By Melissa Kauffman
Car accidents and road traffic crashes are the number one cause of death for people under 54 in the US, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel. Sadly, some of those fatalities also involve the death of pets. A study conducted by Volvo Car USA found that unrestrained pets who are left to move freely in the car are likely to increase stress and distraction in drivers. Yet, even though most drivers with pets admit they are influenced by their dog's behavior when driving, they still choose not to restrain them (Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey provided by AAA). This is often because of claims that restraining a dog in a car is too complicated, takes up too much time, or stressed out the dog too much. An optimal solution for dog owners can be a dog seat belt. This quick and safe harness-like invention gives dogs a degree of freedom and space when in a vehicle while also keeping them away from distracting drivers or causing harm to themselves en route.
The Load Up Dog Car Harness by Ruffwear distributes pressure evenly over a dog's chest in case of impact.
Why you should get your pup a dog seat belt No matter how trained and disciplined you may think your pup is, the fact is that you cannot devote your full attention to supervising your pet while also driving a car. Especially during long rides, dogs may get bored and can start snooping around the back seat, blocking your rear mirror view and demanding attention by licking your hand, trying to cuddle or jump into your seat. In case of a detrimental car accident, an unrestrained dog has meager chances of surviving a violent crash. While dog crates limit the dog from moving around the car and distracting you, there's no such guarantee the dog will remain safe in case of a crash. Furthermore, a crate can become a dangerous projectile during a forceful impact, potentially harmful both for the dog and other passengers. Dog seat belts usually come in the form of a harness, as they are the most comfortable solution in case of an accident. A regular collar will put all the pressure on the dog's sensitive neck, while the harness evenly distributes the force and keeps the dog safe and sound. Dog safety belts are easy to use, practical, and most importantly, they allow the dog to feel free and relaxed on their rides.
How to use a dog seat belt There are different types of dog seat belts, but essentially, their purpose is to fasten the dog securely in a vehicle. The safest and most popular option is the dog car harness that consists of a regular harness and an additional belt that is attached to the harness with a metal clip and clips on the seat belt's receiver, just like a standard belt. If you already have a dog harness, there are more budget-friendly options to consider, the clip-in or loop strap attachment. The clip-in strap has two heavy-duty metal clips, one that attaches to the harness and the other to the belt receiver. The loop strap resembles more of a leash and can be attached to the seat headboard or wrapped around the fastened car belt. What you should avoid is belting your dog on a regular collar to prevent choking, strains, and injuries in case of a crash.
How to avoid struggles with putting on the dog seat belt When introducing your dog to a seatbelt harness, it's best to take baby steps, slowly acquainting the dog with the idea of a new belt and the restricted moving area. If your four-legged companion is used to wearing a body harness, the process will be much easier, but still, divide the adjustment process into several steps: Attach the belt to the car and let it just lay on the seat while the dog is around. Try attaching the belt to the dog when in the car, but don't start the engine yet. Gently praise the dog, cuddle, and create a safe and relaxed environment. Try bringing your dog's favorite toys, treats, or bring a dog bed to recreate a cozy nook. The snugger the dog feels, the quicker the dog will get used to being restrained. Go for a spin and keep rides short while your dog gets used to the belt. Stay consistent and patient, as the dog will probably need some time to turn belting into a familiar and comfortable habit.
What to look for when getting a dog seat belt To ensure maximum safety and comfort, dog seat belts need to possess certain features. Here's what to consider when searching for a perfect dog seat belt:
Fastening mechanism and adjustability
Depending on your dog's size, the belt you decide to purchase needs to be able to withhold their weight and strength. If the mechanism is too complicated and with too many attachments and straps, eventually, you'll just give up on using it regularly. Belts with heavy-duty clips that fit into the belt receiver are the most convenient product on the market. They are also the safest, as the dog won't be able to wiggle out of it or disengage it. However, if you have a Toy Poodle or a similar miniature sized dog, make sure the seat belt has a lighter clip that isn’t a burden for them. Make sure to read plenty of reviews online if you have a toy breed to make sure the seat belt you choose if suitable.
Durability and quality
High-quality materials and heavy-duty clips and straps are a must for ensuring maximum safety. Polyester fibers, nylon, and similar perform best at forceful pulling while minimizing stretching. What differentiates a good dog seat belt from a plain leash is whether the product is safety rated and crash tested. You don't want to waste money or mediocre leash-like belts that you can make by yourself. In case of a crash, the dog belt's primary purpose is to keep your furry companion safe and unharmed, which is why you should always look for these features when buying this product.
As mentioned above, dog seat belts come in various options, so keep in mind your target criteria. There's no point in investing in a dog car harness if you already have one, but if you decide that's the best choice, look for products that have additional features, like waterproof materials, extra padding on the harness straps, the possibility of using it as a walking accessory (with an additional leash attachment) and so on. If you're investing, you might as well get the most of it.
Crash testing and certification requirements
Above all, dog seat belts need to restrain your dog and guarantee maximum security in case of an accident. Although voluntary, check whether the dog seat belt is CPS certified (Center for Pet Safety) before purchasing one. This means that the manufacturers had met all the required safety standards and that the seat belt went through a rigorous crash testing process, under the conditions that satisfy the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The manufacturers can also decide to conduct tests on their own as a part of the product development process.