Why You Need to Restrain Your Dog in the Car

Why You Need to Restrain Your Dog in the Car

Posted by Jen Sotolongo on 19th Nov 2019

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.

Kurgo began after co-founder Kitter Spater had one too many close calls with his dog Zelda. She had a tendency 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 that first product, Kurgo has gone on to develop several more products aimed at keeping dogs safe during car rides.

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 likely means death for your pup.

In addition to the threat of death in a potential car accident, 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 10 respondents (29%) admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving.

Sixty-five percent acknowledged engaging in at least one potentially dangerous activity with their dog while behind the wheel, such as:

  • Petting their dog
  • Using their arm to prevent their dog from climbing from the back to front seat
  • Holding their dog in place during a hard brake
  • Reaching into the backseat to interact with their dog
  • Permitting their dog to sit on their lap while driving
  • Giving food or treats to their dog
  • Taking a photo of 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
  • New Jersey

Dog Car Harness Options for Safety from Kurgo

Kurgo has spent many years designing and perfecting dog car harnesses and has two models that are crash tested for dogs up to 75 lbs using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems.

The great thing about purchasing a product from Kurgo is that they come with a lifetime guarantee. 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 Harness

Designed based off of rock climbing harnesses for ultimate strength and safety, the Kurgo Tru Fit harness has five points of adjustment for an optimal fit. Its padded chest plate also adds comfort.

It attaches using a carabiner system that makes it easy to secure your pup.

Other features include:

  • Crash tested for dogs up to 75 lbs
  • 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 105 lbs, 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 need for additional attachments
  • Leash attachment on back of harness

You can see crash test videos here.

Putting on a Dog Car Seat Belt 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 was 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 are meant to keep your dog restrained rather than secured. What is the 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.

Restricted uses 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 restrained in some way.

While both prevent distracted driving, a secure setup keeps them safer, whereas a restricted model gives them more freedom, but doesn’t provide the same safety.

Secured Restraints for Smaller Dogs

Smaller dogs miss out on the views that larger dogs get to see. Kurgo makes a series of booster seats that give little dogs a leg up while keeping them securely in place. Used with one of the harnesses mentioned in this article, your dog will be secure in the car. 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 30 lbs, 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 cozy spot for them to watch the world pass by. Made for dogs up to 30 lbs, 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

Similar to 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.