Dogs and Car Safety

Taking your dog for a car ride? Here's how to keep her as safe as possible.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
May 10, 2010
Episode #061

Page 3 of 3

How to Choose a Sturdy Dog Crate for the Car

On the whole, I now suspect that a well-made, properly fastened harness is safer than a crate. But plenty of dogs are more at ease traveling in crates, and as for those cats I just know are out there, they pretty much have to travel in crates. In the videos that showed a plastic crate flying apart, the crate was fastened to the seat by a single seatbelt strap. The crate was also set so its long axis was perpendicular to the back of the seat. Plastic, of course, is fairly brittle. With the force of the crash brought to bear on just one narrow section of the crate, it’s no wonder the crate broke down. Buy the sturdiest crate you can. Place it in the car with the long side against the seat back, then secure it not only with the seatbelt but also with a couple of wide, heavy-duty luggage straps. You might have a mechanic install anchors for these.

More Car and Dog Safety Tips

Phew! After all that drama, a few less thrill-packed pointers. Don’t let your carefully harnessed dog hang his head out the car window: dust and debris can fly into his eyes and nose. We’re often advised not to leave our dogs alone in the car at all, but what are you going to do if you need a restroom and the building doesn’t allow dogs? My answer is to park in the shade if there is any, leave the car windows open, and move fast. Heat builds up in a closed car with unbelievable speed, even when the outside temperature is fairly mild. Take breaks often; it’ll do both you and your dog good to stretch your legs. And I can’t resist one piece of nondoggy advice: Please don’t talk on the phone, even with a hands-free device, and please don’t text. Study after study has shown that drivers who talk or text are just as impaired as drivers who are drunk. Your dog needs you to take care of her, so bring yourself home safe.

Send questions and comments to dogtrainer@ quickanddirtytips.com, or write them on The Dog Trainer’s wall on Facebook, where you’ll also find links to interesting articles and videos. Follow me on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini. Thanks for reading!

Crash-Test Videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpA798rXSc0&NR=1 This is the full-length ad associated with the previous video; it includes more footage of the crash tests and gives details of the company’s harness.

This video shows a harness tether separating on impact, a crate exploding apart, and other scary crash scenarios.

Two other companies’ crash-test videos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGfHEkaPko4&feature=related. This video is amateurish, the testing is completely unscientific, and please don’t even think about having your dog ride in the back of a pickup truck, ever, no matter what, but I have to admit I was impressed by the amount of punishment the product took without falling apart.

I would be delighted to hear from any reader or listener who knows of objective data on any kind of safety harness or travel kennel.

Other Resources

The ASPCA’s general car travel tips for pets.
Consumer Reports tips on travel safety for dogs.

Dog in a Crate image from Shutterstock