strong enough to survive a crash, it tests to see if the harness is designed in such a way that your pet can survive too. Luckily, four of my final fivewere tested, some with scary results. You can see all the dog harness crash test videos on their website, but the run down is this: all but one of the harnesses tested were deemed insufficient to meet their tough standards. *UGH* In fact, two tested so poorly they were given a “catastrophic failure” rating in some sizes. THIS IS WHY I CAN’T BE TRUSTED TO MAKE MY OWN CHOICES, YOU GUYS. We’re going for the only harness that meets the CPS guidelines: the Sleepypod Clickit Sport.
I’m becoming that crazy dog lady that has too much dog gear, but I want the safest harness for the car and the best harness for walking and if that is two harnesses, so be it, I guess. JUST TAKE MY MONEY. These dogs are real lucky they have a job. I’ll let you know what we think and if the harness is as complicated as it looks. I can figure it out…right?
Does your dog have a harness to wear in the car?
What brand is it? What do you love or hate about it?