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Riding in Cars With Dogs: Choosing the Best Canine Seatbelt

Riding in Cars With Dogs: Choosing the Best Canine Seatbelt

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Amazon Affiliate LinksThe 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.

dog car seat belt pin

What I want in a dog seat belt:

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Felix legit LOVES a car ride. The car rocks his world.

  • 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?
    Probs eh?

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
Find it on Amazon

81w5JEiu-xL._SL1500_Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Find it on Amazon

91grEBFRi+L._SL1500_

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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
Find it on Amazon


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Pros:

  • Crash tested
  • Works in the car or as a walking harness.
  • The V-cut of the neck means it won’t press on Felix’s trachea when he pulls.
  • RC Pets is a local company and I love shopping local!

Cons:

  • 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
Find it on Amazon

a8ef8392acfb41716e33d3a94b8db8a7Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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
Find it at Sleepypod.com

SleepyPodHarnesscolors280wPros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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?

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Janis VanWyhe

Saturday 23rd of December 2017

Thank you for doing the research! I very much appreciate it! Ordered the Click it sport for my 11 lb min pin mix

Felix

Friday 29th of December 2017

I hope you love it as much as we do!

Jennifer

Friday 15th of December 2017

Hello! I have a 57 lb. pittie mix that just had a front leg amputated. Can anyone tell me if one safety harness is better than another for her particular situation? We're not in the car a whole lot but I am aware that her stability has been seriously compromised now and want her to be as safe as possible. Many thanks!

Felix

Saturday 16th of December 2017

First, I love that you're thinking about how unique your pooch is and making sure you take care of her Wellness <3 You made me smile. Second, I'm not 100% sure of the answer on this one. My gut would be that a well fitted SleepyPod harness would remain the best choice, but I'm not wholly sure. I would strongly recommend reaching out to Sleepypod customer service and asking for their input. If your sweetie doesn't already, I would also work on training in the car, so they always lay down, as opposed to standing/sitting, as it's definitely a stability concern.

Mari

Thursday 24th of August 2017

You have been using the Sleepypod harness for some time now? Could you answer some questions? How much can dog move herself in a car wearing it? My dog is used of sleeping in a backseat while I’m driving. She is attached with a short leash but it gives her enough room to lay down and sleep. If Sleepypod is attached with seat belt doesn’t it make sleeping impossible? I would like to find best option between safety and comfort.

Felix

Monday 4th of September 2017

There isn't a lot of room in the harnesses to move around. Both my dogs have figured out how to lay down in them and they both sleep and are comfortable on long drives, though the first few trips they definitely had to get used to the fact that they couldn't turn in cicles or run the length of the seat, for example. To be honest, giving them additional slack to move around is a big part of what makes other harnesses so dangerous. In a crash, the dog flies forward to the length of the tether and then jerks back, often causing injury.

Amy at GoPetFriendly.com uses the same harnesses and has a lot of photos showing how her dogs lay down in them. I'm confident that even if the first couple trips seem awkward, your pup will figure out the most comfortable way to lay :)

Finding the safest car harness for dog - We live in a flat

Wednesday 16th of November 2016

[…] has also been reviewed by kolchak puggle and 2barn8bein. Check it them out […]

Maggie

Tuesday 5th of January 2016

This is something I'm miles behind on... I've halfheartedly researched options here and there but never committed to purchasing something. I don't mind if it's two harnesses. My thing was finding a simple solution for multiple dogs. I never hit on the right thing, but I'm bookmarking this for when I finally dedicate the time!

Felix

Tuesday 5th of January 2016

Oh man, I can relate. I think I started pulling Amy's ear on car harnesses last Spring, so you...I put the "pro" in procrastination. What got me to make a move? I saw a video of the harness Felix is currently wearing and how it performed in a crash test. The belly straps snapped, leaving the dummy to fly forward and hang by the neck. I was bawling.

Multiple dogs is huge. The problem I found is, you need a seat belt for each dog. No exceptions - especially for dogs your guys size.

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