A dog car seat should provide comfort and security for your canine friend - but also value for money. In this article, Richard Cross reviews some of the best dog car seats to help you make the right choice for your pet.
Dogs regularly need to travel in cars. The problem is many owners don't use a car seat or harness. This can allow the dog to become a distraction - especially if he climbs into the front seat - and increase the chances of injury during a crash.
Not to mention muddy paws and sharp claws can damage car interiors. Especially if you have leather!
This is why car seats for dogs have become increasingly popular in recent years. These provide a secure place for your dog to travel, so they can't cause a distraction.
In this article, I'll go through the basics of what to look for in a dog car seat. I've also listed six of the best options so you don't need to spend hours reading reviews.
Many dog owners travel with their pets loose in the car, so why do you need a car seat?
The simple reason is that travelling with an unrestrained dog is unsafe - for both you and your pet. A booster seat or even a simple dog harness reduces the chance of your pet distracting you.
This is vital, as 29% of dog owners surveyed by Kurgo admitted to being "distracted by their dog while driving." And, even more worryingly, 84% of respondents didn't use any type of restraint.
These are huge numbers that show a widespread problem. They are especially worrying as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the chances of an accident.
So if you've ever been distracted by petting your pet, you greatly increased your chances of a crash. This is why a proper restraint for your pet is so important.
It's also important from your dog's point of view. The NHTSA released figures showing there were over 5.5 million crashes in 2013. As over 35 million Americans drive with their pets, and 80% of these don't use a car seat or harness, there are millions of dogs being unnecessarily injured or even killed each year.
A dog car seat won't protect your pet, but it will stop him distracting you. If you combine the seat with a proper car harness attached to the seat belt, however, your dog will have a better chance of not being injured in a crash.
It's clear the most important factor when choosing a car seat is safety - but that's not the only consideration. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best dog car seat for your pet:
A car seat also isn't the only option. If you just want to stop your pet climbing over seats, a pet barrier can do the job. A simple harness with seat belt attachment can also work well, as they provide safety and your pet can choose his resting position. The downside to a harness, however, is that it doesn't protect your car seats.
Another option is a dog carrier. These can be useful in a car (if they have a seatbelt attachment), but are also great for transporting your dog to the vet and even on a plane if they meet airline regulations.
There is ongoing debate about the safety of car booster seats. While these are comfortable and provide a feeling of security for your pet, they also place him at head height. For this reason, I always recommend using a car-safe dog harness along with a seat, as this keeps your pet anchored for his and your safety.
It's important to note that most dog car seats provide very little protection in the event of a serious accident. This is another reason to use a secure harness for your pet that's attached directly to the seatbelt.
On a side note, travelling with your pet in the front seat can be dangerous because of the air bag. A dog can potentially be killed by an air bag even during a light collision, so they should be put in the back seat whenever possible.
WARNING: Never attach a car seat tether to your dog's collar. If he falls out, this could potentially cause strangulation. You may not even notice a problem until it's too late. Instead, use a car-safe harness as this spreads pressure across the dog's shoulders rather than the neck.
If you've decided a car seat is the right option for your pet, here are six of the best models on the market. Each provides great value for money - but make sure you read the reviews to find out which is the best option for your pet.
Please note: Dog booster and car seats improve the safety of driving for both you and your dog. They do not guarantee a dog's safety in an accident - but the best ones provide a comfortable ride while preventing your dog distracting you. You should also make sure your dog is secured via a harness that's suitable for use in cars.
|Image||Name||Type||Colors||Price Range||View Price|
|K&H Manufacturing Bucket Booster||Booster||Grey, Tan||$$$||View Price|
|Snoozer Lookout||Booster||Pink, Black, Blue, Plaid, Grey, Red, Khaki, Hot Pink||$$$||View Price|
|Kurgo SkyBox||Booster||Black/Blue, Black/Orange, Khaki/Brown||$$||View Price|
|BarksBar Convertible Pet Hammock||Cover / Hammock||Black||$||View Price|
|Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat||Booster||Brown||$$||View Price|
|600D Heavy Duty Car Hammock||Cover / Hammock||Black||$$||View Price|
One of my top recommendations for a dog car booster seat - at least if you have a small breed - is the K&H Manufacturing Bucket Booster.
Let's start with the safety features. The Bucket Booster is held in place by your car's seat belt underneath the main cushion. There's also a security leash (or two in the large size) that makes sure your dog is leashed to the seat. These combine to increase the safety of your dog - although I prefer seats with the option of tethering directly to the seatbelt.
The Bucket Booster is also comfortable for your pet, with a 600-denier fabric cover and fleece interior. The booster seat provides a higher view for your pet, so they can see out of the window. This may help with motion sickness - plus lots of dogs just enjoy looking out the window. The cover is also washable and the bolsters firm to provide proper support.
Additionally, the K&H is available in two colors and sizes. The larger version is better suited to small-medium breeds (check the measurements though) - but it also comes with dual security leashes for two small dogs. I like that the tethers attach to the frame of the car seat rather than the cloth, as this provides extra security.
One thing to note about the Bucket Booster is that it moves around a bit when driving. This isn't a huge problem, but may not help dogs that get motion sick. Also, the largest size probably isn't big enough for even medium-size breeds.
Quick Summary: The K&H Manufacturing Bucket Booster is an excellent car booster seat for small dogs. The seat belt attaches securely at the bottom, while the tether provides solid security for your pup. It's also comfortable, so your dog will love it.
Another excellent booster car seat for dogs is the Snoozer Lookout.
Like the K&H, it's designed to provide a comfortable enclosure for your dog while travelling. It has a plusher exterior though, along with a simulated lamb wool interior. There's also a Travel Rack included, so you can give your pet some much need food and water when you stop.
To attach the Lookout to your car, the seat belt goes into a slit across the back of the seat. There's also an adjustable belt with a clasp that goes around the seat belt to be attached to your dog's harness.
Something to be aware of when buying a booster seat is air circulation. Dogs can quickly overheat - especially in a padded box with raised sides. Fortunately, the internal height of the Snoozer is enough to allow for air to circulate (although obviously you still need to be careful of overheating). The dip at the front also helps.
A bonus with the Snoozer is that it's available in a range of colors. These include pink, blue and red - so there's a color to suit every dog. There are only two sizes though, so like the K&H it's only suitable for smaller breeds.
Quick Summary: The Snoozer Lookout provides a comfortable raised platform for your pet. It's one of the best small dog car seats on the market - plus it's available in a range of colors.
An interesting dog booster seat is the Kurgo Skybox. Unlike the first two options on this list, it can be attached to the headrest so that it's raised off the seat. This allows your pup a great view of the outside while travelling.
Installing the SkyBox in your car is simple. There's a looped strap that goes over the headrest, which can be adjusted depending on how high you want your dog to be. For extra security, a second strap is wrapped around the back of the seat.
This second strap makes the SkyBox a little more difficult to install on back seats than other models though. You'll need to push the seat forward to get the second strap around the back. I like that the tether doesn't attach directly to the booster seat though - instead it's attached to the seat belt for maximum security.
To make your dog comfortable on journeys, the SkyBox comes with a soft exterior cover that's waterproof. The cover is also machine washable. This is great if your dog has accidents or is sometimes sick in the car.
The SkyBox is listed for dogs of up to 30lbs - but I think this is pushing it as it's much better suited to smaller pets. So if you're looking for a large dog car seat, this probably isn't the right choice.
A handy feature of the SkyBox is that it's collapsible. This means it's easy to store when you don't need to use it.
Quick Summary: The Kurgo SkyBox is an excellent dog car seat for small breeds. The design means it's unsuitable for dogs weighing much more than 20lbs, but lightweight dogs will enjoy the view. The seat belt tether attachment is also great for providing security.
If you need a dog car seat for a big dog, your only option might be a hammock or car seat cover. One of the best dog car hammocks is the excellent BarksBar Original Pet Seat, which can be converted between a waterproof cover and hammock depending on your requirements.
A hammock has a different purpose to a booster seat. Instead of enclosing or securing the dog, this type of car seat protects the fabric of the seats while stopping your dog falling into the foot wells. It's also a great way to deter your dog from climbing into the front, which is a major distraction.
There are two sizes available - Standard and Extra Large. The standard should be big enough for most cars or SUVs, while the XL is made for larger trucks.
Attaching the BarksBar to the backseat of your car is quick and simple. There are several buckle straps to put around head rests or tuck into the seats. Once installed, the lining is fully waterproof and there are anchors to stop it sliding when in use. If you want to secure your dog further, there are velcro openings allowing you to access seatbelts.
Additionally, there are two pockets in the BarksBar for storage. The cover is also tough and durable, so it's unlikely to rip even with repeated use.
A downside is that the middle of the hammock may not stop a determined dog from trying to climb into the front seat. While it's enough to deter most dogs, it slightly sags between the front seats which may encourage climbing.
Quick Summary: If you're looking for an inexpensive hammock for your dog, the BarksBar is a great option. It's made from highly durable material that's also waterproof, so your car seats are protected. The hammock design also makes it less likely for your dog to climb into the front and cause a distraction.
If you're looking for a relatively simple booster seat, the Solvit Tagalong could be a good option. It provides an unobstructed view for your pet that may help to prevent motion sickness, and comes in three sizes with a maximum dog weight of 25lbs.
The Solvit attaches to the head rest via its main strap. There's also a belt that goes around the back of the seat for additional security, along with a simple tether (although I don't think this would be worth much in a crash).
It has a washable fleece liner that's comfortable for your pet, along with a storage pocket for extra convenience.
A potential problem with the Solvit is that the internal tether is relatively short. This is a good thing - as it keeps your dog in place and prevents him falling out - but may stop slightly larger dogs from stretching out.
While the Solvit is a comfortable option that your dog will love, it's probably not the most secure booster seat. Unlike the Kurgo, which has a similar design, the tether doesn't attach to the car seat belt, so it's not as safe. Even so, it's a popular booster seat that provides a comfortable place for your dog to travel.
Quick Summary: The Solvit Tagalong isn't the most secure booster seat, but it provides a comfortable place for your dog to travel in the car. It also provides great value for money - but it's only suitable as a small dog car seat.
If you're willing to pay a bit more than for the BarksBar Hammock, the 600D Heavy Duty Hammock is a great choice. Unlike the BarksBar, it comes with side flaps that allow for easy entry into the car. There's also a "half and half" mode if you want to protect one side of the car while a passenger sits in the other.
Like the BarksBar, this model is waterproof, so it can protect your seat from any accidents or after a wet walk. It's also highly durable and machine washable, so it should last a long time.
Installing it is straightforward. There are four clips that can be fixed to head rests, while the slip-proof bottom helps keep it in place. There's also a seat anchor to prevent slipping and velcro openings for seat belts.
While there's nothing flashy about this dog car hammock, it's a durable option that provides great protection for your car seats. It also deters dogs from climbing into the front seat, which could be potentially dangerous. I like the side flaps, as they can also prevent your dogs jumping out when you open the car - although they can sometimes get caught in doors.
Quick Summary: If you're looking for a car hammock with side flaps, this is a great choice. It's durable, waterproof and machine washable, plus it stops dogs getting into the front seat.
Your dog might love travelling in the car, but if he's left to his own devices he could cause a distraction. This increases the chance of an accident - and the lack of tethering could turn him into a living projectile during an accident.
While the best pet car seats don't provide anywhere near the protection of a child's car seat, they can at least prevent your dog distracting you. When combined with a car-safe harness with a seat belt attachment, your dog will be much safer during an accident.
If you're looking for a car booster seat, my top recommendation is the Snoozer Lookout. It's a comfortable option that allows your dog's harness to be tethered directly to the seat belt. For larger dogs, the BarksBar Convertible Pet Hammock can prevent your pup getting into the front seat and protect your car.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best dog car seat for your puppy or full-grown dog? Or have I missed a seat that should be included? Let me know!