If you’ve ever tried to drive a car while your dog skids around the back seat or tries to climb into your lap, then you know how harrowing it can be with a dog that’s not strapped in. “You can’t ignore the fact that our dogs are distracting. And when driving is involved, their distractions can be downright dangerous. That’s why it is so important to keep your dog secured in their seat,” says Samantha Schwab, resident pet expert at Chewy. “Dogs are like children,” says David Lang, owner of the New York City–based pet-transportation company Pet Chauffeur. And just as you wouldn’t put your child in the car without the proper safety gear, you shouldn’t put your dog in the car without it either, he says. We talked to trainers, pet experts, and a pet chauffeur to find the best car seats for keeping your dog comfortable, secure, and, of course, safe during drives.
Best dog harness
First things first: Regardless of the car seat, a harness is the most effective way to ensure that your dog remains safe in the car. But not all harnesses are created equal. According to Nicole Ellis, Rover’s dog-training and product expert, “A well-designed pet-restraint system needs to absorb the kinetic energy of a pet in an accident while controlling rotation and keeping the pet from leaving the seat and accelerating forward.”
Ellis recommends the Sleepypod Clickit Sport, which she uses on her Cavapoochon, Rossi, because it has been tested and approved by the Center for Pet Safety, a third-party company that does dog-equipment crash tests at 30 mph. The vest’s three-point design evenly distributes force throughout the dog’s torso and minimizes movement, decreasing damage in the event of an accident. The seat belt is secured through the straps and allows a dog to lie down and sit up comfortably. While many pet parents attach a tether to the harness, Ellis strongly cautions against it: Because a tether can act as a slingshot in the event of a collision, it’s more dangerous than if the dog had nothing on at all, she explains.
Best dog car seats for small-to-medium-size dogs
“In a car collision or a hard-braking stop, an unrestrained pet can become a projectile,” Ellis explains. “This can lead to them injuring themselves and people in the car.” She recommends the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed if your main concern is keeping your pet safe during an accident, because Sleepypod “crash-tests its pet safety restraints at U.S., Canadian, and European child-safety-seat standards.” It can fit pets up to 15 pounds, and its versatile three-in-one design (it’s a pet bed, car seat, and carrier) makes traveling a breeze. It comes in a variety of colors, including baby blue, pink, red, and white.
“For small dogs who prefer not to be in an enclosed space and are more calm, I recommend PupSaver,” says Sarah Fraser, co-founder and co-CEO of Instinct Dog Behavior & Training, who notes that the PupSaver has been independently crash-tested and can easily clip to your dog’s harness. Similar to an infant car seat, the PupSaver has a rear-facing design and acts like a giant catcher’s mitt to cradle and cushion your dog during an accident. The car seat is suitable for breeds who weigh up to 30 pounds.
Two of our experts recommended the Snoozer Car Seat for smaller, more anxious dogs. “It helps create a cozy bed-type environment and is ideal for dogs who move around a lot in the back of the car,” says Fraser. Schwab also recommends the Snoozer for dogs who dislike traveling. “The seat is made of a foam form, and the interior is lined with a warm and cozy simulated lamb’s wool, so your dog will feel pleasantly snuggled during your car ride,” she says.
Best dog car seat for medium-to-large dogs
“This microsuede car seat is basically like a mini couch for your dog, allowing it to sprawl out comfortably and snuggle in the cushions,” says Schwab. “There’s even a hidden compartment where you can store your pet’s things.” The car seat comes in small, medium, and large sizes to accommodate a variety of breeds.
Best booster car seats for dogs
Booster seats are an excellent choice for dogs that enjoy looking out the window during rides. “This booster seat is perfect for dogs who like to get dirty; it’s made with durable ripstop material to prevent tears, and the interior is machine washable for an easy clean,” says Schwab. While this booster can hook over the front or the back seat, Lang stresses that dogs should never sit up front because a car’s airbags can seriously injure them.
Schwab recommends Kurgo’s Skybox booster seat because it “elevates small pets high enough so they can see what’s going on around them.” This can relieve anxiety and offer a more relaxing car experience. The foam filling, microsuede cover, and removable plush pillow ensure that your pet is super-cozy during long drives.
Best car hammock for large dogs
“For large dogs, I recommend a hammock seat, as it’s easy to clean, water-resistant, quilted for comfort, and easy to install,” says Fraser. “It also turns the entire back seat of the car into a giant bed.” The hammock not only protects your car seats from dirt and hair but also protects your dog, keeping it from putting its front legs unsafely down on the floor of the car and from poking its head into the front-seat area, distracting the driver, Fraser says.
Best two-in-one dog car seat and carrier
“My dog and I travel a great deal together and crisscross the country by plane and by car,” says Ellis, who recommends the Sleepypod Air. The two-in-one car seat and carrier allows you to take your dog from the car to the plane seamlessly and safely. This TSA-approved carrier can expand to offer your pet more room and has mesh panels so your dog can see what’s going on. Plus, it features a comfortable padded, adjustable shoulder strap and trolley pocket.
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