Dog Seatbelts
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Dog Seatbelt Review

I'm a firm believer that dogs should be restrained any time they travel in our cars, in either a well-secured crate or a well-designed seatbelt. I'm not going to debate the merits of one over the other - it's really a personal choice. My choice for my big dogs is the seatbelt. It's the more practical choice for me because I transport various combinations of dogs in three different vehicles. I made my product carefully, and in doing so, researched quite a few restraint systems. I've also had to re-evaluate a couple of times over the years because of new products and changes in existing products. The results of my research are presented here.

(6/13/12) A recent incident in the dog agility community has sparked considerable new interest and discussion in the area of dog travel safety. A nationally-known agility trainer was involved in a horrific high-speed rollover accident while traveling with her 6 dogs. In this case, the dogs were loose except a crated puppy, and all were all ejected from the car (including the crate). Miraculously, all but one survived the accident with relatively minor injuries. Sadly, the puppy did not survive, and another dog who fled the scene was killed by a passing vehicle. Thought not directly related to my topic, this incident has prompted me to update this report with the latest information I have since my article was hopelessly outdated.

The following information has been added:

  1. Several new seatbelts have been introduced since I did my original research. I was recently given the opportunity to take a look at them, thanks to Monica Percival from Clean Run magazine, who sent me several samples for my feedback.
  2. I have recently learned of the Kurgo TruFit Smart Harness which looks to be a very promising design. I have contacted the company to see if I can get a sample for review.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


  • Introduction: Please don't skip this section. It details important introductory material: why to use a car restraint, types of restraints, and the resources I used in my research.
  • Design Considerations: List of the design options and features to consider when choosing a restraint system.
  • Product Descriptions: Details on each of the restraints I found. Sorted into four categories: Editor's Choice, Also Reviewed, Tethers, Not For My Dog
  • Usage Tips: Simple things that I've learned through experience.
  • Additional Resources: Links to articles and other information on canine car restraint.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND HISTORY


  • I started with the Champion in 1999 and used it for several years.  I switched to the Ruff Rider late in 2002. I still think the Champion is a great belt, and it's really a matter of personal preference. I have heard that Champion has had some trouble with customer service and fulfillment, so I've updated my links to reflect the latest information I have for the most reliable supplier. But be forewarned - your mileage may vary. I switched from the Champion to the Roadie for the following reasons:
    • The reverse spring snap that the Champion uses is harder for my husband to use with his arthritic hands. You can just add a climbing carabiner to overcome this.
    • The Ruff Rider handle doubles as a leash for that short walk from the house to the car, especially useful if you have a dog that tends to bolt. But it's simple enough to clip a leash to the carabiner or the loops on the Champion.
    • You can clip two dogs together using a carabiner clip and the handles, allowing you to use one leash to walk them both as a brace. You can also do this with the Champion, but there isn't as much clearance between the dogs.
  • The other seat belt that I still like better than any other, the Ruff Rider Roadie, made some significant design changes a few years ago. I have tried the new design on my dog and I don't like it at all. Among the features that VANISHED from the original version are the following:
    1. Ease of application: ORIGINAL: by unclipping the belly strap, I can get the dog in without over-flexing the dog's elbows and wrists. NEW DESIGN: There is no belly strap to unclip, so you have to force the front legs through.
    2. Ease of removal: ORIGINAL: one loop over the head and then the dog steps its rear-end out of it. NEW DESIGN: The belt is a single piece, not a figure 8. So the only to get out of it is the same way you get in - wrestle with the dog and hyper-flex their elbows and wrists.
    3. Adjustable sizing: ORIGINAL: the original had adjustable straps on both the chest and belly, allowing a custom fit for the dog. NEW DESIGN: Unless you are very lucky, you now have to choose between slightly too small (making it very hard on the dog's joints to get on and off), or too large (risking the dog slipping out of it or injury due to shifting).

    The original Roadie is now called the Geriatric model, and is still available in very limited close-out sizes from the manufacturer and some suppliers. If you have a very big dog or a very small one, you might get lucky. But be forewarned that not all suppliers have caught up with the new model naming, so caveat emptor. If you can find an original one used, grab it.


LATEST CONCLUSIONS


Your choice of canine restraint system should be made based on safety, quality, fit and usability.  I'm not going to put my personal assets on the line by making an actual recommendation. But I think you can tell by my review which ones I like the best.  I have four dogs, and this is how they travel:

  1. Jasmine is a 65-lb shepherd mix, 14 years old. She doesn't travel much any more, but she wears a Size 7 Ruff Rider Original Roadie.
  2. Zack is a 55-lb rough-coat border collie, 11 years old . He travels in a Size 6 Ruff Rider Original Roadie.
  3. Billy is a 50-lb smooth-coat border collie, 4 years old. I started him with a Size 5 Ruff Rider Original Roadie, but he always acted like I had put him in a straight-jacket. After reviewing the seat belts I got from Monica, I have switched him to a Bergen and he is much happier.
  4. Rody is a 13-lb Rat-a-huahua. On the rare occasions that she travels, she rides in a Noz-2-Noz soft crate shoved between the bucket seats of my Chevy Astro.

If cost is an issue, ANY restraint is probably better than none.  If cost is no object, you may decide that a mix and match approach is the best - buy the Champion or the Bergen for the harness design, but substitute the Batzi or Doggie Catcher or Versabelt as the attachment mechanism.

And now the disclaimer: my dogs never travel without restraints and I have done this research for my personal benefit. I do not claim to be an expert in the field of canine car restraints. The opinions I have presented in this document are based solely on my own critical observations and research. I have done no actual testing of the products, either destructive testing or 'road' testing on the dog (for obvious reasons). Finally, and most importantly, I am not an engineer, nor am I involved in canine bio-mechanics or accident physics. I make no representations as an expert in the restraint of dogs - use these belts if you choose, but use them at your (and your dog's) own risk.

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Last updated 03/15/2013

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