By Tom Barlow, dealnews contributor
There's something infectious about a dog's delight in car travel that makes it worth the possible headaches of taking him along. And who can walk away unmoved by that sad face he makes when he suspects you're going to leave him behind?
Unfortunately, letting a dog bounce around in the car can be dangerous, for both the pet and the driver. The not-for-profit organization BarkBuckleup calculates that a dog weighing 60 lbs., in an accident at 35 mph, can be propelled forward with 2,700 lbs. of force, enough for a mortal injury.
Fortunately, there are some good options for carrying your dog in a car safely.
The Dog Harness
A dog harness attaches to the trunk of the pooch much like a climbing harness does to a human being, then attaches to the female end of the seatbelt to hold it in place in case of a collision. Keep the harness snug but not uncomfortably tight. Look for wide straps, which will distribute the force of impact over more area. You also don't want too much tether; the less the dog can move on impact, the less chance of whiplash-type injury. The Solvit Pet Vehicle Safety Harness is a good example ($23.99 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $3).
The harness can also serve as a more secure attachment for a leash, so no need to take it off when you stop to walk your pet every two hours (at a minimum).
You may want to protect your car upholstery while your dog is secure in his seat belt. Keep an eye peeled for deals on waterproof seat covers such as the Waterproof Pet Seat Cover ($14.99 with free shipping, a low by $13).
The Dog Car Seat Carrier
The Dog Car Seat Carrier
For smaller dogs, the car seat carrier can serve multiple functions. The carrier is essentially a soft-sided enclosure with screened sides, like a tiny tent. The entire carrier can be attached to the seat belt to secure it in the back seat. The Pet Gear Signature Pet Care Seat ($22 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $8) is a good example.
Such a carrier can be all you need when taking a pet to the vet. Also, dogs under 20 lbs. can fly commercially right in the cabin with you, tucked away snugly under your seat in one of these carriers.
The Dog Transport Crate:
If you have the appropriate vehicle (such as a van or SUV), transporting your larger pooch in a crate might be a good alternative. However, one size does not fit all dogs; you don't want your animal bouncing around in a collision because the crate is too big, but the pet should be able to stand up, turn around, and stretch. The Midwest Life Stage Double-Door Folding Metal Dog Crate (from $32.27 with free shipping, a low by about $11) is an example of such a crate, which you should be able to secure with straps that are tied to the built-in hold-downs that are featured in most SUVs and vans.
You've probably seen dogs transported in the back end of an SUV or van, sealed off from the rest of the interior by a metal or fabric screen. An example of such a barricade is the Walky Guard Car Barrier ($43 with free shipping, a low by $6).
However, if the dog is not also restrained by a harness securely attached to a seat belt or hold-down, it could still tumble topsy-turvy within the small area in which it is confined. Regardless, if you do take this option, be sure to remove or strap down any objects in the rear of your vehicle that could become projectiles in an accident.
Getting a dog into a crate or behind a barricade can be difficult if it's no longer much of a jumper. If you don't want to lift your dog in and out of the car, consider a pet ramp like the Solvit Ultralite Bi-Fold Dog Ramp ($69.99 with free shipping, a low by $5).
And lastly, for a really great bargain, the organization BarkBuckleup offers a free pet safety kit, with a first responder decal, a card for vet information, one that shows the shots your pet has received, and pet travel safety tips.
So there's no reason to leave your dog at home when the open road beckons; sharing the experience can make it more fun for both of you. Just remember to take the same precautions you would with any other family member.
Photo credit: jumpyjodes via Flickr