Safe Car Travel for Dogs, Revisited

The Dog Trainer weighs in on a new travel crate for dogs.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Safe Car Travel for Dogs, Revisited

by Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

A couple of years ago I posted a roundup of car-safety tips for dogs. In my research I learned, to my great dismay, that there are no governmental safety standards for travel crates or strap-in harnesses. Manufacturers did not appear to conduct voluntary safety testing, either. The crash-test videos I found online were anything but reassuring—as I put it then, the plastic travel kennel in the videos basically exploded on impact, and the stuffed cat and dog flew around the car interior in ways that did not look survivable.

Fortunately, there’s a new kid on the travel-crate block: the Variocage, produced by the Swedish company MiM Construction and imminently available in the U.S. The manufacturers seem to have taken their testing very seriously indeed, to judge by the promotional materials I’ve seen. They point out that simply making the dog crate too tough to collapse will turn it into a safety problem for the humans in the car. This is because usually the crate rides in the hatch or on the backseat. But as the back of the car crumples in a rear-end collision, a super-tough crate can drive right through the passenger compartment. Not good. Accordingly, they designed their crate so that it would partly crumple but not collapse—that is, the interior retains enough integrity not to crush the dog, but because the crate crumples partway, the collision doesn’t push it through the passenger seats.

Other features that MiM touts: The crate interior is so designed that even when it partly crumples, it doesn’t create sharp edges on the inside. And although the crate can be locked, it also has an unlocked emergency gate. (I’m a little unclear on the reason for including a lock in the first place given that the whole point of the emergency gate is to be able to remove your pet if the main opening is broken or you lose your key, but if the Variocrate is as safe as its manufacturer says it is, I can live with my puzzlement.) Finally, each size of crate is somewhat adjustable in length.

So, you know there’s a downside. The crates are heavy—almost 38 pounds for the single Extra Small. Well, fair enough—cheap plastic doesn’t weigh much, and that’s for a reason: it’s cheap plastic. Now for the price of the Variocrate, which may make your eyes pop out of your head. We’re looking at over $700 for that single Extra Small, and well over $1,000 for the double XXL. There’s no pretending that that kind of money is in many people’s league. Still, if my dog did a lot of car travel I would seriously consider one of these babies. If they’re as good as the crash-test videos suggest, they could spare a lot of dogs injury or death, and a lot of people some major vet bills and heartbreak. I’m glad to see the Variocage out there.

Dog with Keys image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).