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. Unfortunately, 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 will almost certainly break. Even dog harnesses 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. That’s what led to my research into car harnesses.
Fortunately, I found that 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. I’ve listed my top picks below, plus some tips for choosing the right car harness for your dog.
Our #1 Pick: Sleepypod Clickit
Strong and crash-tested dog harness
As one of the only harnesses 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.
How We Choose Safe Car Harnesses
When looking for a car-safe harness, my criteria are that it must be both crash-tested and adjustable. While comfort is also important, it comes secondary to the safety of the harness.
The downside of this criteria is that it greatly reduces the number of available options! The vast majority of harnesses have not passed a crash test, even if they are marketed for use in cars.
In fact, there is currently only one company with harnesses that have passed the Center for Pet Safety crash tests – and that’s Sleepypod. However, several other companies have used different third-party crash testing to check their harnesses are safe, such as Kurgo and Ruffwear.
Another important note is that some harnesses are only crash-tested to a certain weight. While they might be made in sizes suitable for heavier dogs, these dogs might not be given the same protection during a crash. For example, the Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength is only crash-tested up to 75lbs, but the large size fits dogs up to 110lbs.
With that in mind, listed below are four of the best dog harnesses for car travel. I haven’t included any dog seat belts, as I don’t believe they provide 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.
4 Best Dog Car Harness Reviews
|Rank||Name||CPS Tested||Why Choose It...|
|#1||Sleepypod ClickIt Sport||Yes||Our top pick. A crash tested harness with three points of seat belt contact.|
|#2||Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength||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||EzyDog Drive||No - but crash tested up to 75lbs||Aluminum hardware and seatbelt webbing.|
1. Sleepypod Clickit Sport UtilityVIEW PRICE
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 contact points 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 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 one of the best car harnesses for dogs and the only one to be certified by the CPS. It’s very strong, has three points of seat belt contact and a wide padded vest, so it provides much more protection than many other harnesses.
2. Kurgo Tru-Fit Crash Tested Dog HarnessVIEW PRICE
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, I think the Kurgo is more 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.
The Kurgo Tru-Fit Crash Tested harness (not to be confused with the standard Kurgo Tru-Fit) is a great product that’s available for a relatively low price. The strong metal buckles provide extra protection in the event of an accident, while the comfortable design means it’s also great as an everyday harness.
3. Ruffwear Load Up HarnessVIEW PRICE
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. While I prefer looking for CPS-tested harnesses, it’s still great that the Load Up was tested by a third-party organisation.
It also has plenty of padding on the chest, belly and back. This provides extra comfort during journeys, and 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 it 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.
The Ruffwear Load Up is a strong and crash tested dog harness that’s great for car travel. It’s a bit fiddly to adjust, but has plenty of options for a snug fit. The biggest downside is that it’s not designed for walking.
4. EzyDog Drive Safety Travel HarnessVIEW PRICE
My final pick for the best dog harness for cars is the EzyDog Drive Safety. As the name suggests, it’s a harness that’s specifically designed for use in cars, and has been crash tested to both US and European standards. It might not be the most stylish harness – but it’s made with strong materials for safety in an accident.
The EzyDog is made from a combination of aluminum hardware and strong seatbelt meshing. This means it’s strong enough to stop a dog from being catapulted during a collision, although it’s important to note that it was only tested for dogs weighing up to 75lbs. It also has a padded chest for both comfort and to provide your dog with extra protection.
Aside from protecting your dog during a crash, the EzyDog Drive is well-made and easy to use. Once the harness has been adjusted for your dog, you can easily remove it using the buckles without losing the fit. The sizing system is also numbered so that you can make quick adjustments, plus I like that it has two buckles and a handle.
In summary, the EzyDog Drive Safety harness is definitely an option to consider for car travel, as long your dog weighs less than 75lbs. It’s a high-quality harness that can also be used for short walks, although I still recommend getting a separate harness for longer walks or running though.
The EzyDog Drive harness has strong aluminum hardware, seatbelt webbing, and a two buckle design. It’s been crash-tested for dogs up to 75lbs, making it a solid alternative to the other options on this list for car travel.
What Makes a Safe Car Harness?
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:
- Crash Tested. A high speed collision can generate incredible force – and all it takes is one weak buckle to turn your poor pet into a dangerous projectile. Unfortunately, many dog seat belts and harnesses are only designed to keep your dog in one place during a journey. They aren’t able to protect them during a crash. When looking for a safe dog car harness, make sure it’s been crash tested so you know it’ll at least have a chance of protecting your dog. Most importantly, make sure it passed those crash tests! Ideally, the test should also have been performed by a third-party organisation, such as the Center for Pet Safety (CPS.)
- Durable Materials. It sounds obvious, but a car harness needs to be made of strong materials and constructed to a high standard. Many of the best dog harnesses for cars have metal buckles, double stitching and various other strengthening features. This means they cost more – but are much less likely to tear or break in an accident.
- Easy to Put On. Any harness for a dog should be simple to put on and adjustable. This allows you to get a snug fit without causing chafing. Adjustable straps are also vital for making sure your dog can’t slip out the harness when driving or in an accident.
- Padded. A padded harness reduces friction and stress on your dog’s skin, which can prevent chafing and sores. This is vital if your dog will be wearing it for hours on a trip. It’s also important in an accident, as padding spreads the force across a wider area than a simple strap.
- Type. There are two options when buying a car safety harness – a true harness or a seat belt. Harnesses are like regular walking harnesses, but have attachments for securing your dog in the car. Seat belts are much simpler and are used for connecting the dog’s existing harness to the car’s seat belt clip. I don’t recommend these, as a standard harness usually isn’t strong enough for a collision. Instead, look for a crash-tested harness. Never attach a harness or seat belt to a collar as this can cause choking.
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.
Also, remember that a car harness won’t protect your seats. If you’re worried about upholstery or leather getting scratched, consider getting a car seat cover too.
Tip: If your dog has joint pain or difficulty getting in and out of the car, consider getting a dog ramp.
A Quick Word About “Car Safe” Harnesses
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.
One of the best examples of independent certification is provided by the Center for Pet Safety, although other organisations and universities may also provide third-party testing. Be wary of any claims made by manufacturers unless they have evidence of crash testing and who it was performed by. 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).
A strong car harness can protect your dog in the unfortunate event of a collision, while also making sure they are 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!