Dog Seat Belts
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Reasons to Restrain

There are several important reasons to restrain the dog in the car, some more subtle than others:

  • In case of accident:
    • Minimize injury to the dog. This one is obvious and needs no further explanation.
    • Minimize injury to yourself. A flying dog hitting you in the back of the head may injure or kill you, even if the accident itself didn't.
    • Prevent the dog from getting injured (or worse) after the accident. This is the one that most people don't think about, and is perhaps the most senseless. After an accident, the glass in the vehicle will likely have been damaged enough to allow a dog to escape. And even if the glass is intact, good samaritans or rescuers will open the door to your car to assist you. If the dog is not restrained, it is very likely to bolt out the door into traffic, potentially with tragic results.
    • Prevent the dog from 'protecting' you against your rescuers. The dog will be stressed, and may react negatively to strangers trying to assist you if you are injured. He doesn't know that they are trying to help.
  • Routine Driving:
    • Minimize distractions to the driver. With heightened awareness of distracted driving as a danger, seat belts reduce the distraction of the dog bouncing around the car.
    • Reduce the stress level of reactive dogs. One of my dogs is very reactive to strange men. I can't even imagine how stressful (and potentially dangerous) a simple traffic stop could become if he were unrestrained.
    • Minimize routine risk of dog bolting out. Not all dogs are trained to hold until released when the car door is open. And even the best trained dog can have moments of brainlessness.  As with the rescuer scenario, one flaky moment by the driver at an otherwise routine stop could prove devastating.

I'm sure there are other good reasons as well. Some of you may remember the story of Leo the Bichon Frise in California, who become the tragic victim of someone else's road rage - he would still be alive if he had been restrained with a simple belt.


Canine car restraints fall into four broad categories: harness/tether combination, seat-belt tether, cargo  tether, and pick-up truck tether.  The latter three all rely on the use of some sort of harness (NEVER attach a tether to the dog's collar), but most of the harnesses in broad distribution are not designed for the forces of impact and will likely fail.  See Design Choices for more details.  I have focused on the first two categories, but have tried to include companies who cover the cargo and pick-up truck areas as well.  In other words, I'm assuming that your dog rides on the seat as mine does, preferably the back seat to avoid the additional risk of the air bag.


Whole Dog Journal has published a review of several dog restraints in the June 1998, May 2001 and February 2004 issues - click on the issue to order reprints or subscribe.  It is a great article for its scope, BUT, I was startled that they did not review two of the most solid products on the market - the Champion Canine Seatbelt System and the Ruff Rider Roadie.  They seemed to concentrate on low-cost models instead.  Nearly all of the products they reviewed are tether-only devices, and thus rely a standard dog harness, about which I've already expressed my opinion.  I am not going re-review the belts that they wrote about, but I have noted them and included my impressions of each product, in the Specifications section.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine published the results of their car restraint test in the Sept 1999 issue of Your Dog, another fine newsletter I receive.  They did force measurements and destructive testing on several devices, and I have liberally pulled information from their results in this review.

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Last updated 06/26/2012

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