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According to Dr. Jamie Richardson of Small Door Veterinary, proper car restraint is essential to protecting your dog every time they ride in the car. Dr. Richardson recommends the Sleepypod Clickit Sport Dog Safety Harness for small, medium, and large dogs. This harness system works with your car’s seatbelt and is designed to distribute pressure and reduce force if you’re in an accident. Three points of contact secure your dog’s torso from all directions and reduce movement if you come to a sudden stop while driving.
Made from ballistic nylon, it is comfortable for even long-term wear and can double as a walking harness after your car ride is over. It comes in four sizes and four colors, so you can find the right fit for your dog. Owners like that the Sleepypod Clickit Sport has been crash-tested and is designed to keep your pet safe while riding in the car. According to Dr. Richardson, it may not be ideal for sighthounds (such as greyhounds), but it’s a great all-around harness to protect your pup in the car.
The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed is a great choice for smaller dogs, and while it’s a bit pricier than some other options on this list, it’s crash-tested and works as a carrier, a bed, and a car seat all at once. It’s ideal for placing in the backseat, and Dr. Richardson loves this pick for dogs up to 15 pounds.
Made from luggage-grade nylon and polyester, it includes a padded shoulder strap for carrying and a mesh dome top to allow air to flow in and out while your pet is inside. The water-resistant liner is easy to clean, and this pet bed can be used in both the car and on a plane. To secure during car rides, you can wrap a seat belt around the base and secure the belt through the bed’s handle. The medium size measures 17 x 17 x 13 inches, and weighs just over 5 pounds.
According to Dr. Richardson, every dog car seat should secure your pup with a harness or a strap to avoid movement while traveling. The A4Pet Pet Car Seat is large enough for labrador-sized pups and measures 29 x 16 x 14 inches. It elevates your dog 6.5 inches above the car seat so he or she can look out of the window while you’re driving. It is two-sided, with cozy fleece for warmth in the winter and Oxford Fabric for cooling in the summer. A security leash keeps your pet in place while driving, and the fold-down design allows for storage when it's not in use.
When your dog can’t see out of the window, he or she may be tempted to jump around while you’re driving—which is distracting for you, and can be dangerous for them. The Pet Gear Large Car Booster gives your small or medium dog the boost they need to look outside while you’re driving and keeps them from trying to ride up front with you. The seat attaches to your car via the seatbelt, so it won’t move in place. It also features a tether that can be easily attached to a harness to keep your pet secure in the booster. The booster measures 22 x 17 x 11.5 inches and is ideal for dogs weighing up to 30 pounds.
Owners love that this booster is secure and comfortable, but some do mention that it feels a lot smaller than might be expected. Dr. Richardson recommends booster and car seats to be placed in the backseat to avoid airbag damage, were an accident to occur.
Though expensive, the Gunner Kennel is one of the safest options for your pet, according to Dr. Richardson. This double-wall, rotomolded dog crate has been tested to withstand over 4,000 pounds of force and carries a lifetime warranty. It’s ideal for traveling with your large dog in the trunk. You can rest assured this crate is escape-proof and completely secure against force. It has in-line wheels for easy transportation to the car, and the large size measures 40.25 x 28 x 33.25 inches.
Dr. Richardson says the most important element to keeping your dog safe is ensuring your dog is “secure and as immobile as possible” to avoid them becoming a projectile if an accident were to occur. Though this crate is pricey, it’s by far the most secure and strongest option if you're going on long car rides.
The best place for your dog is in the back seat, away from the airbag. The Vailge Waterproof Dog Car Seat Cover is ideal for multiple dogs, especially if you are traveling often. This car seat hammock covers your entire back seat and not only protects your car from mud and dirt, but also keeps your pet from roaming around while you’re driving.
Two side flaps cover the sides of your car seat and make it easier for your pet to get in and out of the car. This hammock features velcro openings for your car’s seatbelts to allow you to secure your pet’s harness and keep him safe while you’re driving. The hammock measures 60 x 56 inches, and is ideal for a car or smaller SUV.
If your pet has a history of car sickness or tends to shed a lot, this hammock is also great for protecting your car seats from damage. Reviewers—and their pets—love that it is non-slip and stays in place while in use.
If your pet has a history of running around while you’re driving, you’ll love the Mighty Paw Dog Vehicle Safety Belt. This safety belt keeps your dog protected should an accident occur, and works with other pet car seats on our list.
This belt is designed to attach directly to the LATCH system in the crease of your backseat (as opposed to the seatbelt) to avoid the risk of your pet accidentally releasing the belt while the car is in motion. It can adjust from 16 to 26 inches for an accurate fit, and a swivel-free attachment allows your dog to rotate without getting tangled.
The PupSaver Safety Seat is not only crash-tested and designed to protect your dog from injury, but it is also comfortable for pups—especially those with anxiety around confinement. This rear-facing car seat is designed to catch your dog upon impact and act as a barrier against surfaces if an accident occurs. It’s ideal for dogs weighing up to 30 pounds and comes with five plastic clips to keep the PupSaver in place. It should be placed in the back seat, and doubles as a pet bed during travel. The seat measures 24 x 12 x 18 inches and weighs just over 7 pounds.
Owners liken the PupSaver to an oversized baseball mitt and say it’s not only comfortable for dogs, but also keeps them secure when the car is moving. This safety seat is great for extra-small and small dogs, and is a good choice if your dog doesn’t like being crated in the car.
This roundup was edited by Ashley Knierim, who has written more than ten dog stories for The Spruce Pets. She loves traveling with her two dogs and uses the Vailge Waterproof Dog Car Seat Cover (our pick for Best for Multiple Dogs) to keep them safe whenever they go on adventures together.
For this list, Ashley interviewed Dr. Jamie Richardson of Small Door Veterinary for background on the dog car seats she likes, what to look for in a car seat for your dog, and why dog car seats are important to own.