Does your small dog like to help you with all things, even driving? While it might be adorable, it’s also extremely dangerous. We’ve all seen people driving down the road with a dog looking out the driver’s window. While it gives us a chance to ooh and awe over the cute dog, there’s nothing safe about it. I too have smiled (and most like will in the future) at these pups trying to help their dog parents. But the problems trifold:
- It distracts the driver. It’s difficult to pay attention to the road with a dog is climbing on you. Or when your dog is loose in the car.
- There’s a huge safety issue. How many times have you seen the news or a post where someone was in a car accident, their dog was unrestrained, and either killed or went missing. Neither is a good outcome.
- The law requires it. In many states’s the law now specifies that pets in moving vehicles must be restrained.
So, now begs the question of how to restrain your dog in your car?
If you have a large dog, then a dog seat belt restraint will work fine. Just make sure that it attaches to your dog’s harness and NEVER the collar. Or you can put your pup in a dog crate if your car is large enough.
If you have a smaller dog, you may want to look into a car booster seat with a harness restraint. It will give your dog a sturdy place to see out the windows, yet be restrained from interfering in the operations of your vehicle.
A note about dog car booster seat safety
First and foremost, you want safety. You may see that a dog car booster seat was crash tested. That doesn’t mean much unless they passed the test. It’s a bit deceiving. Actually, I’m going to say it’s a bit dishonest because it’s our dogs’ lives at stake.
TIP: If a dog car booster seat says “crash tested” do a bit more research.
The Center for Pet Safety has not done a test on dog booster seats since 2015. None of the seats they tested at that time did well. In fact, they all failed in one way or another. You can see the tests here.
However, there was one that failed the least. I’ll reveal that one a bit later.
What do you look for in a great dog car booster seat?
You can check that it says “crash tested”. It’s possible that the company did its own testing. There should be some sort of information about their testing system. Look into it a bit.
2. Restraint system
Some dog booster seats will come with a harness and built-in “seat belt system”. While others will suggest that you buy one. Make sure that you NEVER attach the “seat belt” to your dog’s collar. Attaching the seat belt to your dog’s collar could cause a strangulation issue if you’re in an accident.
3. Ease of installation
We’ve all seen child safety seats not installed properly because it nearly took a rocket scientist with eight arms to do it. You do not want that with your dog’s boost seat. It should be easy to install and easy to store when not in use.
INSTALLATION TIP: Never install a dog booster chair in the front seat. If you are in an accident the airbags could be a fatal issue for your dog.
Yep, in this case, size does matter. You definitely do want your dog to be able to lay down and take a nap, especially if you’re on a long trip. Some dogs are long, like dachshunds, and some dogs are taller like some poodle mixes. Just make sure the seat fits your dog. They are generally sized by weight. However, the dimensions are also given. Mark those out on the floor and make sure your dog will be comfortable if you are ordering online.
5. Ease of cleaning
When you put your dog in and out of the booster seat, it will get dirty. You’ll want a way to clean it. Some come apart nicely and go into the washing machine. Some have covers. Others you have to just spray off and spot wash. Personally, I like to make things easy. So, if it can go into the washer, that’s best for me.
6. Sturdiness and strength
Some dog booster seats are rather flimsy. You want to make sure that the seat you get for your dog is firmly made with a solid bottom. Additionally, a solid bottom seat will allow your dog to feel more secure in his seat.
TIP: Some booster seats for dogs will say to install in the rear seat with the dog facing the seat. These types of booster seats did not fare well in Center for Pet Safety testing. I would definitely advise against this type. Plus, if your dog can’t see you, it may cause additional anxiety.
7. Vehicle requirements
Most booster seats for dogs are looped around a rear headrest of a car seat and secured with the car seatbelt. If your car doesn’t have a back seat headrest, you’ll want to have your dog booster seat more permanently installed. Or have a headrest installed. You can talk to an auto body shop for either adjustment to your car. The main thing is to make sure your dog’s seat is firmly in place.
8. Materials and comfort padding
If your dog is allergic to a lot of different things, you’ll want to look for a booster seat that is marked “hypoallergenic”. Also, if your dog has arthritis, you may want to look into a padded seat for extra comfort, especially on long rides.
How do you put a pup into a dog booster chair?
Unfortunately, it’s not one of those things you can generally train like you can to get in the car. Unless you have stairs your dog can climb, which you’ll have to train your dog to do and take with you in the car. The only real way to get your dog into a booster seat is by lifting him into it. My dog, Henry is 14.5 lbs and it isn’t too bad depending on the day. However, if you have a 20 lb dog or you or your dog has physical issues, it could be more of a problem.
Should I get my small dog a car booster seat?
That will be a decision for you to make. However, you should at least restrain your dog while driving. You can also do it with a dog seatbelt (which should also be attached to a harness) or by putting him in a carrier, it’s up to you. Safety is first. I do have a dog booster seat for Henry. I thoroughly researched it. For Henry, it also helped him because he could see out the window, which he likes. However, there are days when he’s simply restrained because that’s the best option for that day. It’ll be a choice you make with your dog’s needs and safety in mind.
UPDATE: Want another option? If you want another option that has safely passed they crash test, you may want to check out Sleepy Pod Carriers.
What dog car booster seat tested best?
It was the Kurgo Skybox Booster Seat that tested the best. While it did fail the Center for Pet Safety test, “The test dog remained connected to the Kurgo Skybox Booster Seat anchor strap and the Tru-Fit Smart Harness.” That’s pretty huge compared to the others in the test. But once again, if you see a booster chair that says it’s “crash tested” it could be the company’s testing. Just do a bit of investigating. Keep in mind that a company-tested product, rather than a third-party, unbiased test, may reveal different results.
Yes, any kind of dog car restraint device can be expensive, whether that is a dog booster seat (can equal the cost of a dog crate), dog seatbelt (the cheapest), or dog crate. However, if you weigh the cost with that of losing your best furry dog friend, then it’s priceless! Just pick the option that is best for you.
Summary of whether dog booster seats are good for small dogs
The answer is a resounding maybe. You need to make sure that the dog booster chair is of good quality. It should be:
- safe and have some sort of “crash testing” which is most likely the company’s testing
- have a restraint system, which should be attached ONLY to your dog’s harness
- be easy to install
- sturdy and strong
- properly sized for your dog
- meet your vehicle requirements
- be made comfortable for your dog
A dog booster seat is not the only option to retrain your dog in your moving vehicle. However, it’s essential to have your dog contained while driving to eliminate distractions, ensure your dog is safe, and meet legal standards. You could also restrain your dog, even a larger dog, with a dog car safety belt, which is attached to a harness, or even by putting your dog in a crate.
How do you restrain your dog when you’re driving? Will you try a dog booster seat? Have you ever tried one?