Puppy in car back seat, ready for a road trip

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Dog sweaters, dog nail polish, and dog beer … it’s all a bit much. While dog seat belts and safety harnesses sound like another addition to that long list of silly, self-indulgent pet products, the evidence shows otherwise. We spoke to an expert to find the best dog harnesses for the car and understand why dog seat belts can be deadly.

Why Are Dog Safety Harnesses Important?

Lindsey Wolko, founder at the Center for Pet Safety, has spent the past decade testing restraints and convincing pet owners of their importance. Restraints in the car are important for two reasons, according to Wolko.

  • They cut down on distractions.

  • They protect the pet in the event of a crash.

Cutting Down on Distractions

Like talking on your cell phone or eating, unrestrained animals can be so distracting that they cause accidents. According to one Volvo study, unsafe driving behaviors more than doubled when pets were unrestrained.

No more distracted driving

That’s where pet seat belts, harnesses, and crates come in: They keep your dog from barrelling into the front every time they see a squirrel. But there’s a big difference between a dog seat belt that prevents distractions (most do) and a device that also protects your dog. Pet owners need to invest in a restraint that does both, Wolko explained.

“I sit on the computer for umpteen numbers of hours a week responding to pet owners, just trying to get them to understand, if you don't do this, your pet could become a projectile,” Wolko said.

Protecting Your Pet

Wolko and her nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization have conducted numerous crash tests with Subaru and on their own to determine which restraints protect an animal during a crash. Most products failed. Of the many harnesses they tested, CPS found just three that met their standards.

“Our number one goal is to protect the people in the vehicle and give the pet the best possible chance of survival in a sudden stop or a crash,” Wolko said.

“People may laugh at it, but at the end of the day, it’s no joke,” she added.

Using Wolko’s insight and CPS’s research, we’ve recommended three harnesses, all of which passed CPS crash tests. Although we focused on harnesses because they’re the most economical option, pet carriers and crates also work — they’ll just cost a pretty penny.

Best Crash-Tested Dog Safety Harnesses

Sleepypod ClickIt Sport

Sleepypod ClickIt Sport Crash-Tested Car Safety Dog Harness
$64 and up from Amazon

Walking Harness: Yes
CPS CertifiedYes

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With its own crash test program, Sleepypod seems committed to offering products that put your pet’s safety first. The ClickIt Sport — a harness with three points of seat belt contact — is the culmination of that safety research. It’s the cheapest harness on our list, but it still comes with a high-quality nylon exterior and automotive-grade seat belt webbing. Check the sizing before buying, as this harness isn’t compatible with some breeds.

Sleepypod ClickIt Terrain

Clickit Terrain
$95 from Sleepypod

Walking Harness: Yes
CPS CertifiedYes

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If you have a larger dog, then you might have to pay a bit extra for Sleepypod’s ClickIt Terrain, which is suitable for dogs up to 110 pounds. Otherwise, there aren’t too many differences between the Sport and Terrain models, save for a slightly more robust padded chest piece.

ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack

ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack
$105 from ZuGoPet

Walking Harness: No
CPS CertifiedYes

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It’s hard to take the aptly named Rocketeer Pack seriously — the “Shark Tank” panel felt similarly — and we can’t imagine that all dogs will tolerate its upright design. That said, it’s among the safest pet harnesses on the market. Plus, it doubles as a dog backpack … if you don’t mind looking ridiculous.

The Bottom Line

Whether you go for a harness or a more expensive crate, you shouldn’t cheap out on keeping your pet secure. Not only will an effective, crash-tested restraint keep you safe, it could also save your dog’s life.

“You strap your kids in. You protect yourself with your seatbelt. You need to protect your pets, too,” Wolko said.

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