How To Travel Safely With Your Dog In a Car Restraint

According to AAA, 18 percent of Americans travel with their pets.

Unfortunately, not all of those pets are safely secured in the car. It’s important to have your pet restrained in the car for your safety and for his. Plus, at least eight states already have laws that require pets to be kenneled or tethered in cars. The states include Connecticut, California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Rhode Island, and fines range between $50 and $200. It’s all part of the nationwide initiative to cut down on accidents caused by distracted drivers!

If you’re one of the pet owners who loves to travel with your dog but has yet to restrain him in your vehicle, follow this easy guide to picking the proper restraint and getting your dog accustomed to it.

Pick Your Restraint

There are many styles available: seat belt, tether, car seats, and even a simple crate or kennel. A car harness is one of the safest options. Built like a standard walking harness, it’s designed to withstand the impact of a car crash—without injuring your dog. Many clip into your existing seat belt system. Before you purchase a car harness or seat belt adapter, research the brand’s appropriateness and crash testing protocol for your dog’s specific size.

For smaller dogs, rather than a harness, you have the option of a car seat or booster seat. Most of these clip into the regular seat belt, too, but many have not be crash-tested. Some are dog beds with a seat belt attachment, rather than a design specific for the car. Again, research your option thoroughly; the Center for Pet Safety is a good place to start.

Whichever system you choose, aim to get the shortest possible extension, decreasing the length your dog would be thrown in the event of an accident. If you choose to go with a crate or kennel, select one that fits snugly in your car—avoiding the dangerous crumple zone. Ideally, secure it in place.

Acquaint Your Dog with the System

Before you hit the road, get your dog accustomed to the restraint system you’ve selected. For harnesses, allow your dog time to wear it in a stress-free zone, like around the house, and then take her for a walk clipped in. Once she’s comfortable with the equipment, take a ride around the blog with her secured in place. If she seems totally comfortable, you’re probably good to go! If she’s nervous or fidgety, repeat the short trips, preferably with someone else driving so that you can sit in the back with her and (if she doesn’t get carsick) give her treats along the way. If you’re going the crate route, make sure your dog is fully crate-trained before latching her in for a car ride.

Now that you’re ready, hit the road!

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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