Do You Know How to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Car?

Olive is pretty and safe in her harness

Doesn’t Olive look pretty in her harness?

Not long ago, a friend was in a serious accident that resulted in two deaths: another passenger and the family dachshund. The human was killed on impact. The dachshund, who was not restrained in the car, jumped out after the accident, ran into freeway traffic and was immediately hit by a car.

When I heard about this tragic event, I vowed to make sure my dogs were properly restrained whenever I took them with me in the car. The expense and slight inconvenience of using the appropriate vehicle safety items is well worth the risk.

Keep your dog safe in the car. They aren’t children, but with respect to car travel, you should treat dogs as you would young kids. Your pet should always sit in the back seat, secured with a safety restraint. Don’t let him ride in the front seat, and don’t allow him to roam the bed of your truck, which is illegal in many communities.



The first item you need to get is a harness for your dog. If you restrain your dog with a collar only, he can be strangled if you get into a wreck, especially if you rear-end someone. By using a harness, you’ll protect your dog’s neck and spine.

There are many kinds of harnesses on the market, but I prefer fabric harnesses that wrap around the dog’s neck and torso. Many of these harnesses also have a loop on the top through which you can thread the seat belt.

Fabric harnesses are more costly than other types of harnesses — around $30 to $60, depending on your dog’s size — but they last forever, and you can find them in all kinds of patterns and styles.

Seat Belt

Dog seat belts attach to the harness, keeping your dog immobilized in the back seat. There are two basic models: those that attach to your car’s seat belt and those that clip into the female end of the seat belt lock. Either kind of pet seat belt will work just fine; select the one that works best for your car.

The Lookout booster seat is comfortable and safe.

The Lookout booster seat is comfortable and safe — all that’s missing is a harness.

Booster Seat

Because I have small dogs who love to look out the window, I am enamored of booster seats, as are my dachshunds. Designed to fit in your back seat, booster seats are secured with your automobile’s seat belt, around which you clip a dog seat belt that you attach to the harness.

Booster seats not only provide a safe place for travel, but they’re as comfortable as a dog bed. Most are made out of sturdy foam core topped with fabric and fleece. Add a blanket, and you’re good to go.

Booster seats provide maximum comfort and a view for your pup. Although ours is starting to look a little worse for wear, we bought it six years ago, so they last a long time. Here’s a popular model made by Solvit (affiliate link).


The absolute safest way to transport your dog is in the back seat, confined to a hard-sided crate that you’ve secured with a seat belt. In the event of an accident, your dog will be completely protected. Place the crate in the back seat, and then thread the seat belt through the handle.

All these items, which will help keep your dog safe in the car, are available online, and you can find most of them in pet stores, too.

From Around the Web

  • aussiemommie

    I agree completely with using a soft-structured harness while traveling; using collars is so widespread we rarely think about harnesses.

    Anything you can do to secure your pet and keep him from disturbing your driving is step in the right direction. They prevent your dog from suddenly jumping out of the car before you’re ready, too.

    Kurgo makes a great zip-line and harness combo. This item (or any harness attached to a seat belt) prevents your dog from jumping out of the car before you’re ready. Pair it with their soft car seat barrier for extra safety.

    Crates offer the ultimate protection. More pet owners are likely to use a crate that is easy, portable and folds to store. These are the soft crates. They are made of sturdy nylon cordura, have mesh windows, zippered doors and other features. They fit on a seat or in your cargo area.