Are Dog Car Seats Safe?

Should you use a car seat for your dog? Are they even safe?

Or is your dog better off just sitting in the car without any restraints?

Firstly, it’s going to depend on the size of your dog. Dog car seats are a relatively new thing, but they’re not made for large dog breeds.

Small dogs in car are vulnerable to falling down between seats or even getting into the front and causing a major hazard to the driver.

While big dogs can also be at risk of unsafe movement in the car, there are other accessories available more suitable for their size.

In this article I want to focus solely on car seats for dogs and more specifically – the safety of dog car seats for small and medium sized dogs.

Different styles of dog car seats
There’s not just one style of auto seats for dogs. Some actually look more like seats, while others are designed as a carrier bag with attachments for securing the bag with your dog in it safely inside your vehicle.

Carrier Bag Style Dog Car Seat
Essentially a carry bag with a strong harness system attached to secure it in your car.

A good example is the the Outward Hound dog car seat bag. The advantage to this of course is that, unlike the booster seats below, you can simply detach the bag when you’re at your destination and use it as a regular carry bag.

Dog Car Booster Seats
These seats are much more chair like and are designed to elevate your dog so he can more easily see out the window. I really like these bucket seat designs. A good booster seat for a dog is very comfortable.

The comfort and snugness actually encourages dogs to want to stay put in the seat rather than fidget and try and move about the vehicle.

My favorite is the K&H bucket booster seat. This seat has human level comfort. Your dog will be more comfortable in this booster seat than you are in the driver’s seat.

It can be used out of the car too as a regular piece of dog furniture in the house. In fact that’s the best way to get your dog used to it.

Because I do a lot of car travel with my dogs, I have one each for them in the house that they can use whenever, and another that stays in the car almost permanently.

So what about the safety aspects of dog booster seats like this?

Good quality and well made dog car boosters will be securely attached through the seat belt with a heavy duty strap and attachments.

These seats are also often marketed for cats. Personally I strongly recommend not having any cat unrestrained in the car whether in one of these seats or not. How many cats are going to sit in a dog booster seat and not move? Very few.

Cats are much more agile than most dogs and quite simply it’s a major safety hazard both for you or the driver, and your cat to not place your cat in a carrier in the car. Dog booster seats are excellent for car travel for small and medium dogs, but I do not recommend using them for cats.

How safe are dog car seats?
Just like human baby car seats, dog vehicle seats are going to be as safe as their design and quality allows. But unlike car seats for human infants, there are no laws, regulations or standards that manufacturers have to meet. No one is going to go to court if a canine car seat breaks or your dog falls out of it while your vehicle is moving.

This means you can’t assume every single vehicle dog seat being sold is safe. It’s up to us to look for quality.

Anyone can make a car seat for dogs and not all will be of a quality that makes me comfortable and confident in using them.

The good news is that there are some well made products which I AM confident in using because it’s obvious that a lot of time has gone into not only the design and comfort, but each aspect of the seat that contributes to its safety and stability in the car.

When an auto seat for dogs is well made to a high manufacturing standard, and used according to the directions with an appropriate sized dog, it is a safe accessory and one that you can start to wonder how you went without for so long.

Safety of using a dog car seat vs no restraints
Having your dog unrestrained in your car is perfectly legal and most of us go this route whether it’s packing up for a trip to the beach or dog park, or heading to the vet. It’s just fast and easy.

But there’s no doubt there are risks to having an unrestrained dog or dogs in your vehicle. Just as humans without a seat belt are at risk of injury, so to are dogs who are unrestrained in the back or front seat.

But unlike us humans with our seat belts on, it doesn’t take an accident or a sudden violent slamming of the brakes to put an unrestrained dog at risk in the car.

Sharp turns and even just mild braking can have your dog moving about the car involuntarily. This risks injury to your dog, along with risks to driver safety.

Over excited dogs who are not well trained to be in a vehicle can inadvertently find themselves trying to get to the driver – and we don’t really need to explain the risks involved in that happening.

So are dog car seats safe?

Yes – as long as you buy a good quality one, secure it properly according to the directions, and don’t overload it with a dog larger than it’s designed to carry.



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