What’s more joyful than the sight of a dog hanging his head out of a car window? Tongue lolling and eyes squinting against the breeze, Fido is in a paradise of sights and smells.
These days, people want to make sure their furry best friend is as safe in the car as he is happy. In-car restraints for dogs are becoming popular as safety awareness grows in importance, but do they work?
The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) partnered up with Subaru to find out. The results of their inquiry suggest that we have a long way to go to guarantee a safe ride for Fido.
Safety standards for traveling pups
In a mere 30-mph collision, a 60-pound dog can turn into a 2700-pound projectile. Several international campaigns are bringing increased attention to canine car safety, and many dog owners are turning to third-party harnesses to secure their dog while traveling.
Unfortunately, there are no regulated safety standards for such harnesses. Most companies use child safety seat guidelines for their products, but few have the resources to perform extensive testing.
Crash test dummies for dogs?
CPS and Subaru proposed to test 11 car harnesses for dogs. In the first round, they tested the harnesses to see if they were strong enough to hold up during a crash at all. Only seven harnesses were strong enough to move on to the second round.
Round two was a basic crash test. They used dummies that mimicked a 25-pound terrier mix, a 45-pound Border Collie, and a 75-pound Golden Retriever. They put the dummy dogs through a standard 30-mph crash and used the same guidelines applied to child safety seats to interpret the results.
The results? A drumroll please …
Out of seven harnesses, six had major design or construction flaws or underwent what researchers called “catastrophic failures.” With those six, either the dog, the driver, or both would likely suffer injury in the case of a crash.
The remaining harness, the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility, was the top (and only full adequate) performer. While it aced all the study’s tests, it fails the unofficial consumer friendliness test.
Online reviews are mixed, with many reporting it’s difficult to get on and off, does not fit all dogs properly, and doesn’t have the best customer support to back it up. Manufacturers still have a long way to go before they perfect a design.
What you can do
These results don’t have to spell the end of adventuring with your dog. A few brands are altering their harness design based on the test results. Sleepypod has commissioned CPS to do further testing as it tweaks the product.
You can also secure a padded crate to your back seat or cargo area. While not at good as a perfect harness, it’s better for your animal than no restraint at all.
As the demand for safer canine restraints rises, we’re certain to see better safety options in after-market restraints and perhaps even in cars themselves. Traveling with your dog could become relatively worry-free in the near future.