It's estimated that there are over 78 million dogs as pets in the United States. Most of these have probably traveled in a vehicle at one time or another in their life. And we've all seen the ones that hang out the driver's window while the driver tries to hold onto their dog and drive at the same time. Or, the loose dog in the back of a pickup truck. In either case, these dogs represent a distraction to the driver as well as other drivers encountering them. A distracted driver is an unsafe driver.
To prevent a driver from becoming distracted by their pet in a car it is strongly recommended and in some states required by law. In Hawaii, for example, it is required by law that all pets be restrained in your vehicle. Other states are using the "distracted driver" laws to write tickets if the officers deem the situation to be unsafe. We applaud these efforts to bring awareness of the importance for restraining pets while riding, for their safety and yours.
There are very few "crash approved" restraint systems for dogs in cars. If you are looking for this level of safety for your pet please search for "crash-tested dog harnesses" and keep in mind you will need a crash-rated tether restraint system if you are not using your car's seat belt.
In this article, we're discussing "restraint systems" to prevent distracted drivers. For years we've been selling our favorite brand, Snoozer Pet Lookout car seats. These pet seats are made in the USA and come in many sizes, shapes, and fabric choices and colors to match your taste and your car's interior. The sizes range from a small console seats for tiny dogs up to approximately 5 pounds, to large Lookout seats for one or multiple dogs up to approximately 34 pounds.
CONSOLE DOG CAR SEATS: Available in 4 sizes for use on most vehicle's console areas either in between the front seats or on the console found in the back seat. The seats have foam core construction which means you may squeeze them into slightly smaller spaces than listed between the front seats. They also feature removable and interchangeable covers which may be machine washed.
Console seats are held in place by two rear anchor straps which secure to either the front seats or the child car seat restraint loops when used in the rear seat (see our installation video), and a front strap which secures around the console of your vehicle. It's important to make sure all straps are tight before each use. Console seats may be easily removed by unbuckling the clips and leaving the straps in the car for next time.
To determine if your vehicle can accommodate a console seat use a measuring tape to determine the distance between your front seats and the length of your console area. Then watch our installation video and see the style of your car will allow a console in either the front or rear seat position.
LOOKOUT DOG CAR SEATS: A customer favorite in the microsuede material. Choose from 3 sizes in 3 different fabrics and oodles of colors. Lookout car seats elevate your small dog to see out which can reduce their anxiety of riding in cars. Each size has the same height and depth, the only difference is the width and how much area it will consume in your vehicle. The small and medium size seats include a single tether strap each and both are available with an optional pullout storage drawer. The drawer is included in all "large" models as well as two tether straps. Looks use a foam core construction so they are lightweight and provide a soft area more like a bed than a seat.
Things to consider when using Lookout car seats. First is placement. If your ideal position is in the front passenger seat we recommend the "small" size. A medium seat may fit in larger vehicles, but please measure. The safest position is in the middle of the back seat. A second consideration and often overlooked is a larger seat is better for traveling not only by providing more sleeping area, but it offers your dog an option to move from side to side to get out of the sun. Another consideration is to add your dog's favorite blanket to the seat. These provide dogs more comfort when their scent is on the blanket and in the long run blankets are easier to wash.
The size of Lookout car seats can be deceiving in photos. We strongly recommend using a tape measure to know how much of your car's seat will be used for each size. Covers may be removed for machine washing or replacement. The microsuede models feature a zippered bottom while the quilted models leave the majority of the foam bottom open and use an elasticized edge underneath to hold the cover in place.
CAR RESTRAINTS: Providing your dog a car seat is only part of the solution. To properly restrain them you should find a comfortable car-approved harness. Typically a harness for use in a car will have the D-ring tethered lower on the back. This is important for a few reasons. In a sudden stop when the tether becomes taught it is easier on their back by not making the shoulders a pivot point. Plus, it's not as easy or them to become tangled when moving around the seat changing positions. Keep in mind, though a car approved harness is not necessarily a crash-tested harness which has to meet much more rigorous standards.
Once you've found an appropriate car harness for your dog, place them in the seat and attach the tether strap to the harness and loop the other end around your car's seat belt. Never attach a tether strap to a dog's collar while in a moving vehicle. A sudden stop could cause serious damage to their neck or even death.
While it may sound like a lot of aggravation suiting up your dog for riding we've actually found it to be extremely easy and convenient. First, having the Lookout car seats elevates them making it easier to access the harness. When the ride is over we typically unbuckle one side of the harness slip it over the head and leave it attached to the tether strap. On the next ride you simply pull the harness over the head, step one paw through the harness, buckle one clip and you're done.