I know there are so many thoughts on where and how our dogs should travel in the car. The safest is probably a crate but I don’t have an SUV that allows me the room to add crates. I still want to travel and have fun in different places with my dog though so I have worked on making the back seat a safer place for Bella to be when we do go out on the road. It has taken me years to perfect my back seat set up and I am sharing that with you today.
Why your dog shouldn’t be in the front seat……ever!
First let’s cover why your dog should not be in the front seat. Number one reason is if you are in an accident and your air bags were to deploy your dog may be seriously injured or killed if they get hit with them. That alone is enough for me to not have them up in the front. Plus in the front they have access to buttons they shouldn’t.
Next thing to think about is how distracting your dog can be if they are jumping in your lap, jumping from front seat to the back seat, or even jumping out the window! All of those things and more can cause an accident.
Back Seat Set Up
There’s just a few components to my back seat set up and many can be used in the cargo area of your car or SUV as well as long as it is a hatch back style car.
Car Harness - When it comes to car harnesses this is one of those times where I think something is better than nothing. I am going to say that again… this is one of those times where I think something is better than nothing. It is super important to have some kind of harness or restraint for your dog in the car.
If you were to be in an accident this could help your dog stay safer and stay with you. I have read so many stories of people in accidents looking for their pets because they got spooked and bolted after an accident. I’ve even heard of dog breaking windows to get away after an accident because they were so scared.
Car harnesses can range in price and safety rating so choose one that you think works best for your dog and your car. The harnesses can attach to the seat belt or attach at the head rest, one that attaches to the headrest would be a good option for a dog that rides in the cargo area.
You can also get a tether that attaches to their everyday harness. If you decide on a tether that attaches to the seat belt or a head rest it is important to never attach a car tether to a dogs collar this could seriously hurt their neck if you were to be in an accident, always attach tether to a rear attaching harness only. (The kind where the D ring is on their back.)
For Bella I use this Kurgo harness and love it. It has been crash tested and can be used as an everyday harness.
I have also just used a tether with her everyday Flagline Harness from Ruffwear because I really believe something is better than nothing. Also if you have a senior pup this harness is FANTASTIC!
Once you have picked your car harness make sure it is adjusted so that if they have freedom to move that they can only get to the windows and not be able to jump out the window. I know what you are thinking “My dog would never jump out the window” I used to think that too.
Dog Mom Confession Time - It was my hospice dog Tyra who taught me an important lesson about proper placement when wearing a car harness. Up until then Bella wore one and had never had a problem. One day I took Tyra to In-N-Out (a west coast hamburger place) and was sitting in the parking lot breaking up her hamburger and she started running around the back seat and then she jumped right out the window!!! Imagine my horror as I watched this in slow mo in my rear view mirror! I got out of the car and luckily the car harness worked! She was just dangling on the side of my car, still in her car harness. I picked her up and un buckled the harness and realized a harness wasn’t enough but it needs to be at the proper length so this doesn’t happen. So learn from my mistake and make sure to adjust your adjuster to the proper length so this doesn’t happen. The worst thing was she had to potty and that’s why she jumped out, bless that girls heart.
Back Seat Extender - Okay we’ve got the harness now let’s extend the back seat. You might be asking why you need to extend the back seat and the reason is simple. With out extending the back seat the hammock style seat cover is very unstable for your dog if they try to stand or walk over the open foot area underneath. This is especially important if you have a senior dog. The seat extender creates a hard surface over the foot area so that they can have more useable space in the back seat to stand or lay on. The backseat extender attaches to the front seats to stay secure and also has a middle section to block the area over the middle console of the car so your dog can’t jump into the front seat, but if you have picked out a harness already you don’t have to worry about them free roaming the car.
I use the Kurgo Back Seat Bridge / Seat Extender. I have had this one for at least 8 years and it still works great. I do check it periodically to make sure it is still stable and doing what it needs to.
Hammock Style Car Seat Cover - I have about used about 5 different back seat covers before finding one I really liked. For the last 3 years I have used this one by Active Pets. The key to this one is there are two seams in the bottom to create a square shape that fits the back seat better than a hammock seat cover that has none with just a U shape. The square shape of this seat cover really helps create more stability in the back seat area as well as usable space. The hammock is easy to install and just goes around your head rests, plus there are anchors you stick in-between the seats to help keep the cover close to the seats which helps keep the cover from moving around too much. It is easy to wash and clean if needed. It comes in two sizes so pick the one that is best for your car/SUV and can also work in a cargo area.
Finally on top of the hammock I always put a thick fleece blanket that fits the space evenly. For long trips I like to add a bed.
Another thing I like I to do is leave a water bowl in the back seat so then I don’t have to worry about always bringing one when we go out on an adventure, I just need to bring water and we can go.
For The Little Dogs
If you have little dogs it is helpful for them to have a raised seat since that can reduce the chances of them getting car sick. When I had Dorothy I used 2 different ones.
I started with the Kurgo Booster Seat. This one is easy to install and comes ready to go. While she fit in it fine sitting up I noticed as she got older she was more inclined to lay down so I later upgraded to this bigger one by Snoozer Lookout. This worked perfect for her to be able to lay down and look outside. It was large enough to fill the space between my front and back seat completely so it didn’t move at all, plus I was able to loop the seat belt around it to additionally secure it. With both of these I used her car harness as well that attached to the seat belt after it was looped around the booster seat.
You can find the raised car seat by Beau Jardin HERE
Reach out to your vet with any questions you have about car harnesses, they may be able to recommend one to you that would be best suited for your dog. This is just what I have used and what works for our situation. Always do your own research to fins what works best for your dog.
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