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Driving Safely with Dogs

labrador retriever lying inext to car with harness on.

Safe Road Trips with Your Dog

Road trips are always exciting, and when your four-legged friend is also part of the journey, it adds an additional layer of fun. However, guaranteeing their safety during the trip requires careful planning and preparation. This comprehensive guide is aimed at providing pet owners with all the necessary information to ensure safe and enjoyable car travel with dogs.

Prioritizing Safety: Essential Preparations for Road Trips with Dogs

Before embarking on a road trip with your pet, it’s important to prioritize their safety. Here are some crucial safety measures to consider:

  • Health Checks and Vaccinations: Ensure your pet is up-to-date with their health checks and vaccinations. This is vital to prevent them from catching diseases, especially when traveling to new environments.
  • Pet-friendly Travel Kits: Assemble a pet-friendly travel kit that includes necessities like food and water bowls, doggie bags, and a comfortable pet bed for rest stops.
  • Safety Restraints: Just as humans are secured with seat belts, dogs should also be safely restrained during a car trip. This not only minimizes their chances of injury in case of an accident but also prevents them from causing distractions to the driver.

Understanding Dog Safety Restraints: Carriers, Car Seats, and Safety Harnesses

According to Kristen L. Nelson, DVM, and author of “Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life”, using crash-tested restraints such as carriers or safety harnesses is crucial for ensuring your dog’s safety during a car ride. There are three basic types of dog safety restraints:

  • Carriers: These enclosed structures can be secured using a seat belt or the vehicle’s LATCH/ISOFIX anchors. They come in two types: distraction-prevention carriers and crash-protection carriers.
  • Crates: Larger and heavier than carriers, crates are secured in the cargo area of the vehicle using strength-rated anchor straps.
  • Car Seats or Booster Seats: These are not typically containment devices. They serve as suspended seats and can be anchored by the seat belt or attached to the console.
  • Safety Harnesses: These are used in conjunction with the vehicle’s seat belt system and a car seat to keep your dog securely fastened.

While all these restraints serve the same purpose, each has its own pros and cons. However, one essential rule applies to all: never place pets in the front seat – always secure them in the rear seat or cargo area.

Choosing the Best Restraints: Crash-tested Products for Safe Car Travel with Dogs

Now that we understand the basic types of restraints, let’s delve into some top-rated, crash-tested products that have been deemed safe by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS).

Top Crash-tested Harnesses

Sleepypod Click-It Sport: This safety harness is CPS certified for dogs weighing up to 90 pounds. Its three-point design secures the dog’s torso to the seat using the seat belt system. Additionally, it includes shock-absorbing sleeves that work with a padded vest for added security and comfort.

Rocketeer Pack: Designed specifically for small dogs weighing 25 pounds or less, this product has a 5-star safety rating from CPS. It features a harness that slips onto your dog and attaches to your vehicle’s baby car seat connections.

Top Crash-tested Carriers and Crates

Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed: This carrier accommodates pets up to 15 pounds. It includes velcro positioning points that secure a seat belt in place, removable and machine-washable bedding, and mesh panels for visibility. It comes with a 5-star safety rating from CPS.

Gunner Kennels: Available in different sizes, this kennel received a 5-star safety rating from CPS. It features a double-wall construction and a reversible door design.

Sleepypod Atom: This compact and lightweight carrier is suitable for pets under 12 pounds. CPS gave it a 5-star safety rating and deemed it appropriate for both car and airline travel.

Lucky Kennel: With a 5-star safety rating and certified for pets up to 75 pounds, this kennel is a good option for larger dogs. It features reversible doors, ventilation holes, and the option of a comfort pad.

Other Essential Items for Dog Travel

In addition to safety restraints, there are a few other essentials to pack for a road trip with your dog. These include:

  • Collapsible Travel Bowl and Fresh Water: To keep your pet hydrated and comfortable during the journey.
  • First Aid Kit: Having a pet-specific first aid kit can be a lifesaver in case of an emergency.
  • Waste Bags: These are essential for maintaining cleanliness during the trip.
  • Pet Wipes: Useful for cleaning up messes or wiping your dog’s paws or face when they get dirty.

Choosing the Right Restraint for Your Dog

The type of restraint you choose for your dog largely depends on their size, breed, and temperament. Let’s examine the major similarities and differences between pet carriers, booster seats, and safety harnesses to help you make an informed decision.

Pet Carriers and Crates for Dogs

Carriers and crates are often recommended as the safest travel option for dogs, especially for anxious dogs who may try to climb onto the driver or get in their lap. However, it’s critical to ensure that these containers are independently crash-tested by CPS for safety.

Car or Booster Seats for Dogs

Car seats can be a good option for dogs who enjoy looking out of the window or are prone to car sickness. However, these should always be used in conjunction with a safety harness to ensure your dog is secure.


Here are Some Examples of How Not to Drive with Pets:

Dog Travel Bad Ideas Unsafe Dog Safety While Driving

Dog Jumps Out Of The Car Window Dog Safety

In each of these photos, these pets are not safe, nor are the people in the car with them in some cases.



Final Words: Expert Safety Tips for Dogs in Cars

Ensuring your dog’s safety during car travel goes beyond just choosing the right restraint. It’s also important to consider their location in the car, never leaving them alone in the car, and always carrying their medical records, medications, and identification. With these precautions in place, you and your furry friend are all set to hit the road!


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