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Best Dog Harnesses for Car Travel: Crash-Tested & Safety Certified!

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Dog Safety By Ben Team 12 min read September 6, 2019 27 Comments

car harness for dogs

Many dogs love riding in cars, as it gives them a chance to check out the scenery, enjoy novel odors, and bark at the motorists in adjacent lanes!

Owners often love having a canine co-pilot too, so you’ll see plenty of pooches riding down the street on any given day.

But while car rides are usually fun for dogs and their drivers, few people understand that four-legged passengers can make driving much more dangerous than normal (and, let’s face it – driving is pretty hazardous in even the best of circumstances).

In fact, dogs not only raise your risk of having an accident, they can make accidents more dangerous too.

Fortunately, there are ways you can help mitigate these dangers and keep your beloved bestie safe when riding around town.

Crash-tested car crates and dog car seats (which are more for canine comfort than actual safety)  are both good solutions, but today, we’ll discuss harnesses designed to keep your pup safe during car trips.

Quick Picks For Safest Dog Car Harness

No time to read the full article? Here are our top picks. Keep reading for more details!

 Pick #1: Sleepypod Clickit Safety Harness

 Pick #2: Sleepypod Terrain Harness

 Pick #3: ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack

Understanding the Danger For Dogs in Cars

Driving or riding in a car is a dangerous practice in any situation, and it is probably the most dangerous activity in which most people engage on a regular basis. But adding a furry four-footer to the mix makes you more likely to have an accident, primarily because dogs have a tendency to distract drivers.

In fact, 65% of drivers in one survey, who bring their dogs along in the car admit to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity – and that’s only the ones who admit it! Many others probably become distracted without having the courage to admit it.

These types of distractions can occur if your dog simply moves around while the car is in motion, or if you pet her or give her a treat. And because taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds doubles your risk for having an accident, this is a serious problem, which must be avoided as much as is possible.

But dogs aren’t just a distraction that increases the chances that you’ll have an accident – they can also cause additional damage and injuries if you are in a fender bender. That’s because unrestrained dogs may fly through the cab of your car or truck if you are in a wreck.

In a best-case scenario, your dog will only slam into you and give you a few bruises; but in a worst-case scenario, your dog may crash into you with enough force to cause serious bodily harm. Even a 10-pound dog will create 500 pounds of force in a 50-mile-per-hour accident. Big dogs are even more dangerous: An 80-pound dog in a 30-mile-per-hour crash can impart 2,400 pounds of force.

unrestrained-dog-collision

These types of forces can certainly injure you, and they’ll likely hurt your dog badly too. But, it is also possible that your dog will hit a window instead of you. This could effectively launch them from the vehicle, which will certainly lead to catastrophic injuries.

dog car harness

Crash-Testing Facts and Misconceptions

Unfortunately, a lot of car harness manufacturers use deceptive marketing practices when advertising their products. This can lull you into a false sense of security and give you the impression that your dog is safer than you think she is.

For example, many manufacturers label their harnesses as having been crash tested. However, this does not mean they passed such tests – only that they were put through the testing procedure (I know, crazy, right?). Instead, you’ll want to find a harness that specifically is labeled as having passed crash test studies.

Other manufacturers may get their harness to pass a crash test, but the test was performed by their own employees or subsidiary – this is hardly a way to get accurate or non-biased results. These types of studies are rarely published in detail, so it is impossible to determine if they were valid studies or not.

Instead, you want a harness that has been tested by a 3rd party group, and has passed the test – hopefully with flying colors. Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) conducts exactly these types of tests and publishes their testing protocols and results so that pet owners can make informed choices.

Currently, there are only three car harnesses that have been crash test certified by the CPS, which we detail and analyze below.

Things to Look for in a Good Car Harness

Aside from being crash-test certified by the CPS, you’ll want to look for a few additional characteristics and features when selecting a good dog harness for your car. Some of the most important considerations include:

  • Look for harnesses that are easy to adjust. A proper fit is imperative for safety, so you want to select a harness that provides several different places for adjustment. This will help ensure your dog fits well in the harness, no matter her size and shape. This is especially important for thin, lanky breeds, such as greyhounds and a few others.
  • Look for harnesses that have dual functionality. Some of the best car harnesses are easy to take out of the car, allowing them to be used as a normal harness. This makes it much easier to get your dog strapped in, especially if you must let her hop in and out several times over the course of a single trip.
  • Look for harnesses that have comfortable, wide straps. Although safety is the most important aspect of a car harness, you’ll also want to make sure it fits your dog comfortably and doesn’t cause discomfort. Wide straps help spread out the forces on your dog and provide a much more comfortable fit than narrow straps do.
  • Look for harnesses that are available in the appropriate sizes. Unfortunately, some of the best car harnesses for dogs are only made in sizes suitable for small dogs. Big dogs are at just as much risk of injury during an accident (and, as explained previously, they represent more of a danger to you), so a good harness is just as important for them as it is their smaller counterparts.

Buckle Your Dog Up: It’s the Law (In Some Places)

In some states it’s actually against the law to have an unrestrained dog in your car.

States that have laws stating that your dog must wear a canine-specific retains in a vehicle:

  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii (which also specifically forbids drivers from having a dog in their lap).

Hawaii actually forbids drivers from having a dog on their lap. Several other states have regulations regarding unrestrained pets in truck beds.

Where Should Your Dog Ride In The Car?

In many ways, you’ll want to treat your dog like you would a baby or small child. This means not only using an appropriate harness but also making sure that they ride in the safest part of the car. Generally, this means the back seat.

The back seat of a car provides the most protection for your dog, as she’ll be contained between and shielded by both rows of seats. Additionally, by being secured in the back seat, you can prevent your dog from crawling around the cab and distracting you.

By contrast, the rear cargo portion of most SUVs is a crumple zone, which is specifically designed to deform in the case of an accident. This makes the cargo area a very bad place to allow your dog to ride. The front seat is also problematic, as your dog is not shielded from the windshield, and airbags can often injure dogs when they deploy – especially small dogs.

car crumple zone

So, be sure to strap your dog in with a good harness, and have her ride in the backseat to keep you both as safe as possible.

Best Dog Harnesses for Car Travel

If you drive with your dog frequently, you’ll want to select a good car harness, which has been crash-test certified and provides all of the things you’d want in a harness.

The following three are the best available options and the only harnesses that have been crash-test certified by the CPS. These are the safest car harnesses out there!

1. ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack

zugo-rocketeer-car-carrier

About: The ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack is a complete car harness kit, which is designed to keep your dog safe, secure, and comfortable while riding in your automobile.

What’s really cool and unique about this harness is that you can take it with you upon reaching your destination and use it as a wearable dog-carrier.

Sure, it looks a bit strange, but don’t worry – your dog is comfy and safe! In fact, the ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack passed two different crash-safety tests and obtained a perfect, 5-star score in each. It’s vet-approved too!

Make sure to measure your dog carefully for the best fit – a poor fitting harness is basically useless in a crash, as your dog could slip right out!

Price: $$$$
Our Rating:

Features:

  • Secures your dog in an “upright” orientation for maximum safety and security
  • High-quality metal buckles are easy to operate, yet strong enough to keep your dog safe
  • Available in five sizes, including extra-small, small, medium, large, and extra-large

PROS: The four-point restraint design of the Rocketeer helps prevent your dog from moving around on car trips and keeps her from moving very much in the car. Even with all that security, this harness is still quite comfortable for most dogs, and it seems to fit a variety of breeds well.

CONS: Unfortunately, the ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack is only certified for dogs weighing less than 25 pounds, so it isn’t a good choice for those who own big dogs.

2. Sleepypod Clickit Sport Utility Safety Harness

About: The Sleepypod Clickit Safety Harness uses a minimalist, yet effective design to keep your dog safe during road trips.

Details

  • 3 points of automobile seatbelt contact
  • Wide supportive vest distributes and disperses damaging forces
  • Ballistic nylon exterior construction and automotive grade seatbelt webbing
  • Please Note: This harness is not suited for Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, Afghan Hounds, and Borzos

Specifically designed to spread and distribute potentially dangerous forces across your dog’s body, this harness is especially wide, which helps keep your dog comfortable while traveling.

The Sport Utility is one of the few crash-test-certified car harnesses available in a variety of colors. It can also function as a walking harness, thanks to the included D-ring on the back of the neck.

Sleepypod also manufactures one of the few crash-test-certified dog car crates as well, so they really know their stuff when it comes to keeping your fur baby safe.

Features:

  • Automotive-grade seatbelt webbing and ballistic nylon exterior
  • Manufactured in four colors, including Jet Black, Orange Dream, Robin Egg Blue, and Strawberry Red
  • Available in four sizes, including small, medium, large, and extra-large

PROS

The Sleepypod Clickit Sport is a sleek and safe car harness, which is designed to keep your dog comfortable while keeping her secure. Like most other Sleepypod car harnesses, the Sport Utility Harness is designed to spread out the forces of a car accident across your dog’s entire torso, thereby helping to prevent injuries.

CONS

There aren’t many problems with this harness, but a few owners who tried out the Sleepypod Sport Utility Harness complained that it didn’t stay in place and bunched around their dog’s legs. However, these complaints were uncommon and might be due in part to improper fitting adjustments or involve the build of certain lanky dogs.

3. Sleepypod Clickit Terrain Safety Harness

About: The Terrain Safety Harness is another car harness made by Sleepypod. Built with all of the high-end features you’d want in a safety harness; the Terrain helps keep your dog secure and comfortable while riding in the backseat of your car.

Details

  • Crash tested for use as a car seat belt. Three-point design for use in rear passenger seat secures a...
  • Strength tested for use as a walking harness
  • Quick connection and release when used as a car seat belt
  • Rear reflective patches for night visibility can be interchanged for service patches or custom...

Features:

  • Three-point restraint securely grips your dog’s torso
  • Shock-absorbing webbing sleeves reduce the chances your dog will suffer an injury
  • Available in four sizes, including small, medium, large, and extra-large

PROS

One of the best things about the Sleepypod Clickit Terrain is its padded, energy-absorbing vest, but it also has a number of other valuable features, including high-strength metal buckles and quick-release connectors. Also, unlike some car harnesses, the can also be used to walk your dog too (it has been specifically tested for adequate strength for this application by the manufacturer).

CONS

There aren’t many downsides to the Sleepypod Clickit Terrain, but – like Sleepypod’s other harnesses – it doesn’t seem to work very well with greyhounds, whippets, and breeds with a similar, long-and-lean build.

Whether Crate or Restraint, Secure Your Pup is the Safest Bet

Restraint harnesses aren’t the only methods for securing your dog. Dog hammocks, booster seats, cage barriers, and car crates are all additional methods of restraining your dog in the car.

However, it’s worth noting that only harnesses and car crates have been evaluated with any kind of crash test from the Center for Pet Safety.

Most of these restraint methods are only going to be worthwhile for preventing distraction – not keeping your pet safe in the event of a crash (although distraction prevention can certainly go a long way in preventing car accidents).

Do you have a good car harness for your dog? We’d love to hear about the model you use and your experiences with it. We’d also love to know how strict our readers are about strapping their dog in when riding around.

My Rottie loves riding in the car, and she goes with her pa 90% of the time we leave the house. And while she normally rides in the back seat of our truck while wearing a car harness, I’ll occasionally let her jump in our Wrangler and ride with me up front with the top down. I don’t let her ride like this often, and I still keep her strapped in while doing so, but it is obviously not as safe as the backseat of our truck.

Point being, nobody is perfect and we all make decisions in the real world. So, don’t fear judgment – tell us about how you and your pooch ride around.

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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27 Comments

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Kim

You listed certain breeds that two of the harnesses do not work well for. Would this also include a Belgian malinois ?

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Love My Fur Babies

I was hoping for a review that was not slanted toward just one product and one seller.

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Ben Team

Not much we could do about that! There are only so many harnesses (especially crash-tested models) on the market.
But thanks for checking out the site!

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karrn allen

my dog keeps unbuckling the seatbelt. Are there safe alteratives that attach to the headrest?

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Ben Team

Hey, Karrn.
You may want to check out Kurgo’s Zipline Tether System. It may be a helpful workaround for your pooch.
Best of luck!

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Mike Forney

I’ve used the Big Dog Seat Belt on my 80 lb Golden Retriever for 2 years. He runs, walks, and swims in it. I feel he is very safe riding in the front seat (air bag switched off) of my single cab truck. Very satisfied. Check it out.
https://bigdogseatbeltcompany.com/

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Ben Team

Thanks for the tip, Mike.
We’ll check it out.

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Phyllis A. Wilks

I have a dachshund. He is 17 lbs and very hard to find a harness that fits him well due to his girth.
They are either to small or too big.

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Matt Sailors

We have had excellent results with the Champion Canine Seatbelt System with our basset hounds (50-65 pounds). We have used these products for more than 10 years and have had no problems with the products and no injuries to our dogs. USA K9 Outfitters offer a number of different sizes and their system also includes straps and links to hook your canine friend into the seatbelts or other secured points.
They also have an even larger size for 80 – 200 pound dogs.

http://usak9outfitters.com/CCSS.htm

I am in no way affiliated with the manufacturer or any retailer of this product.

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Ben Team

Thanks for the info, Matt! We’ll check ’em out!

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Jenifer

What did you do to my home state of Michigan on your map?!

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Ben Team

It would appear that Michigan was involved in some sort of terrible Photoshop accident. We meant no offense and apologize to the entire Wolverine State.
😉

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Emily

I think something that may be worthy to note; very few crash tests have actually been done. The Center for Pet Safety did this single study way back in 2013. While I don’t necessarily question the safety of the products listed, I do question the relevance of the Center for Pets Safety. In the last 6 years there have been many changes in the industry; new products have been designed and companies that failed to pass in 2013 have since made many changes and advancements. For this reason, I do not trust the results since there is no accurate comparison of products that are listed on the market today. I do not think consumers can look to the Center for Pet Safety for any up-to-date information for car safety.

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Gill Key

I volunteer as a Pet Adviser for the Dachshund Breed Council and I am horrified that the Rocketeer is being recommended for all breeds of small dogs. Dachshunds are known to be the breed at the highest risk for intervertebral disc disease, with up to 25% affected at some point in their lives. Sitting upright like that for extended periods of time is highly likely to put significant additional pressure on their discs and increase the odds of them being affected. So whilst it might be one of the safest harnesses in a crash, the odds of such an event are way, way lower than the risk that such a harness will increase the chances of a back condition that may cause intense pain, paralysis and even death.

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Patricia Downey-Eagan

I have a 60 lb medical service dog who needs to be in front seat. I am looking for options for restraint device that still allows him to do his job.

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Julie Davidson

Regarding greyhounds and slender breeds, the safest thing to do is use a crash tested travel crate. Crash tested products can be found here https://www.centerforpetsafety.org/cps-certified/

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Meg Marrs

Hey Julie – all the harnesses we detail here are crash tested by the CPS (Center for Pet Safety), which is the group you are linking to! We only selected harnesses that were crash tested by the trusted CPS.

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Casey

Good info. Only problem is I have a greyhound. Any recommendations for her- she runs between 58-60lbs.

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Ben Team

Hey, Casey.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any great options for greyhounds (and other lanky breeds) on the market at the moment. At least, none that we could find that were crash-test certified.

So, I’d recommend just going with one of the non-crash-tested options until somebody starts addressing this gap in the marketplace. Just make sure to have your pooch ride in the back seat and drive carefully in the interim.

The Pawaboo Harness looks to be pretty good for a non-crash-tested product, and there were a few photos posted by owners of skinny dogs with pseudo-greyhound builds.

Let us know how it works out! Sorry there isn’t a better option!

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William

ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack is not crash tested as you state in the article . Their website clearly state it isn’t a safety device, (under faq)

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Ben Team

Hey, William.
The Rocketeer Pack is crash tested — the Jetsetter (a different product) is the one that is not intended as a safety device.
Kudos for looking out for your pooch though!

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Donna Fish

I ordered a Sleepypod for my small schnauzer and could not get it small enough to fit her. I ordered a small but apparently needed x-small which they don’t make. Any recommendations?

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Becky Ludy

I am looking for a car harness for my daughter’s dog. Do the harnesses you recommend allow him to sit up and lay down while traveling?

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Martin E.C. Rother

Looked at a lot of harnesses. Which one would be best for a husky.

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Meg Marrs

If you want one that will actually keep your dog safe in the car, it really has to be one of the harnesses listed here. If you’re just looking for walking harness, that’s a different situation (and we’d probably say go with something from Ruffwear).

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Cynthia Lauer

Thanks for the good info. If you make another video though, please be sure the background music is off d/t it is very distracting and makes it hard to hear you.

Reply
Dan

I have the Zugopet, And We love it!

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