Dog Car Safety: What Are the Safest Cars for Dogs?

February 16, 2012

Cars can be dangerous environments for dogs, and dogs can be dangerous distractions for drivers. Learn the right precautions to minimize the risks.

Concerned dog owners are now buying cars that are built with dog car safety features. There are laws being considered in some states concerning dog car safety. It is dangerous for a dog to ride in a vehicle unsecured. Dogs are as vulnerable to injuries from car crashes, jumping out of windows, and sudden stops just as much as small children.

The Danger of Distracted Driving
Many times when driving down the road you will see dogs running from the back seat to the front seat of a car while it is in motion. This practice is dangerous to both the pet and the car driver. A distracted driver is more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident than a driver who is not distracted. Having your pet running in the car while it is in motion is a recipe for disaster.

Safety Precautions
A dog should always ride in the back of a car in a harness or specialized seatbelt for dogs. Dogs can be distracting to the driver. Some want to jump into the driver's lap, hang their heads out of a window, or jump from the front seat to the back. There are many devices on the market that help to keep the dog secure in every make and model car.

Dogs that are allowed to ride unsecured in truck beds are a concern to lawmakers and actions have been taken in some municipalities to outlaw people and dogs riding in truck beds. Another dog car safety hazard is leaving a dog unattended for long periods of time in a hot car.

Approved Restraint Systems
Dogs should be placed in specially designed restraint systems. Like children, large dogs should be placed in the rear seat in order to prevent them from becoming a distraction while driving and reduce the risk of harm that may be caused from a discharged passenger side air bag deployed during a crash.Taking the time to train your dog to accept the harness system and remain seated while the car is moving is one way to help ensure the animal's safety.

Pet Carriers
Small dogs under 30 pounds and cats should be placed in a car travel approved carrier. This equipment is designed to be strapped into the rear seat of the car and provide side and front crash protection in the event of an accident. This type of device is a must for a car owner that travels a lot with their pet and would be concerned that the pet would be injured in the event of an accident. Taking the time to observe some basic pet safety techniques can make the difference between life and death.

Pet Safety Equipment
A pet store or car dealer may be able to assist you with identifying special safety equipment specific for your pets. The pet store or car dealer can help you pick out the appropriate device for your pet and install it properly in order for it to work properly while driving your pet in the car. Much of this advice regarding pet car safety is common sense and requires a change in both your behavior and the behavior of your pet.

Car Windows
Certainly there are times when dogs can be seen with their head out of the window on a nice summer day. However, as dog lovers can admire this sentiment, it is very unsafe for the dog and drivers alike. It does not take much force for the dog to lose balance on its two hind legs, which could send the dog out of the window. Some dogs might even try to climb out of the window.

A dog with its head out of the window poses further risks. Rocks, dirt, and other debris can cause serious injury if it was to strike the animal.

Parked Vehicles
The parked vehicle provides additional safety concerns for dogs. If a dog is left in a car on a warmer day, heat stroke can result. Sunlight can transform the interior temperature of a car to 40 degrees more than it was initially. Not to mention, the sight of a dog in a car can result in theft.

The Safest Cars for Dogs

Cars, trucks or SUVs that are roomy with ample space for one large dog or more than one dog tend to be best for dog safety. Dog owners recommend a number of cars that have safety features in place. The best features are:

  • A spacious interior
  • Non-leather seats that can take the wear and tear of animal claws
  • Seats that can be removed or fold down
  • Rubberized floors that are scratch-resistant

Honda Element
The Honda Element is considered by dog owners to be the best SUV for dogs. Honda offers a unique package called the Dog Friendly Element can be ordered with a new Honda Element EX model. The package includes:

  • 3 Dog Friendly emblems
  • Rear car kennel
  • Pet bed
  • Stow-away ramp (especially good for older dogs)
  • Seat covers with a dog pattern
  • All-season floor mats with dog bone pattern
  • Spill-resistant bowl
  • Electric fan

Other items in the package are a tote bag, small or large leash and collar, dog tag with a paw print, and bag dispenser. The windows in the Honda Element are scratch-resistant. This is the first car with features specific to a dog's comfort and safety.

Other vehicles that deserve to be mentioned as having dog car safety features are:

Dog Car Safety Considerations

Dog car safety is a complex issue. The dog owner may weigh the pros and cons of making his dog safe with restraints that may be uncomfortable. Legislators are considering the safety of drivers as well as dogs when laws are put into place. An unrestrained dog in a car is even more of a hazard than talking or texting on a cell phone. Drivers must remain undistracted at all times.

Car Safety Harness for Dogs

When buying the best dog car safety harness, there are certain qualities that you should look out for. A harness should be:

  • Strong and durable.The strength is determined by the material from which the harness is made and is very important. A good dog car safety harness is one that lasts longer than a couple of months. For optimum strength, look out for the straps made out of high quality woven nylon. Woven nylon is strong enough to keep the dog in place yet gentle enough to avoid skin irritation. The stronger harnesses could cost more, but this is worth the investment
  • Adjustable.Harnesses come in different sizes. They range from Small, for pets weighing between 6 and 25 pounds, Medium, for those in the 20 to 55 pounds range, Large, for pets ranging between 45 and 85 pounds, and Extra Large, for those that weigh between 60 and 120 pounds. When shopping for this important device, let your dog accompany you so you get the perfect size which fits snugly to avoid slipping off. It should also not be too small, as this will be uncomfortable and too restrictive
  • Safe.Invest in a dog car safety harness that has a padded fleece-lined safety vest. Ensure that the fleece-lined vest is machine washable, that way your dog will not only be safe but clean too
  • Convenient. A good harness should be easy to install and easy to buckle on to the dog. Avoid complicated harnesses that take too much time to install. Whether the harness uses straps that are plugged into the car's seat belt or adjusted through a loop system, get one that's easy to understand. Ensure that the harness allows your dog mobility around his seat without compromising on his safety. Look for a harness with dual purpose, that way you can use the car safety harness as a walking harness without any major alterations.