Car harnesses are designed to keep your pup secure when travelling – but which is the safest? And which should be avoided? In this article, Richard Cross reviews four of the best dog harnesses for car travel to help you choose the right one for your pet.
A simple solution is a dog harness that attaches to the seat belt. This allows your pet to ride in the car’s cabin without having free reign.
There’s a problem though. While most harnesses are great for preventing distractions, many don’t have the strength to protect your canine friend in an accident (the same goes for car seats). Standard harnesses often have a basic “seat belt” loop, but in a high speed collision this can break. Even dog harnesses that are labelled as suitable for cars may not provide much protection.
As a dog owner, this is something that’s always worried me. I want my dogs to be safe in the car – and it’s also important to protect human passengers.
Fortunately, there are crash tested dog harnesses on the market. While it’s important to be wary of manufacturer claims – there is little regulation of the pet safety market – the best dog harnesses for cars provide strong protection in an accident.
Strong and crash-tested dog harness
As the only harness to be certified by the Center for Pet Safety, the Sleepypod Clickit is the easy choice for the best dog harness for car travel. It’s strong, adjustable and made from ballistic nylon for extra durability. The only downside is that it’s not great for walks – but for car safety it’s probably the best choice.
A car harness needs to be comfortable, durable and easy to adjust – just like a regular one. There are some extra considerations when choosing a harness for a car though, such as:
One thing to keep in mind is that a car harness isn’t necessarily the best harness for walking. Car restraints need to be tough and durable to withstand high forces, but this can make them heavy and more difficult to put on. A simple solution is to have a separate harness for travel and walking. There are some crash-tested harnesses that can be used for both though.
A car harness also won’t protect your seats. If you’re worried about upholstery or leather getting scratched, take a look at our page of the best car seat covers for dogs.
Tip: If your dog has joint pain or difficulty getting in and out of the car, check out my page of the best dog ramps.
Many harnesses claim to be “car safe” – but this is difficult to verify. There is very little regulation for pet products (at least compared to human products), so companies are often able to claim what they want.
The only independent certification (that I’m aware of) is from the Center for Pet Safety, so be wary of any claims made by manufacturers unless they have evidence of crash testing. You should also avoid wire dog crates in cars, as they don’t provide protection for you or your pet (although there are dog travel crates that have been properly crash-tested).
When looking for a car-safe harness, my first criteria is that it must be both crash tested and adjustable. While comfort is also important, it comes secondary to the safety of the harness. With that in mind, here are four of the best dog harnesses for car travel (I haven’t included even the best dog seat belts, as I don’t believe a dog seat belt provides the same level of protection as a harness).
Disclaimer: The harnesses below are amongst the best for travelling in a car. That doesn’t mean they’ll protect your pet in every accident though. Dogs vary in size and shape, and accidents are unpredictable in nature, so it’s impossible to create a product that protects every pet in all crashes.
|Rank||Name||CPS Tested||Why Choose It...|
|#1||Sleepypod Clickit Sport Utility||Yes||Our top pick. A crash tested harness with three points of seat belt contact.|
|#2||Kurgo Tru-Fit||No - but crash tested up to 75lbs||A stronger version of the regular Tru-Fit, with steel buckles and a comfortable design.|
|#3||Ruffwear Load Up Harness||No - but crash tested up to 75lbs||Not designed for walking, but a strong car harness with plenty of padding.|
|#4||Original Allsafe Harness||No - but crash tested up to 75lbs||Stainless steel hardware and an adjustable design.|
If you’re looking for the best car harness for dogs, then the Sleepypod Clickit is the only product certified by the CPS. It’s a strong product that performed well in crash tests – plus it has a wide padded front vest so your dog is comfortable.
What made the Sleepypod pass the 2013 CPS trial (see results) when so many failed though? The first is that it has three points of contact with the car seat belt. This reduces the strain on a single point of contact and makes it less likely to fail.
The Clickit is also made from highly durable materials that are designed to withstand extreme forces during a collision. These include a ballistic nylon exterior and automotive-standard seat belt webbing.
As you would expect from such a strong harness, it’s not the lightest or most convenient for walking. It can still be used for short walks though – and even has reflective strips for improving night-time visibility. I’d be wary of it being too hot in warm weather though. It’s also probably too restrictive for long walks.
When it comes to car safety, however, there aren’t many harnesses that can match the Sleepypod.
Note: The Sleepypod – and many car harnesses – aren’t suitable for breeds with a thin neck and head. This includes greyhounds, whippets, salukis and Afghan hounds.
The Sleepypod is the only CPS-certified harness, but others have been crash tested by manufacturers. The Kurgo Tru-Fit Crash Tested harness is a good example of this – and it’s also considerably cheaper than the Sleepypod.
Unlike the regular Kurgo Tru-Fit, this is the “enhanced strength” version. In practice, this means the buckles have been replaced with stronger all-steel nesting versions (these are similar to those used for rock climbing). There are also five adjustment points, so you can get a snug and safe fit without over-tightening.
The harness attaches to the car seat belt via a strong metal carabiner. Kurgo recommends using the carabiner to attach it directly to the seat belt, although for more freedom a longer tether is included. This might be good for dogs that aren’t used to being restrained in the car – but I would prefer to use the direct attachment if possible as tethers can provide too much slack in a collision. The Kurgo also only attaches to the seat belt in a single place, while the Sleepypod has the seat belt go through two loops.
One of the great things about the Tru-Fit is that it makes an excellent walking harness. Unlike the Sleepypod, which is too heavy and restrictive, the Kurgo is suited to being an everyday harness. The padded chest section is also great if your dog pulls, as it prevents chafing or choking. It’s not the easiest harness to put on though.
A bonus is the Kurgo comes with the company’s lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects. If the product breaks at any time due to a problem with how it was made, Kurgo will replace it for free. It’s also available in sizes down to 12″ chest girth, which makes it a good option for a small dog harness.
Note: The Kurgo has only been crash tested for dogs up to 75lbs.
Another crash-tested dog harness is the Ruffwear Load Up. Like the others on this list, it’s been specifically designed for automobile pet safety, and features metal hardware for extra strength.
As you would expect from a car safety harness, it’s been crash tested. Specifically, it was tested at the MGA Research Corp to the standards provided by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
It also has plenty of padding on the chest, belly and back. This provides extra comfort during journeys, and also helps spread the impact of a collision over a wider area.
Unlike the Kurgo, however, the Ruffwear Load Up isn’t suitable for walks. It’s fine for short rest breaks while travelling or going to the toilet, but it’s too heavy and restrictive for longer walks. This isn’t a bad thing – the best dog car harnesses are typically heavy duty – but is something to keep in mind.
It’s also somewhat fiddly to adjust and put on, although there are plenty of adjustment options for getting a good fit.
My final pick for the best dog harness for cars is the Original Allsafe. As the “Original” name suggests, it’s been around for a while and has been crash tested to both US and European government standards. It might not be the most padded – but is made with strong materials for safety in an accident.
The Allsafe is made from a combination of stainless steel hardware and strong nylon. This means it’s strong enough to stop a dog being catapulted during a collision. You can also adjust it to get a snug fit (make sure you check the size guide before buying.)
One thing to note about the Allsafe is that it originally failed crash tests by the CPS. It didn’t break, but the tether allowed the dog to move around which could result in injury. If the seat belt is threaded through the back of the harness without the tether it’s much safer though. This reduces the dog’s mobility – but this trade-off is an issue with all harnesses. Allsafe still sells the tether, but I recommend avoiding this and attaching it directly instead.
Also, unlike the Ruffwear, the Allsafe can be used for walking short distances. I still recommend getting a separate harness for longer walks or running though. It has a useful reflective strip which helps to increase night time visibility.
A strong car harness can protect your dog in the unfortunate event of a collision, while also making sure he’s secure and can’t cause distractions. It’s vital to get a product that’s crash tested and adjustable though, otherwise it may not provide much protection.
My top pick for a dog car harness is the Sleepypod Clickit. It’s a strong model that’s certified by the Center for Pet Safety. If you’re looking for a harness that can also be used for walking, the Kurgo Enhanced Strength is a good alternative.
I hope this article has helped clarify how to choose the best dog harness for car travel. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!