In a recent study conducted by a nonprofit organization called the Center for Pet Safety, the ClickIt Utility dog seatbelt was determined to be the safest. If other pet car harnesses fell short, what are some reasons you should still consider them?
THE NEED TO MOVE AROUND
The biggest reason to consider another brand over the ClickIt Utility harness is because some dogs will absolutely not tolerate the kind of restriction enforced by the ClickIt. The more a dog doesn’t like it, the more he might struggle. And the more he struggles, the more likely he is to hurt himself. He may also decide to chew through the car harness, making it completely useless.
The ClickIt Utility harness is the safest because of its ability to keep your dog very secure. So if your dog won’t sit still, you may have to compromise some (but not all) safety for comfort by using a dog seatbelt that gives your best friend the ability to move around.
Another reason to consider another brand is price. A lot of time and research went into designing the ClickIt Utility, so its price is high. And it is not just high to cover the costs of development, its price reflects its quality.
THERE ARE OTHER QUALITY BRANDS AVAILABLE
There are other quality pet car harnesses that can be considered. Unlike the Center for Pet Safety’s report in 2011, which tested only four brands, the study completed by them in 2013 tested several brands and the study DID NOT equate to 100% failure. A number of brands passed. Consider the Ruff Rider Roadie or the AllSafe brands as your next choice. These are also higher priced than many other brands, but again, this price is reflected in their quality. The Bergan is less expensive and is a good brand to consider for dogs under 75lbs. The Kurgo Tru-Fit or Go-Tech is a good brand to consider for dogs over 25 pounds and under 75 pounds.
ANY BRAND PROVIDES AT LEAST SOME SAFETY
Even the brands that failed the Center for Pet Safety’s test provide some safety. For one, your dog is less likely to be a distraction when he is secured in a dog seatbelt. Hopefully, you haven’t been in many car accidents. But how many times have you had to stop suddenly or swerve out of the way of danger? While substandard pet car harnesses may not do any good in a car accident, they may provide some stability in sudden stops and swerving.
Don’t let the media hype about the safety of pet car harnesses keep you from considering the safety of your best friend. Yes, many brands are inferior to the ClickIt Utility. But even the ClickIt has some shortcomings. And many brands still provide some measure of protection.
Maya and Pierson are very special to me. They may not be children, but they are more than just my pets. I don’t just feed them, play with them, and take them to the vet annually or as needed. I also take on other responsible roles such as making sure they eat healthy food, get enough exercise, train them, brush their teeth, clip their toenails, brush out their coat, etc. And I have them wear a dog safety seat belt when they ride in the car.
Some people think this is over-the-top for “just a dog”. But if you’re reading this, then you know that your dog is an integral part of the family. If your four-legged family member doesn’t currently buckle up in the car or isn’t safely restrained in the vehicle in any way, here are some reasons to consider it:
Reduce Driver Distractions
When I brought Maya home for the first time, she didn’t have a dog seatbelt yet. So, on the ride home she kept trying to climb in my lap. It was a big distraction which caused me to run a red light. I got honked at but thankfully did not get into or cause a car accident. But it taught me to always be prepared. Perhaps your dog paces in the car or keeps trying to climb from the back to the front seat or tries to stick his face in your face while you’re driving.
Protect Your Pet
Perhaps your dog rides well in the car and doesn’t distract you in any way. My dog Pierson is like that. He just sits there quietly the whole ride. But what if I have to stop suddenly or swerve out of the way of another car or something in the road? Or worse, what if I get in a car accident? Car accidents or even simple emergency vehicle maneuvers can cause a dog to be ejected from the vehicle or cause serious injury to your dog if they hit the dash or the windshield. A dog isn’t going to understand why your car suddenly went crazy on the road. They are going to be terrified and may try to escape. What then? More often than not, the dog will run as fast as they can to get away from what caused their fear. They could run into traffic or run away and get lost.
I don’t know about you, but if I get in a car accident I prefer not to be struck by a 50+ pound flying projectile (i.e. my dog). I also do not want my dogs to stick their head out the window. Before I realized the danger of this, my dog Sephi did it all the time. But then my vet told me about one of his client’s dog that had to have his eye removed because of flying road debris. When your dog wears a dog safety seat belt, it is more difficult for them to put their head out the window. They can still get the nice breeze, but at least they can’t be hurt from things on the road and they can’t jump or get thrown out of the car.
It’s not yet a law in my state but New Jersey has a law stating that animals inside the vehicle must be restrained. I have no doubt that other states will soon follow. Even states that hesitate to make such a law will have or may already have laws that allow police officers to issue a ticket to anyone who is driving unsafely due to a distraction.
Maya and Pierson do not suffer in the least because they wear a dog seatbelt in the car. They might not be able to move around much or put their heads out the window but trust me when I say they still love to ride. With a little practice and perhaps a little time, your best friend can get used to his safety restraint and love the ride just as much as before.
This post is part of the Pet Blogger Awareness Day for pet travel safety.
The Extend-a-Seat from Outward Hound is a simple pet product for your car that covers the floor of your car. Its obvious use is that it gives your dog more room in the back seat. But did you know that it also provides a form of protection?
Have you ever slammed on the brakes and your dog flew forward into the back of your chair? Did he fall on the floor? Someone told me once that their dog had gotten thrown forward in such an awkward way that he broke his leg. And this was because of a fast stop, not a car accident. Imagine an actual car accident where your dog gets thrown on the floor. I was in a wreck once where my seat was pushed back. If there had been a dog back there, he would have been squished.
If your dog won’t wear a dog seatbelt harness or doesn’t do well in a pet carrier, protect your dog in the car by covering the floor with an Extend-a-Seat. My dogs wear a dog seatbelt harness but I also have the Extend-a-Seat. This is because I have the strap of their dog seatbelt harness a little long so that they have more freedom to move around on long trips. Our pets are important to us. Keep them safe and don’t wait for the worst to happen before you consider their safety.
Disclosure – Unless your dog is also wearing a dog seatbelt harness, the Extend-a-Seat may not protect your dog much in an actual car accident. Getting thrown forward out the windshield is still a very real possibility.
***The Extend-a-Seat has been replaced by the Kurgo Backseat Bridge. Both products are essentially the same except Kurgo’s products have a lifetime guarantee and the Backseat Bridge is reversable black or tan.
My love for dogs started with Cassie. Cassie was a Shetland Sheepdog who chose me to be her companion when I was 10 years old. Although my mom always had at least one dog around (six at one time, I think), none of those dogs was truly mine until Cassie. Cassie was given to my mom, but she chose me. She slept with me, followed me around, and was by my side as often as she could be.
Cassie did not have a dog seatbelt but it was only because such a thing did not exist back then. But she is my true inspiration for every dog thing I do. Because of Cassie, I worked at an animal shelter and occasionally fostered dogs. And because of her, I now volunteer at an animal shelter, am a certified dog trainer, share my love for dogs on my dog blogs, and promote pet auto safety and other products for dogs.
Cassie passed away when I was 23 years old but she is still in my heart. I got Smokey when Cassie was 10 years old. And after Cassie passed on, I got Becky Ann and Achilles. It was when I had these three dogs that I discovered the dog seatbelt. I bought a dog seatbelt for each so that it would be safer for them to ride in the car (and easier for me to drive without distractions).
That was a long time ago. Now I have Sephi and Maya. They each have a dog seatbelt and thanks to increasing awareness and safety concerns, their dog seatbelt is better made than the ones my other dogs used to have.
While Cassie was my inspiration for all things dog, my other dogs have played a part. In a way, you can say that Cassie, Smokey, Becky Ann, Achilles, Sephi, and Maya were all inspiring. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have started Pet Auto Safety.com. In a way, they are the true founders.
The Hyper Dog
The hyper dog generally loves to ride in the car. He wants to be everywhere at once. This is how my dog Maya is in the car. For her, I have her wear a dog seatbelt. Her dog seatbelt has the strap extended so that she has some mobility. The strap isn’t long enough to allow her to get in the front seat, but it is long enough for her to reach one of the windows. I also have the Extend-A-Seat to cover the floor so that she has more room to move around and there is no danger of her getting thrown onto the floor in a sudden stop.
For the hyper dog you can also try a pet car barrier. As stressed in the previous post, be careful because a determined dog may be able to circumvent a pet car barrier.
You may also be able to help a hyper dog by not just taking him to fun places like the dog park, but also taking him to boring places like the bank drive through. Or just drive around the block and come back home. Perhaps if your dog isn’t always going somewhere fun when he is in the car, he may become desensitized by car rides. A good example of how desensitization works would be if you got out your dog’s leash often throughout the day but didn’t take him for a walk. He would eventually realize that the leash does not mean getting to go for a walk.
Pet travel safety is important. But so is your dog’s comfort. Working with your dog by helping him be desensitized to car rides or helping him not be so anxious in the car can provide him with both comfort and safety. Pet travel safety is provided by your dog not being a distraction to the driver. A dog seatbelt, a car seat for dogs, or a pet car barrier can also help with both comfort and safety.
When I a say separation anxiety, I am not talking about the dog who gets nervous when you leave him alone in the car. Don’t leave your dog in the car unattended. By separation anxiety in the car, I am talking about the dog who insists on trying to get in the front seat while you’re driving. He may even try to get in your lap. This is a dangerous distraction.
You can try the dog seatbelt to keep him in place. Work with your dog wearing the dog seatbelt at home first so that he doesn’t try to chew it off. He can wear his harness around the house under your supervision. Play with him while he is wearing it. Take him for walks in it. This way, by the time he gets in the car with it, he may not realize he has it on. Take him for short rides at first just to make sure he doesn’t try to chew the strap which connects his dog seatbelt to the car.
You can also consider a pet car barrier. Depending on the size of your dog and your car, you can use the smaller canvas pet car barrier called the Front Seat Barrier by Outward Hound, or you can use the larger more extensive pet car barrier like the T-Flex pet car barrier or the Hatchbag Pet Net. Be careful because a determined dog may be able to circumvent these devices.
You may also be able to help a dog with separation anxiety by having someone sit in the back seat with him. Or try giving him his favorite toys or something familiar like his dog bed. Be careful about giving him toys he can chew apart. Trying to seat something in a moving vehicle is probably not a good idea for a dog. You wouldn’t want him to choke on something if you have to make a sudden stop or turn.
The Car Sick Dog
If your dog is like the scared dog, it tends to also make his car sick. He is already nervous and the movements of the car don’t help. Try the same techniques as or the scared dog (previous post). Take him on short trips regularly to places he likes to go. Drive carefully and don’t take turns to fast or stop too suddenly (if you can help it).
But some dogs who get car sick are not like the scared dog. They are not as intimidated by a car ride and may even seem to enjoy it. You can help keep this dog from being car sick by making sure he has a good view out the window and that he has fresh air. Don’t let him stick his head out the window as that can be dangerous too, but have the windows down a little or put the air in your car on high.
If your dog is a small dog and can’t look out the window, consider a car seat for dogs. With a car seat for dogs, your dog can be strapped in for safety, and you can put the window down all the way without fear of him flying out. If your dog is too big for a car seat but too small to see out the window, consider a dog seatbelt and the Lookout Perch. The Lookout Perch is a car seat for dogs where you dog has a thick cushion to sit on. The cushion is thick enough to give your dog a boost up.
It’s not just about pet travel safety. It’s can also be about comfort for your dog. If you dog is not comfortable in the car or in his pet travel safety device, he may cause problems in the car. A dog who does not do well in the car may be a dangerous distraction to the driver. Every three days we will post an article about a specific behavior a dog may exhibit in the car. Today, we have outlined possible solutions for dogs who are scared to ride in the car. There will be three more posts after this for the car sick dog, the dog who has separation anxieties in the car, and the hyper dog.
The Scared Dog
Some dogs just don’t like to ride in the car. They are terrified. When the car turns or stops, the dog feels out of control because he can’t keep his balance. The movements of the car may make his stomach upset. What can you do to help him?
Start by taking him on short trips to places your dog loves to go. When you need to turn your car down another street or needs to stop, take it slow. The less abrupt the stop or turn the better.
Another thing you can do to help him is make him feel more secure. Having him wear a dog seatbelt or being confined in a crate may make it easier to keep his footing during sudden car movements. A dog seatbelt will keep him secure in the seat so that he doesn’t get tossed around as much when the car is moving around. Keeping him in a crate may make him feel more secure – especially if he is crate trained. A crate for a domestic dog is like a den to a wolf. The crate or den provides a place of security. Be sure to strap the crate into the car with kennel restraints so that the crate doesn’t get tossed around.
Suppose you get in a car accident with your dog in the car. And suppose he was not wearing his dog seatbelt. Worst-case scenario, he is seriously injured. If he’s lucky, he is not badly hurt – but he is terrified. Let’s look at what could happen in either case.
If your dog was not hurt after a car accident where he was not wearing his dog seatbelt, he is still traumatized. After such a terrifying experience, his instinct is going to tell him to run. So if there is a broken window or other means of escape, he is likely to use it. And he is going to run fast and blindly. If he runs in the street, he might get hit by a car. If he manages to avoid getting hit by a car, he is going to run a long way before he finally stops. This means he is likely to get lost. Being lost without his loved ones would be almost as terrifying as being in a car accident.
If your dog is hurt after a car accident, he is going to need medical attention. But most likely, an injured dog is not going to let strangers touch him. How are the police, firemen, or medics going to help him if he tries to bite them? If he doesn’t try to bite them, he is going to try to struggle to get away from them. Dogs don’t understand someone is trying to help them. All they know is that they are hurt and strangers with an unknown intent are near them.
A dog wearing a dog seatbelt won’t be able to escape from the car. Just like a personwearing a seatbelt, a dog wearing a dog seatbelt can still be injured. But an injured dog wearing a dog seatbelt will not be able to struggle as much and will be easier for emergency personnel to restrain and aid. So a dog seatbelt isn’t just to protect your dog during a car accident. It is also to protect your dog after a car accident.
Sephi loves her dog seatbelt. But if you think your dog will hate a dog seatbelt, consider the various other pet travel supplies available on the market. Keep him safe by keeping him in the back seat with a pet barrier. Keep him secure in a pet travel crate strapped in with kennel restraints. Or keep him comfortable in a dog car seat.
Love your dog this Valentine’s Day and keep him safe when he travels. Spring is coming soon and he will want to go to the dog park and enjoy the sunshine again.
Love is playing in the park. Love is expressed in a joyous bark.
Love is taking him to the vet. Love is when he is more than just a pet.
Love is good food that puts him in a happy mood.
Love his giving him a nice warm bed even though he will shed.
Love is a nice long walk and a wagging tail.
And love his keeping him safe, whatever that might entail.
Say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to your best friend.