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. So, you have to keep safety in mind!
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 when riding in the car with your dog, but today, we’ll discuss harnesses designed to keep your pup safe during car trips.
No time to read the full article? Here are our top picks!
Best Dog Harnesses for Car Travel: Quick Picks
- #1 ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack [Best Overall Dog Harness for Car Travel]: Featuring a four-point restraint system and an “upright” orientation, this crash-tested harness is our clear favorite.
- #2 Sleepypod Clickit Sport Utility Safety Harness [Best Dog Harness for Car Travel – Runner Up]: A very reasonable alternative to the Rocketeer Pack, the Clickit Sport is an effective harness that’s also available in several colors.
- #3 Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Dog Harness [Most Affordable Dog Harness for Car Travel]: Though it hasn’t been tested by the CPS, this affordable harness may be a good choice for owners with limited budgets.
Crash-Testing Car Harnesses: Fact and Fiction
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.
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 a subsidiary – hardly a way to get 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 third-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.
However, we’ve also found two other harnesses that have been put through testing protocols we’re at least partially comfortable with. Neither was tested by the CPS, but we believe they still warrant inclusion.
One manufacturer had a university conduct the tests, and we’d generally consider it a safe option. The other only utilized their own testing protocol, so we’re a little less confident about that one. However, budget-limited owners may not have many other options, so we’ve included it anyway.
After all, just about any dog harness for car travel is better than no harness for car travel.
We certainly hold those that’ve been through CPS’s testing protocol to the others, but we wanted to be able to share several options with our readers. It is up to individual pet owners to weigh the various crash-testing procedures employed and make the best possible decision on behalf of their pets.
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
ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack
A crash-tested, “upright” dog car harness system that doubles as a dog carrier once you arrive at your destination.
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.
The really nifty thing about this harness is that you can take it with you upon reaching your destination and use it as a wearable dog-carrier.
The ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack is designed for fairly small pups, but it does come in five different sizes. This helps ensure you’ll end up with the perfect fit for your pooch.
The sizes vary based on your dog’s body length, so be sure to get out the tape measure before hitting the “buy now” button.
- Secures your dog in an “upright” orientation for maximum safety and security
- High-quality metal buckles are easy to operate, yet strong
- Available in 5 sizes, including extra-small, small, medium, large, and extra-large
Crash Testing Info: Earned a 5-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety.
Connection Method: This is a two-part rig. You’ll attach the anchor portion to the backseat of your car (rather than using the seatbelt connectors) and fit the harness portion to your dog. From there, you’ll use the Velcro patches to hold your dog in place while you wrap the included canine seatbelts around your pet.
- Four-point restraint system is awesome for keeping your dog secure
- It’s quite comfortable for dogs
- Works well with a variety of breeds
- The largest size is only certified for dogs weighing 25 pounds or less
- Frequently out of stock, so you’ll need to grab one when available
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.
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.
- 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
Crash Testing Info: Earned a 5-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety.
Connection Method: This is a one-piece safety system. You’ll put the harness on your doggo and then slide your car’s seatbelt strap through the harness’s included Infinity Loop system.
- Relatively affordable
- Keeps canines comfy and safe at the same time
- It’s a small thing, but we appreciate that it’s available in multiple colors
- Specifically designed to spread the impact force throughout your dog’s entire torso
- A few owners complained that the harness bunched around their dog’s legs
- Some other harnesses utilize one more point of restraint
3. Sleepypod Clickit Terrain Safety Harness
About: The Terrain Safety Harness is another high-end 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.
It even features shock-absorbing “sleeves” to help reduce the strain on your dog’s body during sudden braking or collisions.
However, the Terrain Safety Harness is also designed (and strength-tested) to work as an everyday walking harness too.
- Three-point restraint securely grips your dog’s torso
- Shock-absorbing webbing sleeves reduce the chances your dog will suffer an injury
- Available in 4 sizes, including small, medium, large, and extra-large
Crash Testing Info: Earned a 5-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety.
Connection Method: Like the Clickit Sport, the Clickit Terrain is a one-piece safety harness. You’ll put the main part of the harness on your doggo and then slide your car’s seatbelt strap through the harness’s included Infinity Loop system.
- We love the padded, shock-absorbing design
- Quick-release connectors offer additional convenience
- The ability to use it as a walking harness will be a game-changer for some owners
- It doesn’t appear to work well with greyhounds or other long-and-lean breeds
- Using it for walks and car rides means it’ll wear out more quickly than car-only options
4. EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness
About: The EzyDog Drive is a premium-quality car harness for canines that’s been designed to be compliant with USA (FMVSS 213) testing.
To keep your pooch safe, EzyDog has incorporated aluminum alloy tri-glides, the webbing is all made from seat belt materials, and the chest plate is padded for additional pupper protection.
But this dog car harness is not only designed with safety in mind, the manufacturer also kept pet-parent convenience in mind too.
For example, you only need to fit this harness to your hound once, and then it’ll be ready to go every time you need it — no more having to make adjustments for each car trip (see the video to the right).
- Comes with Dual SR buckle closure system for maximum convenience
- Ergonomic, molded chest plate protects your pooch in the event of an accident
- Available in 3 sizes; the large is suitable for dogs in the 65-pound range
Connection Method: The EzyDog is pretty easy to attach to your car. You’ll simply put the harness on your pooch and then thread your car’s seatbelt through both of the back handles.
- Owners rave about the “one-time fit” nature of the harness
- It’s available in sizes suitable for pretty big doggos
- Several owners report that it feels solid when held, which made them feel better
- We wish the Center for Pet Safety tested it
- A few owners had trouble achieving a great fit
5. Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Dog Harness
About: Kurgo is a pretty well-known dog-gear manufacturer, who makes a ton of different dog-care items. But one of the things they’re best known for are their harnesses. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they make one specifically for car use.
Known as the Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Dog Harness, this piece of safety equipment will help your dog remain safe during car rides, and it doubles as an everyday walking harness too!
Crash-tested at Calspan Corporation, the Tru-Fit is super easy to use.
Simply hook one end of the included seatbelt attachment strap to the harness and the other to one of your car’s seatbelts — voila! Spot is safe and ready to ride!
- Crash-tested for dogs weighing up to 75 pounds
- Like all Kurgo products, the Tru-Fit is backed by the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty
- Available in 5 sizes and 2 colors
Crash Testing Info: Passed tests conducted by the Calspan Corporation.
Connection Method: You’ll put the harness on your dog and then use the included carabiner to clip your dog to both the waist and chest straps of the seatbelt.
- This car harness has better owner reviews than any other we’ve encountered
- Lightweight design will be more comfortable for some canines
- Extremely affordable
- We love Kurgo’s lifetime warranty policy
- As with the EzyDog, we wish this were tested by the Center for Pet Safety
- There’s no real padding involved
Things to Look for in a Good Car Harness
Aside from selecting a harness that’s been crash-test certified by the CPS, you’ll want to look for one that satisfies a few additional characteristics and features. 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 (and passing common safety standards) 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.
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.
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.
It’s the Law (in Some Places): Buckle Your Dog Up!
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 restraint in a vehicle include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Hawaii actually forbids drivers from having a dog on their lap. Several other states have regulations regarding unrestrained pets in truck beds.
Just be sure to investigate the laws in your state, as some may require (for example) that dogs wear harnesses that use leash attachments to connect directly to the car’s seatbelts, while others may require you to use crates.
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.
For dogs who get car anxiety, this back seat also tends to induce less stress; it allows your pup to be positioned fairly close and allow her to see you, which can be a lot less stressful than being in the back cargo area.
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.
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.
Whether You Use a Harness, Crate, or Some Other Kind of Restraint, Secure Your Dog!
Restraint harnesses aren’t the only methods for securing your dog in the car. Dog hammocks, zip lines, booster seats, cage barriers, and car crates are all alternative methods for restraining your dog in the car.
Other types of restraints — while still worthwhile for keeping your dog from distracting you — are unlikely to provide very much protection in the event of an accident. Nevertheless, using a zip line or one of the other alternative restraint methods is still better than using nothing.
Dog Harnesses for Car Travel: FAQ
There’s a ton to learn about car harnesses before picking one out and hitting the road. So, we’ll try to answer some of the most common questions about them to make the process easier!
How do dog car harnesses attach to your vehicle?
Car harnesses for dogs can be attached to cars in a couple of different ways. However, most either use the car’s seatbelts to remain connected or they feature straps that wrap directly around the car seats.
What is the best dog harness for car travel?
What is the safest car harness for dogs?
We think that any of the three CPS-tested car harnesses discussed above — the ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack, the Clickit Sport, and the Clickit Terrain — would arguably qualify as the “safest” car harness.
Can I use a regular dog harness in the car?
This is a tough question to answer, given the incredible variety of dog harnesses on the market. Many will keep your pet safer than wearing no harness at all, but some may actually put your dog at higher risk of injury or death in the event of an accident.
Accordingly, the best solution is to go with a purpose-built, crash-tested dog harness that is specifically designed for car travel.
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 and keeping safety in mind when riding around.