Traveling with Dogs: Booster Seats

Pet Barrier logoIf you have a small dog like a Dachshund, a Chihuahua or a Yorkie, you might have considered an elevated seat for your pup. After all, our pets need to be restrained AND comfy at the same time, don’t they? And doesn’t a dog in a booster seat make us feel like we have a cute little baby in the car?

Booster Sets for Dog in the Car

Unlike seats for kids, however, booster seats don’t have to fulfil any safety requirements, nor do they undergo crash tests. Thus, if you can bent the frame with your hands, the seat won’t be sturdy enough to keep the dog safe in an accident, so stay away from these products as they might hurt your pup.

They main function of a seat is to keep the dog restrained. That’s why the seats come with a safety strap or clip for your pet’s harness. Never use collar as it may cause your dog to choke if he or she tries to get out of the dog car seat. In addition, very energetic pups will jump and hang themselves from the safety strap if they wear a collar.

 

How safe are car seats for dogs?

This depends on how the seat is fitted in the car. Pulling the seatbelt through the back of the booster seat is a lot safer than attaching straps to the car seat and the headrest. If your dog’s weight is 10lbs or more, the straps will stretch under the weight and, in an accident, the booster seat might be tossed around the car. There are also dog booster seats for the center console, but these are only held in place with elastic straps.

 

How NOT to make your own dog car seat

Do a quick research online and you’ll find booster seats made of an old plastic drawer and duct tape or a laundry basket. Seriously? Would people also use DIY booster seats for their kids just to save a couple of dollars?

make your own dog booster seat

Like kids, pets are family members and it’s our duty to protect them from danger. Even if I had small dogs, I wouldn’t go for a car seat. The seat might prevent your pooch from sitting in your lap or escaping through the open window. In an accident, however, the frame of the seat might bend out of shape and injure your dog. A crate is a much safer option.

 

Overview: Car Safety Items for Dogs

Car Crate

Dog Harness

Back Seat Barrier

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Back Seat Barriers for Dogs

Do your pups love riding shotgun? Do they climb on the passenger seat or maybe even in your lap while you’re driving?

One way to prevent this is the fitting of a back seat barrier, which is a mesh partition attached to the front seats.

back seat barrier for dogs in the car

Admittedly, a back seat barrier prevents some – less artistic – pups to get into the passenger seat or climb into the driver’s lap. Transporting pets in the back seats or the trunk is a much safer option as it reduces distraction (looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a collision).

What’s more, your dog might be killed when the passenger airbag deploys. Airbags are made to protect an ‘average person’ of 165lb; the force of the impact is too strong for animals and children.  By the way, this is the reason why the passenger airbag must be switched off when there’s a baby carrier on the passenger seat.

 partition for dogs on the back seat in the car

On the flip side, back seat barriers have many disadvantages. First and foremost, the mesh is not strong enough to prevent the dog from becoming a projectile in case of an accident. An unrestrained 10-lb dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert about 300 lb of pressure, while an 80-lb dog at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 lb of pressure. Neither the mesh itself nor its fastenings are sturdy enough to deal with such a force, so mesh barriers aren’t crash tested!

It’s no secret that dogs like chewing, and the nylon mesh might be just their thing. Should the thick nylon threads get stuck, they might cause peritonitis (an infection in the abdomen) and need to be removed surgically.

If you’ve already got a back seat barrier and want to keep your pooch safe, restrain them with a harness. A high-quality product will prevent them from climbing over the partition and, more importantly, from hitting the front seats in a crash.

Back seat barriers are sometimes referred to as “safety partitions”, but this is misleading. If you want to keep your pups safe in the car, you simply don’t buy a mesh barrier. There are far better alternatives, for instance a car crate or a Travall Guard, which will be discussed in a future post.

 

Overview: Car Safety Items for Dogs

Car Crates for Dogs

Dog Car Harnesses

Dog Car Harnesses

The most important question is: Are dog harnesses safe?

The answer depends on the dog harness you’ve chosen for your pup. While most harnesses keep the pet from roaming around in the car, they may not be safe in an accident. On the website of the Center for Pet Safety, one of the non-profit organization’s employees tells us the sad story of her Cocker Spaniel Maggie:

I was driving Virginia I-66 during the morning rush hour. A car cut in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes. Maggie was screaming in pain.  I discovered the harness tether had wrapped around her back legs and she was thrown and hit the back of the front seat. She was hurting and scared and I couldn’t get to her fast enough.

Maggie Centre for Pet Safety

The problem is that there are currently no government standards or tests in the pet accessories sector. Even the Consumer Products Safety Commission fails to deal with pet safety items.

Some manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested. This, however, can mean different things: the harness could have been tested in their own facilities, or maybe it was tested but failed.

There’s good news, though: the Centre for Pet Safety developed some testing standards, regularly carries out crash tests and publishes the results online. At the moment, they only recommend one harness: the Clickit by Sleepypod.

What’s important is that dog harnesses can only be used on the back seat, never on the passenger seat. In addition, make sure there’s little movement for your dog to prevent whiplash in the event of an accident.

dog harness in crash test

 

Dog car harness vs. crate

Harnesses won’t work for pups with very slim heads, such as Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, Afghan Hounds, Russian Wolfhounds (Borzoi). Thus, a crate would be a safer alternative. Here’s some more info on dog crates.

Which type of dog harness is best?

Basically, there are two designs of dog harnesses, either with a loop for the seatbelt over the dog’s shoulders or a harness with a separate belt and a clip for the seat-belt buckle. The latter design is unsafe as the clips and the stitching of the belt failed in crash tests.

What size dog harness do I need?

The right size is paramount to the safety of the harness and the comfort of your pet. Measure around you dog’s chest just behind the front legs and then around the neck:how to measure the size of a dog harness

The image is taken from: https://sleepypod.com/shop/dog-harness/clickit-dog-harness.html.

 

What’s your opinion on dog harnesses? Which product do you use?

Next week, I’ll take a closer look at mesh partitions for cars. Hope to see you again!

 

Overview: Car Safety Items for Dogs

Car Crates for Dogs

Car Crates for Dogs

Pet Barrier logoIt’s best to be prepared when we have to transport our beloved dogs in the car and a car crate is a good option to keep a pet safe. However, not all types of crates offer the same level of safety: wire crates and foldable crates aren’t sturdy enough (they severely deformed in crash tests undertaken by the Center for Pet Safety). That’s why this post discusses plastic carriers and aluminum car crates only.

By the way, this blog is not an affiliate website, so I won’t recommend any specific crate or carrier in order to sell products. Instead, I’m trying to give an objective view.

Advantages of Car Crates:

Not only does a crate keep the dog settled and calm in a car, it’s in fact a very safe way of transport since the crate prevents even the most energetic pup from distracting the driver and, more importantly, from being thrown forwards and injured by the impact of the interior of the car, or even out through the windscreen.

In addition, we don’t know how a dog would behave in or after an accident; they can get hurt when they run away in panic – a nightmare scenario for every dog owner. When restrained in a crate, the dog cannot run onto the road and be killed by a car.

Some pups whine or bark in the crate, so crate training is best undertaken in the house, prior to traveling. Once the crate has become a safe place for your pup, it’s time to move it to the car and take some trips around the neighborhood.

aluminum car crate for middl-sized dog

 

Disadvantages of Car Crates:

Maybe the most obvious disadvantage of an aluminum crate is its size, which makes the cage bulky and cumbersome. Depending on the type of car you drive, an aluminum crate might be too long for the trunk.

If you have a big dog such as a Labrador Retriever, a Great Dane, or an Airedale Terrier, a suitable crate will set you back $400 or more.

Plastic crates for small dogs don’t cause any space issues as they can safely be stored in the footwell behind the passenger seat – the best places for a small crate (Please don’t put the carrier on the backseat; crash tests show that plastic crates secured with seatbelts easily break on impact). They can also be used to carry a pet, for instance to the vet. Carriers typically cost under $150.dog crate pet carrier plastic

What size dog crate should you get?

Dog breed sizes vary immensely, and so do the sizes of safety equipment. This chart gives a rough overview over the different sizes of dog crates:

chart with dog crate sizes

For a more detailed chart, please refer to the website of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. In any case, car crates must be transported behind the passenger seat (plastic carriers) or secured in the trunk with tie down straps (aluminum crates).

If the trunk of your car isn’t long enough – don’t worry, there are lots of other safety items available. You might want to consider a pet barrier or a harness (some more on those options in my future posts).

Does your pup travel in a crate?

Overview: Car Safety Items for Dogs