Though dogs do look adorable with their ears flapping out car windows like streamers, it's in everyone's best interest that you keep your pup buckled up. According to the American Automobile Association, unrestrained dogs in a car can be just as distracting as using a cell phone, not to mention the fact that your dog can become a flying object in a car accident, possibly injuring you, other passengers or himself. Luckily, there are plenty of options to safely restrain your dog in a vehicle so that you can travel together. Just make sure he's secured in the backseat, away from the airbags, regardless of which restraint you select. Here are five to consider:
5: Guards and Screens
Barriers like metal guards or gates aren't really safety restraints and don't provide the sort of protection your small dog would need in case of a sudden stop or car accident. But if you have an SUV, they are good for providing additional protection to your dog from any objects in the rear of the vehicle that might fly forward during a collision.
Another barrier we recommend are pet nets, which are made to work as screens for car windows. If your tiny tail-wagger loves the wind in his face, this screen attaches easily to the inside of a car window -- still allowing it to roll up and down -- so that your little one can enjoy a carefree car ride without your having to worry about flying debris.
4: Crates (Hard)
Small crates are good for transporting a nervous Nelly to the veterinarian, or for long road trips when you want to give your dog more freedom to move around than some other restraint options provide. Crates can also feel like a safe haven for toy breeds that might be overwhelmed by a large car interior. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends a crate where your dog can easily sit, stand, turn around and stretch out, so take your little tyke with you to the pet store and let him give it a test run before purchasing. Don't forget to fasten the crate into the backseat with a seatbelt. It's also a good idea to put a cushion inside the crate as extra padding to soften any bumps in the road.
Harnesses work well for dogs that like lots of space to shift around during car rides, and are the best choice for substantial small dogs like the Shetland sheepdog or Welsh corgi. These safety straps work just like a harness you'd use for walking your pup, fitting across his chest, under his front legs and fastening around his back. However, you must make sure you purchase a harness especially meant for buckling into a vehicle because it needs to be properly secured using the seatbelt. Once your dog has been snapped in, he will still be able to lie down, sit and stand in the backseat to observe as much (or as little) of the action around him as he wants.
2: Travel Carriers (Soft)
If you already use a trendy travel bag to tote your pup around town, then he might prefer riding in a soft travel carrier. However, not all soft pet transporters are created equal. Your dog might look chic in a designer doggie bag while you shop for shoes, but those carriers usually offer little protection in a car crash because of their soft nature. Instead, look for a carrier that has enough structure to hold up against an impact. Some manufacturers offer bags that are soft on the sides but hard on the top and bottom -- these hold up and provide an additional layer of protection from any sudden movements. Make sure any carrier you pick is well-ventilated with mesh openings, and always keep it closed so that the dog won't fall out or jump out during an accident.
1: Dog Booster Seats
Booster seats are made for small dogs, and are ideal for toy breeds and other dogs weighing less than 20 lbs (9 kg). These cushiony, basket-like seats lift your little dog up so that he can easily see out the windows and up front to his loyal chauffeur. Some booster seats hang over the headrest while others are placed on the seat. Both versions utilize the seatbelt for extra security, and your dog must still be harnessed inside of the booster seat for maximum protection on the road.
Regardless of which restraint you use, always remember to secure your dog in the backseat and keep him on a leash as you enter or exit the vehicle to ensure many happy trails to come.