When you whistle to man’s best friend with an invitation to go for a ride, don’t just let the dog climb into the car and sit unrestrained during the outing. That’s asking for disaster in the event of a crash, propelling the animal and causing potential serious or fatal injury.
Pet safety experts say the best protection is to place your canine pet in a dog crate of sufficient proportions to accommodate his height and weight. But suppose your car isn’t large enough to fit a crate? What do you do then?
The second-best way to properly restrain a dog in a vehicle is with a dog seat belt and car harness, often just called a dog car harness. Some harnesses are multi-purpose, meaning they can also be used as a dog walking leash.
Buy the right size harness. Critically important is the necessity to purchase the dog car harness that’s sized to fit your animal. The sizes generally range from extra small (31-36 inches in height) to large (53-60 inches), with some variations between manufacturers.
Check safety ratings. While all the major dog car harness manufacturers claim their products have been crash tested, the fact is that no current performance standards and test protocols exist. As reported in Pet Product News International, the Center for Pet Safety, which recently released findings of the first ratings of pet harnesses, said it expects to publish industry-wide standards by year’s end.
Acclimate your dog to the harness. Like conditioning a pet to a carrier or crate, getting a dog used to wearing a harness in the car takes some practice -- for the dog and pet owner. Don’t just slide the harness on and secure the dog to the seat. Allow Fido to become used to it first. A few pets and a doggy chew or treat may help speed this process.
Change harness size as dog grows. A puppy needs a smaller-size harness than a more mature dog, so be prepared to change harnesses as your pet grows. This is similar to what parents do when purchasing infant car seats, then move to toddler and convertible or booster seats as the child grows.
Bottom line: Protecting your dog in the car means buying the right dog seat belt and dog car harness – and using it every time Fido accompanies you in the car.