Dog Seat Belts
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DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS


Critical Criteria

  • Buckle Function: The major flaw of many seatbelts on the market is their reliance on Delrin/Nylon buckles to carry the load of the dog flying forward in a crash. I have broken a standard 1" Delrin buckle just by pulling too tight, so those designs will likely fail under the forces sustained in a very slow speed impact. Other designs are nothing more than a tether that connects to a standard 1" dog harnesses to hook to - these don't distribute load well and they also rely on the nylon buckles.  If nylon buckles are used, they should only be for attaching the harness and adjusting the fit.
  • Fit: Simply put, the seatbelt MUST fit your dog or it won't work at all, and may even be more dangerous.  Be prepared to try the belt on, and if you are ordering on-line, accept that you may pay a few back-and-forth shipping charges before you find the one that fits right.  Don't compromise here.
  • Strap Width and Padding: The straps that are in contact with the dog must be wide enough to distribute the load of the impact, and well-placed so as not to cause injury themselves.  This is especially important for bigger dogs.  Padding on the load points also helps.

Important Considerations

  • Attachment to Car: Most of the belts are designed to attach to the strap of the existing seat belt.  Although this is basically a good plan because it relies on the inertia-locking feature, it does tend to allow quite a bit of give before the inertia-lock kicks in.  A strap that attaches to the buckle part of the regular seatbelt (which is short and firmly affixed) may be safer in this regard.   And if you carry your dog in the back of your van or SUV, there are models that connect to the cargo hooks found in many of these vehicles.
    UPDATE: I used to attach the dog tether to the stock seat belts by double-wrapping the carabiner around the seat belt strap. But I had some concerns about the "play" in the belt before the inertial reel kicks in. After I thought about it some more, I decided just this morning (6/25/12) to switch my attachment point from the seat belts to the steel posts of the rear headrests. Not only does this take the inertia reel out of the equation, but it's considerably easier to manage on the odd occasion when I actually transport humans in the back seat - now they can use the stock seat belts without fighting with the dog tethers.
  • Dog Movement: Even though you sacrifice some safety, the dog will be more comfortable if he can at least turn around.   Swivel hardware helps keep the dog from getting tangled up.  Belts that can attach high on the belt will allow easier turning around as well.
  • Ease of Use: There is an upside and a downside to easy use.  On one hand, you want the device to be simple enough that you are encouraged to use it every time the dog is in the car.  On the other hand, you want it to be somewhat troublesome to get off so the Good Samaritan doesn't try to release the dog before thinking about the consequences.
  • Multi-Purpose Use: Some belts are designed so they can also be used as walking harnesses, at least for short distances - this is very useful for potty stops on the road so you don't have to disassemble the belt.  Also, the Roadie has attachable accessories, like saddlebags, that make it very multi-functional.

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Last updated 06/26/2012

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