Why You Need to Restrain Your Dog in the Car

Posted by Jen Sotolongo on 21/05/2020

When we get into our cars, we buckle our seat belts without a thought. Do we do the same for our dogs?

Kurgo began designing dog safety products after co-founder Kitter Spater had one too many close calls with his dog Zelda. She tended to jump up into the front seat, get in Kitter's way, and cause distractions while he was driving. He knew this was dangerous and set out to create what eventually became the Backseat Barrier. Since then, Kurgo has gone on to develop several more products aimed at keeping dogs safe in the car.

According to the pet safety advocacy group Bark Buckle UP, a 60-pound pet traveling in a car going 35 mph becomes a 2,700-pound projectile. Unrestrained, this could be fatal for a dog.

Unrestrained pets can also pose a variety of problems post-crash, including:

  • Biting first responders
  • Prohibiting first responders from attending to the human
  • Escaping from a broken window and causing a second accident or getting lost 

A pet roaming free in the car can also be the cause of the accident. Kurgo and AAA conducted a pet passenger survey that revealed that three in ten respondents (29%) admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving. 65% also acknowledged engaging in at least one potentially dangerous activity with their dog while behind the wheel, such as petting their dog, taking a photo of their dog, or giving food/treats to their dog.

“Click It or Ticket” isn’t just for humans anymore. The following states fine drivers for unrestricted dogs and more are following suit: Oregon, California, Arizona, Maine, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Dog Car Harness Options for Safety from Kurgo

Kurgo has spent many years designing and perfecting two kinds of dog car harnesses that are crash tested for dogs up to 75lbs using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems. These harnesses, as well as all other Kurgo products, are also backed by a lifetime warranty. If at any point the product does not function as a result of a manufacturing defect, they will replace the item free of charge.

Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness

Designed based off rock-climbing harnesses for ultimate strength and safety, the Enhanced Strength Tru-fit Smart Harness has five points of adjustment for an optimal fit. It attaches using a carabiner system that makes it easy to secure your pup, and it has a padded chest plate for comfort.

Other features include:

  • Crash tested for dogs up to 75lbs
  • Steel nested buckles and hardware
  • Leash attachments on front and back means double duty as a walking harness
  • Includes 10” seat belt attachment with carabiner
  • Machine washable
  • Compatible with any seat belt system

See crash test videos here.

Impact Dog Car Harness

The Impact Dog Car Harness underwent eight years of product testing to develop a comfortable harness that keeps dogs safe in the car. Designed to restrain dogs up to 105lbs, Kurgo is still awaiting updated crash tests for the XL size. Once completed, the results and video will be posted on their site.

Features include:

  • Steel nesting buckles and hardware
  • A single piece of 4,000-pound tubular webbing
  • Full integration with your car seat belt without additional attachments
  • Leash attachment on back of harness

You can see crash test videos here.

How to put on a Crash Tested Harness

Both the Tru-Fit and the Impact harnesses are simple to use.

First, loosen the straps and then slide over your dog’s head with the chest plate in front. Next, tighten until you have a snug fit, but not one that is too tight. You should be able to easily slide two fingers between the straps and your dog’s body. The Tru-Fit harness can be secured two different ways. Check out the helpful videos made by Kurgo to show exact steps.

Video: Tru-Fit Dog Car Harness Video: Impact Dog Car Harness

Method #1

  1. Secure the seat belt like you normally would before your dog hops in the car. 
  2. Take the carabiner and clip it around both the lap and shoulder portion of the seat belt.
  3. Have your dog hop in and clip the carabiner to the loop on the back of the harness. Do not attach it to the leash attachment.

Method #2

  1. Secure the seat belt like you normally would before your dog hops in the car.
  2. Take the looped end of the carabiner attachment and loop it around the shoulder and lap portion of the seat belt.
  3. Connect the carabiner to the loop on the back of the harness. This gives your dog a little bit of extra freedom in the car.

The Impact harness secures essentially the same way as the Tru-Fit in Method #1, only you loop the seat belt through the loops on the back of the harness before securing the buckle.

Other Dog Car Safety Options

Kurgo makes an entire line of products meant to keep your dog safe in the car. Some keep your dog restrained, and some keep your dog secured. Both prevent distracted driving, but there is a difference between the two:

Secured means using a crash-tested harness designed to keep your dog safe in the car. He has less mobility but is safer in the case of a crash.

Restrained means using a seat belt tether to keep your dog from being completely loose in the car. This means he has more freedom to move around but is still contained to the back seat.

Car Safety for Smaller Dogs

Smaller dogs miss out on the views that larger dogs get to see. Kurgo makes a series of booster seats that, when used with a crash-tested harness, give little dogs a leg up while keeping them securely in place. As with helmets or child car seats, if you are in an accident, the seat should be replaced.

Skybox Dog Booster Seat

For dogs up to 30lbs, the Skybox Booster seat allows them to see the world outside while still being secured inside the car. The Skybox collapses easily for passenger use and works in any car bucket seat.

Skybox Rear Seat Booster

For dogs who prefer to be chauffeured around in style, the Skybox Rear Booster offers a cosy spot for them to watch the world pass by. Made for dogs up to 30lbs, the Skybox Rear includes storage pockets and collapses easily when you need room. It also had a multi-purpose use as a travel bed.

Rover Dog Booster Seat

Like the Skybox Booster Seat, the Rover is an award-winning seat that attaches to any car bucket seat. It also attaches to both the front and back and includes side pockets to store a water bowl or treats.

Dog Car Restriction Products

Kurgo has created several seat belt tethers that keep your dog contained in the backseat with a product that connects directly to the female end of the seat belt. These tethers work in most cars, but do check that your car is a fit before purchase.

All of the products mentioned in this article are compatible with the Swivel Tether: Kurgo’s strongest seat belt tether. It features a carabiner used by arborists that can withstand up to 4,500 pounds of force. It connects the same as the tether included with the Tru-Fit Harness and features a screw lock to keep the carabiner in place. The swivel also allows more restless dogs to move without becoming tangled.

Jen Sotolongo is a writer and photographer and runs Long Haul Trekkers, a blog about independent, responsible travel with a pet. Over the past few years, she and her partner have taken their dogs around the globe including a cycle tour spanning across Europe and South America, proving that adventures can include your dog, no matter where in the world they may be.When we get into our cars, we buckle our safety belts without a thought. However, we don’t necessarily do the same with our dogs.