Friday, February 19, 2016

Fit Dog Friday: Car Safety

Keeping your dog fit and active is important. Slim, well muscled, and with enough endurance to go out and do most anything with minimal risk of injury.

Impact Kennel
But part of keeping your dog fit, active, and uninjured is how you travel with them. Where does your dog sit in the car? Do they ride shotgun, in the back seat, in a seat belt, in a crate? Where your dog is in your car, and how they are restrained, can have a huge impact on their safety if an accident happens.

Gunner Kennel
For years, I let my dogs ride loose in the car. Koira always chose to burrow down onto the floorboards behind the driver's seat, and that seemed like a safe enough place to be. Pallo was good about staying put in his bed on the back seat. Neither of the dogs interfered with my driving or caused distractions to me while driving. But that doesn't mean they would have been safe in an accident, and I had to own up to that. I've seen way too many "lost dog" posts on Facebook where someone gets into a car accident and the dog or dogs in the vehicle get loose and bolt, terrified. And who could blame them. But too often those dogs are injured or killed, not in the accident, but from running loose afterwards. Or sometimes they are just never found, which is heartbreaking in a totally different way.

Ruff Tough Kennel
You can research this subject to death, and at the end of it, you will find that there are things you can do to increase safety, but that at the end of the day, riding in cars is dangerous. That applies to humans too. You can be as safe as you possibly can be, but that will not guarantee that nothing bad will happen. Cars are dangerous. All we can do is minimize the risks.

The safest place for your dog is in a properly secured, crash tested crate, within the passenger compartment of your vehicle. There are crash tested crates out there, and they range from kind of expensive to selling your first born child to afford. Variocage, Impact, Gunner, and Ruff Tough Kennels are probably the four I hear about the most, and that have the best ratings. Many people will also choose to go custom, having a metal worker/welder create a customized crate that perfectly fits their car and their dogs. As long as these crates are properly secured, they are the safest option for your dog. Which one you would get would depend a lot on your car, your dog, and your budget. Just because Variocage has the best ratings doesn't mean they have one that will fit into your car, or fit into your budget.

This is my current car set up. I just rearranged things a little bit a couple days ago, and am so far liking the new set up.

My car is a two door hatchback, so Koira enters the car through my door

Her kennel is in the back seat and is secured as well as covered with a blanket

These beds are here for her if she is left in the parked car, such as during flyball practice. She does not ride in these while the car is moving- if the car is moving, she is in her crate with the door closed. 

There are more things I would like to do. I would first like to save up for and purchase a Ruff Tough Kennel. The appeal of the Ruff Tough Kennel above the other crash tested crates available is two fold for me. The first is that it can actually fit in my car. Since most crash tested kennels are rigid, they can be difficult to get through a small space. The medium size RTK can fit through the front door into the back seat of my car with a little effort, which isn't true of the other kennels. Well, a Variocage would fit (because it comes in pieces that you assemble yourself), but it wouldn't be able to be properly secured since it is supposed to be against the seat back of the back seats. My hatch doesn't have enough room for a Variocage large enough to fit Koira, and even if it did, I am leery of putting a dog, even in a highly rated kennel, in the crumple zones of a car.

The other plus for the RTK is that it is more affordable than pretty much all of the other options. It has downsides, yes, and isn't super affordable ($179 for the size I need), but it is the one that is the most likely to work for us. In the meantime, though, using A crate is better than using NO crate, even if it isn't THE PERFECT crate.

If a crate isn't an option for some reason (space, dog's behavior, etc), a crash tested harness is the next best thing. Sleepypod, Kurgo, and AllSafe are the harness names that most often come up for a crash tested harness. Kurgo is the most affordable of the harness options, followed by Allsafe, and then Sleepypod. Of course, Sleepypod is also the top rated harness.

Sleepypod Harness
 Sleepypod does have the highest rated harness on the market right now, and it is good for dogs up to 90 lbs. So if you drive a small car that doesn't have physical room for your large dog, but you want a restraint option for your dog, the Sleepypod is a great choice. They actually do make an excellent crash tested crate as well, but it is for pets up to 15 lbs, which makes it not an option for most dog owners (unfortunately, since it is the one I would love to have).

AllSafe harness
 I've never used the AllSafe harness, but have heard good things about it. It is supposedly the most crash tested harness on the market.

Kurgo Harness
The Kurgo harness is the cheapest of the crash tested harnesses that I am familiar with. It is actually what Pallo currently uses. All of the adjustments and clips are metal, not plastic, and are made to hold in an accident. I reviewed this harness last summer and was pleased with it.

The point of a harness is twofold- it keeps your dog from doing something while you are driving that distracts you, like jumping on your lap, but it also tethers your dog to the car, so they cannot run loose after a crash. They also act somewhat like a seat belt does for humans, by preventing the dog from becoming a projectile, which can be bad for both the dog and the humans in the accident if it happens.

This is a long post, so I'll wrap it up. Crate if you can. Buy the highest quality crate that will work for your dog, your car, and your budget. If you can't crate, use a car harness to help protect your dog and yourself in case of an accident.

I also highly recommend that you have a contact number on your dog's tags for someone other than yourself who you would trust to make medical decisions for your dog in case you are injured beyond the ability to do so yourself. I also personally wear a Road ID, with my name, date of birth, three emergency contact numbers, my personal allergies, and the note "dog is with me" so first responders will know that a loose dog on the scene is mine and hopefully make an effort to corral it, or at least let my emergency contacts know about the dog. I wear my Road ID 24/7, and rely on it being my way of contacting the people I care about to take care of me and my pets should something happen- you don't want to be Jane Doe or John Doe after an accident if your ID isn't on you or can't be found.

Road ID has a lot of different options.

Moral of the story- do what you can to keep your dog safe and secure in your vehicle in case of an accident.

None of these companies gave me anything to write this, and they are totally unaware that I am writing it. If you purchase a Road ID through the link above, I do get some credit towards product for referring a friend, but that is the only form of compensation I would get for anything in this post. Of course, if any of these manufacturers would like send me a product to review, I would love to talk to them.


  1. Great post!!
    I've been thinking of getting Dante and Ziva harnesses for a while now, I just need to break down and get one. Our problem with crates is that i'd either need two crates which would significantly cut down on the room in our car, or a crate big enough for the both of them which seems like they'd be pretty cramped and if I could find one it would be pretty spendy.

  2. This is such an incredibly important topic!

  3. Great post and lots of good information. I really need to look into one of those crates.

  4. Lots of great information. My car is tiny (it's a crossover, but 6 inches shorter than a civic!) and doesn't have room for a crate even in the backseat--at least not a crate big enough for Barley. She has a Kurgo harness and buckle that keeps her in the backseat. I'll have to look into the sleep pod crate for her kitty brother, though, since he just travels in his soft-sided carrier right now.

  5. Excellent post. We lived in Germany where restrained dogs in the car is the law. The AllSafe harness is made in Germany but you can get it here now. It passed German safety standards for the autobahn so it has to be safe. Mom has been using them for her dogs for about 13 years now. We all have our own and they are amazing and very safe.

  6. Great tips! Rocco rides in a crate. These choices look terrific!

  7. I'm definitely all about car safety for the pups! They ride on the back seat wearing car harnesses secured to the seatbelt. Thank you for mentioning all the different harness & crate options - I might actually get them a Sleepypod or Allsafe harness.

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