Dangers of unrestrained dogs in cars

What No One Tells You About The Dangers Of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars

Are you aware of the dangers of unrestrained dogs in cars?

Here’s why I ask…

If you love taking Fido anywhere you go, chances are he’s your loyal furry co-pilot.

Possibly unrestrained.

Here’s the thing though.

Of course it’s super cute to see your pup sticking their head outside the window, ears flopped back, taking in ALL of the smells.

Unfortunately, doing so unrestrained is also super dangerous. Have a read of this Volvo study about unrestrained pets in cars.

Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to keep your pup safe(r) in the car AND to avoid a fine, so read on to find what you can do!

The Danger of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars

Are you aware of the dangers of unrestrained dogs in cars?

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Did you know that unrestrained dogs who are allowed to roam around freely inside a moving car pose an incredibly high risk of distraction?

Any driver who has to tend to a dog barking uncontrollably or climbing around in the car is accident prone. 

It’s simply impossible to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel WHILE keeping track of your dog’s whereabouts at the same time. 

One of the worst distracted driving situations is the one where Fido sits on your lap in the driver’s seat. Possibly even with his front paws on the steering wheel, stretching in direction of the window.

Here’s some truly crushing news: If an accident happens right then and there, your lap dog will get crushed by the deployment of the airbag.

Do you really want to risk that?

Also, if you have to hit the brakes suddenly, Fido will become a first class projectile and go flying through the car.

Possibly even through the windshield depending on their size and the speed you’re traveling at.

The consequence would be serious injuries, or even death.

Some unrestrained dogs have also been known to jump out of crushed car windows and follow their flight instinct.

In other words: Take off, most likely in a puzzled and disoriented manner. That may get them hit by another car, or cause them to get lost.

The Dangers of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars: Precautions That Keep Your Dog Safe

Thankfully, as with most things in life, you can take several precautions to avoid the super scary scenarios I just described!

The safest way of going for car rides with Fido is to set him up in a sturdy crate that’s secured with tie-down straps. 

The securing and sturdiness factors are really important, because a generic plastic crate will NOT survive a crash.

Subaru and the Center for Pet Safety Research

Sturdy aluminium dog crates are the safest option. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive and will cost several hundred dollars. 

However, if you have enough space in your car for them, it’s (literally) a solid investment.

How to keep dogs safe in the car

The ProLine Crash Tested Crate is one option and costs $749. It is, however, tested by the German TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein), an association responsible for performing security checks. 

That crate is designed and made by swiss engineers.

ProLine Crash Tested Aluminum Dog Crate

The Heavy Duty Gunnar Kennels performed great in the Subaru Car Safety Test, and are a little less expensive than the ProLine ones at $500.

Heavy Duty Gunner Kennel

Unfortunately, the crate option for larger dogs is usually only feasible if you drive an SUV.

However, there are good alternatives!

For example, the Ruffwear Load Up Harness which attaches to the seat belt buckle. 

According to the Ruffwear website, their Load Up Harness “has been successfully tested to withstand the rigors of a vehicle crash test. 

Update 2022: I have since then used a variety of a tools to keep my dogs safe in the car, such as:

  • Ruffwear Load Up Harness
  • Mighty Paw Sport Harness 2.0 & their Headrest Seatbelt
  • Crash tested car crate (German make, not available on the US market. I bought it after our move to Germany in 2021)

It’s also a good idea to have an extra set of leashes and collars on board, in case your regular ones break or get torn for whatever reason.

They also come in handy when you’re spotting a lost dog while you’re on the road. 

In addition to a human first aid kit, you should also consider a pet first aid kit for your car.

I invite you to check out my blog post “What’s In Your Dog First Aid Kit”?

It helps you create your very own DIY pet first aid kit or purchase premade ones.

Other Things to Consider When Traveling With Your Dog

Make sure your dog is up to date on their vaccines and look into the climate and its potential health risks you are traveling to.

If you travel to the northeast and upper Midwest of the US, you may want to consider vaccinating your pup(s) against the tick borne Lyme disease. That’s because those regions harbor ticks that carry the disease.

Always be considerate of others and pick up after your pup, so pack a sufficient amount of poop bags.

Also, remember to bring along enough water dog food, as well as their favorite toy(s).

Last but not least, have copies of your pup’s vaccination records in the car, as well as pet insurance info and a current picture for identification purposes.

Make sure that your pup’s wearing their ID tags at all times.

The Dangers Of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars: Bottom Line

Driving with an unrestrained dog in your car is asking for serious trouble sooner or later.

It may even be prohibited by law depending on where you live in the US!

That’s why I recommend to keep car adventures safe for all parties involved and to invest in a car harness/seat belt attachment for your pup, or to keep them safe in a travel crate.

What’s left is to enjoy a safe trip with your pack!

How do you keep your pup(s) safe when traveling by car? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!

Missy & Buzz wearing travel harnesses attached to the backseat seatbelts

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.






16 responses to “What No One Tells You About The Dangers Of Unrestrained Dogs In Cars”

  1. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    I think the very safest dog boxes are the ones mounted to the vehicle itself. But you are talking big bucks for those.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I hadn’t considered that option, but it sure DOES sound like the safest option! Who would mount the box to the vehicle? Or is that something we’d have to do ourselves?

      1. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

        There are companies that fabricate and do the mounting. Here is one down your way. http://www.mtck.com/ there are others. Either the mounted boxes or the trailers are very safe options, but expensive. We had a trailer until we sold it last year. With our senior dogs being retired from hunt testing we did not need it as much and someone wanted it so we sold it. Held its value. We sold it for what we paid for it. 🙂

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          Oh wow, I just checked them out & watched a video from a happy customer: https://youtu.be/fH2-nnNzr7Q

          Now this really takes safe car rides with your pooches to a whole other level. I love it. And it’s wonderful that the trailer held its value. I can see why.

          1. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

            LOl the video is of Bill Hillman. He is a professional trainer. We took a seminar and trained with him once. 🙂 The other nice thing is that they are insulated so keep the dogs nice and cool in the summer heat. Our trailer was actually from another manufacturer and had a fan system.

          2. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            Lol, I had no idea – well now I know who Bill Hillman is 😉 Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I can only imagine how expensive these custom boxes must be!

  • Pamela | Something Wagging Avatar

    Most people are in serious denial about how dangerous cars are. If they weren’t, we’d probably save tons of energy.

    My pet peeve is people who drive with their dogs in their laps. Talk about a distraction!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I completely agree – I constantly see people driving around with their little pups on their laps! Makes me cringe!!!

  • Colby Avatar

    We’re going to have to check out the Ruffwear Load Up Harness. Linus has an older harness that we got before organizations like CPS started doing crash tests. Do you have any other recommendations for a good car harness?

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      We got our current harnesses from Baxter Boo for less than 10 bucks about 4 years ago. Granted, they still work, but we also haven’t had any accidents, and I really want a harness that’s been crash-tested now.

      I have also heard good things about the Kurgo car harness (this one has also been crash tested): http://www.kurgo.com/harnesses/enhanced-strength-tru-fit-dog-car-harness/

  • Elaine Avatar

    I have to admit, I haven’t been good about always securing Haley when in the vehicle. She always stays in the back of the SUV but if we were to be in an accident, I would hate to think what might happen. I’ve thought about harnesses, but most are not rated or safety tested. Thanks so much for the Ruffwear model recommendation. It has a lot of good reviews and I think it would work really well for Haley.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      My pleasure! Yes, I liked the positive reviews in combination with the fact that the harness has been crash-tested. AND I’m a sucker for Ruffwear products 😉 Here’s to safe car fun for Miss Haley!

  • 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    Just bought a new crate for destructo dog Freighter. Actually we bought two of them for the back of the truck.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Wow, thanks so much for sharing. Just looked at those crates, and they look like the perfect fit for Houdini dogs 😉 You spent some serious cash on those. They better last – but they sure look like they will!

      1. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

        Yeah they were pricey but we needed something for Freighter. He is a wild thing at tests. If I ever get my blog fixed, I will share a story about what he did at the test last weekend. lol

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          Completely understand – quality has its price. Just took a peek at your blog, and I like the new look! I remember running into several glitches when I switched over to my new theme. Thankfully I got them resolved within a few days, but they were a major source of frustration while they lasted. Ugh. I hope you’ll get yours fixed quickly because I DO want to hear about what Freighter did at the test 😉

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