The Dogspeed Pet Taxi is fitted with a crash proof crate and we carry a couple of spare harnesses and a spare pet carrier to enable pets to travel safely and comfortably.

We can also accommodate your own crate using the passenger seat restraint or straps in the rear space.

 

But how should you transport your pet in your own vehicle, on regular trips or further afield?

As I’ve covered here, it is against the law in NSW to carry your pet in your lap or in a way that blocks your view. It’s also super distracting if they like to move around and can be dangerous – I have heard of a dog that climbed under the driver’s seat and interfered with the pedals! Even if your pet is well behaved in the car, it would be devastating if you had an accident or had to stop suddenly and your pet was badly injured or died as the result of being unrestrained.

So it’s worth thinking about how it is best to confine your pet for its own safety. The options I look at below are crates, harnesses, cargo barriers, pet carriers and hammocks.

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Crates

If your dog travels with you everywhere, a permanent soft or hard crate in the boot of your car could be a good option as you won’t need to fiddle with harnesses and attachments. You can pick one up cheaply on eBay or pay a bit more for a branded version from a pet store. If your pet travels by air occasionally, their airline approved crate can be used more regularly in the car.

To secure the crate, you can use luggage straps that are available from hardware stores. Look for something with a metal buckle – I use this one. Feed them through the metal cargo loops or child restraint fixings in your car and then around the bars of the crate, then ratchet them til they are firm. These straps are pretty strong and are unlikely to snap in a crash!

Dogspeed Pet Taxi uses the MIM Safe Variocage because it’s crash tested and can protect animals without buckling. I’m often on the motorway driving at speeds of up to 110km/h and I like to know I’m offering the best protection I can. The variocage has been tested in crash labs as well as real-life crashes. I’ll do a separate post about the crash testing and show you the videos!

[I don’t have any affiliation with this brand, but it is the best performing option that is available in Australia]

Pros: Reduces faff time when getting ready to go out; Great for wriggly dogs that can’t keep still and dogs that don’t like wearing a harness.

Cons: Can be costly, especially if crash-test certified; Reduces space in the car for other things; May need to put one in every family car

Harnesses

Harnesses are a great option for safe travel with your dog.

Crash testing of harnesses has shown that the safest harnesses have minimal plastic fittings as these are weaker. They have also shown that the shorter the distance between the dog and the seat, the better. This is so that they are not thrown as far after a sudden stop.

Currently there are three harnesses on the market that are crash test certified by the Center for Pet Safety in the US. These are:

The ZuGoPet harness is something quite novel and controversial, click the link and you will see why! Apparently an orthopedic vet has approved the set up so try it if you think your dog would let you, but I think I’ll stick with more conventional ones…

You can buy Sleepypod products at selected stores in Australia or via Amazon and ZuGoPet have an Aussie online store.

The NRMA have also conducted crash tests. The two harnesses that passed were:

The Rocketeer and Clickit Terrain harnesses were not available at the time of the NRMA tests in 2014.

There may be other harnesses available that haven’t been tested yet but would work well, so be on the look out for solid fixings, fabric and stitching and a harness that doesn’t allow your dog to move around too much.

You may have a harness specifically designed for use with a passenger seat belt, although sometimes the loop for the belt is very long. An alternative is to feed the seatbelt between the harness and the dog’s back.

If you already use a harness for walking, there are attachments to buy that join the harness to the seat belt buckle. They are adjustable so if you use one of these make it as short as possible. I have found that the cheaper seat belt clips that attach to a dog’s harness are easily pulled out without even pressing the button on the seat belt buckle. A strong dog could easily pull one apart.

Do test your harness attachment by giving them a sharp pull.

Do not use a seat belt clip and attach it to your dog’s collar. It could result in serious injury in a crash situation.

If you have a passenger air bag in your car, it’s best to avoid sitting your dog in their harness in the front passenger seat as it could result in serious injury.

Pros: Flexible – harnesses allow your dog to be safe whatever car they are in

Cons: If you are buying a crash-test certified harness they are very expensive!

Cargo Barriers

Variobarrier available from Black Hound

For very large dogs, a properly installed cargo barrier will keep them contained in a small area that is effectively the same as crating them. If you also use a harness and clip them with a carabiner to the baby seat hooks on the back of the rear seats then you are also protecting them from falling through the back window should something terrible happen. Unfortunately, a small dog can be badly injured in such a large space so it’s not really recommended for them.

Likewise the cheaper cargo barriers may not be up to withstanding a determined dog! Be sure to test your barrier for strength.

Pros: Great option for dogs that will not fit in a crate

Cons: Not suitable for small dogs; Requires a harness in addition for full protection.

Pet Carriers

Pet carriers are a good option for really small dogs and cats. Be aware that soft carriers could be squashed by a seat belt in an accident, so the best place for them is in the back footwell.

Sleepypod make a crash tested pet carrier that is their recommended option for toy breeds that are too small for their harnesses.

Pros: Good option for very small dogs and cats

Cons: Difficult to secure within the vehicle unless you buy one that is designed to fit with the seat belt.

Hammocks & Booster seats

Picture of dog in hammock

Hammocks are great for keeping your back seat clean and they stop your dog sliding off the seat into the footwell.

However in a serious crash there is still the possibility that your pet could be thrown through the front windscreen so I’d recommend using a harness as well.

Pros: Help to keep your seats clean

Cons: Don’t offer any restraint or crash protection

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I hope this helps you decide how to restrain your dog when traveling. If you have any questions then let me know!

How to travel safely with your dog – in vehicle restraints
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