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The Safest Way For Dogs To Ride In Your Car

The Safest Way For Dogs To Ride In Your Car

Some of my fondest memories are of my dogs sticking their head out the car window, squinting into the breeze and getting a good sniff of environment as it rushed past.

I also remember when I was driving one night, and Matilda was nervous about sitting in the front passenger seat, so she hopped into my lap, curling up under the steering wheel like a fuzzy potato.

It’s been tough for me to admit that some of my dogs’ cutest moments were also some of the dumbest… on my behalf, of course.

When we let our dogs wander around the inside of a moving car, we know it’s wrong. And yet, so many of us are still allowing to happen, despite the fact that we know better. Maybe it’s convenience, tradition, or because we’re afraid of making car rides less fun for our dogs.

Learning about Sleepypod products has been a huge wake-up call for me. I realized just how big a risk I’ve been taking by letting my dogs ride loose in cars. I’ve been leaving their safety up to chance.

Disclaimer: I received Sleepypod products in exchange for my honest review. I only feature products that me, Matilda and Cow absolutely love! 

What Happens To A Loose Dog In An Accident?

Even a minor car accident can be fatal to a loose dog.

If my driver’s side airbag had gone off while Matilda was sitting in my lap, it could have easily killed her. Airbags deploy at a speed of 220 miles per hour, with enough force to cause a fatal skull fracture in a human child – even in a car that crashed at just 10 miles per hour.

When Dogs Fly

Remember Newton’s 1st law of motion, the law of inertia? An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion. 

The object in question is your dog. When your dog is riding the car, they’re moving at the same speed at which you’re driving. Upon impact, the car stops moving, but your dog will stay in motion until they’re stopped by an unbalanced force.

Your dog goes flying until they hit the dashboard, the back of the seat, or someone else in the car.

Few of us realize exactly what this really means. This quote from Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager is so eye-opening, it’s been cited in dozens of articles on this topic. It’s such an impactful quote that I’ll share it once again:

“An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in its path.” ~ Huebner-Davidson.

Dog Car Restraints Are For Everyone’s Safety

An unrestrained dog greatly increases your chances of getting into a car accident in the first place.

You get a ticket for breaking a generalized Distracted Driving law if a cop catches you petting, holding or otherwise interacting with your dog while driving. Not all parts of the United States and other parts of the world have Distracted Driving Laws, however, your safety is your own responsibility, law or not.

There’s no specific statistics on how many accidents are caused by doggy distractions, though every year, about 421,000 people are injured in accidents in which a driver was distracted for any reason. Texting is the most common distraction because, like petting a dog, it takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the steering wheel.

The Safest Way For Your Dog To Ride In The Car

Now that you know how unsafe it is to let your dog ride unrestrained, how can you keep your dog and everyone around you safe?

You may have seen that homemade doggy seatbelt project on Pinterest – when it comes to safety, DIY is the worst route. There’s no evidence that these homemade solutions will actually keep your dog safe in an accident, and they could actually strangle or decapitate your dog, or break their neck.

If your dog is over 15 pounds…

They will need to wear a safety harness that attaches to your car’s seatbelt. Always secure your dog in the back seat, where they can’t be injured by the airbag.

If your dog is under 15 pounds…

They need a carrier secured by your car’s seatbelt. Again, back seat only.

Why Sleepypod’s failed crash test videos make me want to vomit

Sleepypod is one of the only pet product companies that conducts their own crash tests. They design their own crash-test dog dummies, Max and Duke. Max and Duke are sophisticated pieces of technology, recording data and video that helps designers assess force and potential injury during each test.

They share both failed crash tests of designs that didn’t make it to market, and successful crash tests of each of their available products. The failed crash tests are what make me want to throw up – and really bring home the point that untested restraints could brutally injure, even kill my dogs.

Every time I consider skipping the restraints for a quick trip, I remember this failed crash test and imagine Cow sitting on that seat, and how painful it would be if she died just because I wanted to save 15 seconds of my life.

It’s Easy To Make The Change… Really!

It does take some time to get your dogs used to the new pre-trip routine. They will have to adjust to no longer being able to explore the moving car. You’ll also have to plan ahead to make sure you won’t be running late while buckling up your dogs.

Sleepypod Atom review giveaway

I keep Matilda’s Sleepypod Atom in the car, strapped into the seat so all I have to do is place her inside the carrier. The interior is soft and cozy, so she’s happy to  rest quietly even though she can no longer look out the window.

Cow wears her Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness as a walking harness, so I can just have her hop onto the seat and thread the seatbelt through the loops. I love how the loops are made of seatbelt-like material, making it easy for anyone to intuitively figure out how to use it.

After a few tries, the routine only takes 15 seconds. The dogs don’t even complain. In fact, they seem happier because they’re no longer shifting every time we brake.

It’s easier than you think to establish good car safety habits, and it’s well worth the investment.

Want to get a Sleepypod Harness or Carrier of your choice… for FREE?

Enter to win the giveaway, ending February 28th. USA only, must be 18 or older to enter.

Learn more about Sleepypod products!

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Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Ava Channing

Sunday 2nd of December 2018

I never restrain my dog, he just hangs out in the backseat, but after reading about these specialized harnesses I'm convinced I need to get one. Thanks for the pro-tips! :)

Caroline Robinson

Friday 20th of April 2018

I am a dog owner and I love dogs. I really love the moral lessons you shared. It is very inspiring. I wish my dog can be a teacher of moral lesson for my kids.


Monday 21st of August 2017

Hi! I like the safety features of the Sleepypod. Only I have one concern. How much can dog move herself in a car wearing it? My dog is used of sleeping in a backseat while I'm driving. She is attached with a short leash but it gives her enough room to lay down and sleep. If Sleepypod is attached with seat belt doesn't it make sleeping impossible? I would like to find best option between safety and comfort.

Lindsay Pevny

Thursday 24th of August 2017

Cow can sit and lay down with a SleepyPod harness, so sleeping is definitely possible. Thanks for your question, Mari!

FEATURED LISTING Enter to win a Sleepypod Harness or Carrier – ends 02/28/2017 | Blog Giveaway Directory

Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

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Diana Britting

Monday 20th of February 2017

Thanks! I upgraded their food and they get skiinless chicken necks for their teeth! Seems to be working pretty well.

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