I had never given much thought to "buckling in " Mocha to the back of the suburban when we go out. Frequently I will restrain a foster or transport to keep them from jumping into the front seat, but Mocha is so good in the car I never saw the point. So I intended to write today on the best way to keep your dog safe in the car. Well it turns out it ain't that easy..... There are lots of products marketed to keep your pet safe in a crash, or restrained while driving. Each has merit but what seems to be lacking is any agreement on the best way to protect your furry kid in your vehicle. Unlike Child seats there is no standard or testing to assure your choice of restraint will hold up in a crash. So do your research and pick the most practical and safest based on the breed of your dog and vehicle type. I am listing the good and bad of some of the methods I found.
A crate or kennel may be one of the safer ways for your dog to travel, provided the crate is very sturdy and secured in place. Not sure how you fit a dane size crate even in a suburban but if you have a smaller dog it might work. If you have an SUV or similar vehicle, you may wish place the crate in the cargo area of the vehicle. Just be sure to find out if this is the crumple zone in your car. If so, the cargo area may be the worst place for your dog! A small or medium crate will typically fit in the back seat of most vehicles. Look for straps or harnesses that will keep the crate secured, or find a crate made to have a seat belt strapped to it. Otherwise, you can end up with a deadly projectile in the case of an accident. Also keep in mind that, if an accident does happen, your dog will be thrown against the walls of the crate upon impact, so injuries may still occur. Be sure your travel crate will survive impact... it does not help if the crate shatters in an accident. I found this video on youtube of a crash test with restraint and crate... (using stuffed animals) http://youtu.be/jYms1d6oyz8
A car harness or seat belt is another one of the safer ways to restrain your dog in the car. Car harnesses fit just like regular harnesses but are made to withstand the impact of a car accident. Look for a harness that fits your dog well and attached securely to your car's seat belts. Wide straps and padding in the area of the chest will help lessen damage from the impact. The tether that attaches the harness to the car's seat belts should be as short as possible to lessen the distance a dog is thrown during an accident. Thoroughly research the brand of the harness before you buy it to find out what studies the manufacturer has done. This video shows a crash test with a harness. http://youtu.be/Ts4sMQA4zqA
Car barriers are designed to block off a section of the car. Some are placed behind the front seats to keep a dog in the back seats. Others are placed behind the back seats in SUVs to keep a dog in the cargo area. Barriers may be rigid and made of metal or plastic; they may also be soft and made of cloth or mesh material. The main safety benefit of barriers is that they keep your dog away from you, minimizing distraction. They may also prevent your dog from becoming a projectile in a crash. However, the barrier can easy come apart in the impact of a crash. Even if the barrier stays intact, the dog will still be thrown against it and around that area of the car. Basically, a barrier is better than nothing, but not as good as a harness or crate. I am not sure how this is tons better for your dog since it just gives them a smaller area to be thrown about but doesn't secure them if a window or opening is big enough for them to escape in a crash.
Dog car seats and booster seats are similar to car harnesses but designed for small dogs. The concept is to boost the dog up to a higher level where he can see, but to still keep him safe. Be very selective when choosing a dog car seat. Some are merely modified dog beds that provide little safety. Look for a seat that attaches securely to your car's seat belts AND has a harness that attaches securely to the dog. Some have leash clasps meant to attach to your dog's own harness. Never hook this up to your dog's neck collar, as your dog can be strangled in a crash.