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It would be appalling to think of a parent driving around with their child climbing freely in the backseat, so why is it acceptable for a dog owner to leave their pet unharnessed and roaming around a moving vehicle? It’s a very common image—the dog with his head out the window in the front seat, but does that make it safe?

Dogs love riding like this, and as dog owners, it makes us happy when our pets are happy. Not to mention that it is much easier to let your dog jump in the backseat than it is to get him situated in a car seat and strap him in. But it can be dangerous for you and your dog if you let him ride around without being properly secured in your vehicle.

There are several dangers involved with not providing your dog with a car seat or dog harness, and your dog’s safety is just one of them. In this article, we’ll discuss those dangers and the benefits of dog car seats. Then, we’ll show you some product recommendations that are sure to fit the needs of you and your pet.

Buckle That Belt: Why You Need a Dog Car Seat

Dog car seats are unfortunately not something every pet owner thinks about, but they should. There are many hazards involved with not providing your dog a car seat. Firstly, there is always the possibility of an accident. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel:

There are 37,000 deaths a year in the US because of car accidents and an additional 2.5 million are disabled or injured because of them.

Most people, if you ask them, have some sort of fender bender (or worse) story from their time behind the wheel. Almost everyone has had a traffic citation. No one’s immune to crashes just because their dog is in the car with them and, much like it would be foolhardy for a human not to wear a seat belt, it would be just as disadvantageous for a dog not to have some additional protection as well.

The danger of a free roaming dog

A car accident can turn your pup into a dangerous projectile, which can be harmful not only to him, but also to you. Dogs can be killed going through windshields or hitting their heads. Your dog could also be jostled around during an accident and collide with you or another passenger, injuring both the canine and the human.

Why You Need a Dog Car Seat
Photo: C Jill Reed

RELATED: Reducing Risk: How to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Car

There’s also the scary possibility that your dog might even CAUSE an accident.

Dogs tend to not want to stay in the same place for very long, and your dog might be moving around the car and suddenly obstruct your vision or toggle the gearshift, sending you into park when you’re going 75 miles per hour.

Putting your dog in a car seat is absolutely essential for the safety of you and your pet (as well as anyone else traveling with you). Dog car seats are comfortable for your pet too, and many of them allow him to sit up higher so he can get a better view. Many consumers have stated in product reviews that their dogs seems happier in a car seat than they do being loose in the back of the vehicle.

What dog booster car seat buy

When you’re shopping for a dog car seat you’ll find that there are many different types to choose from. There are safety seats made for the front and the back of the vehicle, some attach to the seat, others attach via the seat belt. As long as you select a high quality car seat made by a reputable retailer, it’s really just a matter of preference.

There are a few things you should keep in mind while shopping though. Be sure to select a car seat that will attach to your vehicle. Not every seat is made for every vehicle, and the ones that say they fit most vehicles may not fit bucket seats or the attachments may not be appropriate for your car. Review the measurements and attachment details before making a purchase.

RELATED: 2015 Top 5 Best Car Seats for Dogs

It would also be best to take your dog shopping with you to make sure he is comfortable in the seat that you select. If he doesn’t like the material or the seat is not comfortable for him, he’s not going to sit still. A dog in an uncomfortable seat could be more of a distraction than a loose dog.

Make sure to choose a dog car seat that is rated for your pet’s weight as well. If your dog is right on the edge of being too large for the seat you want, move up to a larger size. It will be safer in the long run and you won’t have to spend money on another seat if your dog outgrows it.

Top 5 best selling dog booster seats on Amazon:

  1. Etna Pet Booster Seat
  2. Pawhut Deluxe Pet / Dog Car Booster Seat
  3. Kurgo Skybox Dog Booster Seat
  4. Snoozer Lookout I Pet Car Seat
  5. K&H Manufacturing Bucket Booster Pet Seat

* The above top 5 picks for dog booster seats are based on Amazon’s Best Seller rankings [August, 2015].

Highly recommended dog car seats

Why You Need a Dog Car Seat
Photo: Snoozer

The Snoozer Lookout Car Seat comes very highly recommended by consumers. It has dimensions of 19” x 17” x 15” and is available in a wide range of colors. This dog car seat straps onto the backseat of your car by the seat belt, and the inside is lined with lamb’s wool. The rest of the car seat is lined with foam, making it comfortable for your dog to relax inside of the seat.

The sides are tall enough that your dog can nestle comfortably in this seat without a chance of him falling out. A possible accompaniment to the car seat is the Solvit Deluxe Car Safety Harness, which hooks to your dog and attaches him directly to the car seat so that there is no way for him to be jostled out.

This dog car seat from Snoozer also offers a rack (sold separately) in which you can place food and water for your dog. This is optimal on a long road trip so that you don’t have to stop often to feed your pet. The comfort and ease of use of this car seat is its main benefit. It also works with any vehicle because it doesn’t have to loop around the back of the seat.

Why You Need a Dog Car Seat
Photo: Solvit

The second car seat that is high quality and well-reviewed is the Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat. Suitable for small dogs, it does require a headrest to attach to. The interior is washable and removable, making it easy to clean. A safety leash is included with your purchase as well.

The dimensions are 12” x 8” x 14” and the weight limit for this car seat is twelve pounds. The Solvit booster seat is affordable, so if you just want to use it for your puppy until he exceeds the weight limit; that is practical with this model. In addition to attaching it at the headrest, you can also fasten your seat belt around the back of the car seat. That adds an extra layer of stability to the booster seat.

This dog car seat sits your dog up high enough that he can see out the window. Being able to look out the window can help some dogs that suffer from car sickness. It may also help dogs with anxiety caused by riding in a vehicle.

RELATED: Improving Quality of Life for Senior Dogs

Why You Need a Dog Car Seat
Photo: Solvit

Large-sized dogs aren’t left out of this need for safety either. Though fitting a larger dog into a car seat is difficult, there are models out there that provide just as much security and safety, but in a different type of way. The Jumbo Tagalong On-Seat Booster is tested for dogs weighing up to 175 pounds.

It has dimensions of 22” x 17” x 17” and has a square, rigid structure to it that makes it safe for dogs to strap into with a harness and sit. Your dog will likely have to sit upright because it’s not wide enough for him, especially if he is a large breed, to spread out on. The inside is slightly elevated so the pet can see outside and not feel claustrophobic.

The Deluxe model of this car seat provides even more room, allowing the dog to spread out more easily. This car seat can also be used for multiple pets. There is a strap on the inside for the dog’s harness to attach to. The liner inside is polyester, but quilted, providing comfort for your dog as well as easy-washing for you. Another bonus to this seat is that because it isn’t made of foam, there is no risk of it trapping in smells and becoming unpleasant to have in the car.

Safety is essential when riding in the car

Traveling with your pet shouldn’t be a drag. Hitting the road with your dog will be much safer (and more relaxing) if you purchase and install a car seat for him. If your dog is securely fastened in his seat you won’t have to worry about him moving around, distracting you, or getting into anything while you’re trying to drive.

However, not all dogs will be happy in a car seat. If your pet whines, is noticeably uncomfortable, or just simply does not like riding in a car seat you could always try a travel kennel or a pet barrier. Both of these products will keep your dog from becoming a distraction to you or a projectile in the event of an accident, but they won’t keep your pet as safe as a car seat.

A car seat for your canine companion will allow you to be more focused, your pet will be comfortable, and you’ll both be safe. What more can you ask for?

Happy travels!