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The Complete Guide To Dog Seat Belts - PawSafe

The Complete Guide To Dog Seat Belts

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog in car crash

Over 80% of owners drive with their dog loose in the car or on the driver’s lap; a dangerous habit that can result in tragedy. This is why it’s vital to know all about (and use!) dog seat belts. 

Although many of us regard our dogs as our children, we usually fail to provide them with proper car safety. Whether we are taking a trip to a store, dog park, or going on vacation with our pooch, too many of us overlook the most basic way of safe traveling with our dog.

A dog seatbelt is a foolproof way to keep your canine friend safe and secure during car rides.  This article covers why dog seat belts are essential, how to use them, and what to look for in a quality dog seat belt tether. So buckle up because you’re about to learn how to keep your pooch comfortably buckled inside the car.

Contents show

Why Dogs Need Seat Belts

There are a number of reasons that dog seat belts are critical for traveling. These include:

  • Protecting your dog in the event of sudden braking.
  • Prevent driver distraction and even for other passengers.
  • Avoid a situation where a dog is running loose after an accident.
  • Keep your dog from jumping out a window or an open door.

What’s more, dog seatbelt laws are becoming increasingly common in many states. If you want to read about which states require seat belt laws.

Keep your dog safe & secure with a seat belt

Dogs also need specially developed seat belts that cater to their size and weight distribution. Human seat belts could hurt your pooch and may not offer sufficient protection in a collision. But let’s take a closer look at why driving with a loose dog is hazardous.

Dangers Dogs Face When Riding in Cars

Car rides are an adventure for most dogs, but they pose significant risks to their safety. It’s second nature to fasten your seat belts because the road is a dangerous place. The same should apply to dogs because they face certain dangers when riding in cars, such as:

Anxious or Enthusiastic Dogs Jumping Out of the Car

A dog allowed to roam unrestrained when riding in the car is a recipe for disaster. Excited dogs are unpredictable and may jump out of the moving vehicle due to bottled-up energy or because they spot something they want to chase. Leaping out of open windows could lead to severe injury and even death to your dog.  

Nervous dogs are more likely to stay put during rides, but going out for drives will be an unpleasant experience for them. Your pooch is unaware of the harm leaping out of a car will cause them and the passengers, so strapping them to the seats is a good car safety precaution. 

Dogs Can Be Hurt by External Debris When  Hanging Their Heads Out the Window

Your dog’s head is out the window, and ears are flapping cutely in the wind like in the movies. The danger is that the foreign objects outside fly into your dog’s face, sometimes severely injuring them. This is particularly dangerous for their eyes. A well-fitted seat belt should allow you to leave your windows open but not give your dog enough room to stick its head out of the window. 

Dog Collars And Whiplash Or Spinal Damage 

A dog can be severely injured in the event of a crash if they are tethered with a dog collar and leash. While it is good to take safety precautions for your dog on car rides, exposing them to other health risks is counterproductive. 

Dog collars can cause significant bodily damage if an accident occurs. Neck or trachea injuries and spinal issues are some of the dangers of using a collar as a restraint during car rides. If the collar yanks too hard on your dog on impact, the neck could break, leading to death.

This is why a properly fitted harness is a better idea, to distribute the weight of impact across the chest and not the neck. 

The safest choice is opting for a sturdy but comfortable dog walking harness and attaching it to the quality Pawsafe dog seat belt. We will discuss the benefits of using a dog seatbelt shortly in this article such as a comfy ride for your dog. 

Airbags Can Injure Dogs Sitting in the Front Seat When They Inflate During an Accident

Although airbags can save a person’s life, they are a risk to our pooches because they don’t fit in the seatbelts properly. 

An airbag deployed during a collision can hit their vital organs resulting in issues like head trauma or suffocating your dog if there is not enough room. Dogs should always ride in the car’s backseat to avoid this issue. After all, they make terrible co-drivers!

An Unrestrained Dog Can Become a Dangerous Projectile During a Collision 

Dogs roaming free in a moving car are a danger to themselves and those inside of the vehicle. Melanie Monteiro, a dog safety coach and author, explains the risk in her book about dog safety. 

A 10-pound dog can become a 500-pound projectile at a speed of 50 mph. Bystanders and passengers could be killed by the dog when it is catapulted at this force. A 90-pound dog would become a  2700-pound missile at a speed of 30 mph that is lethal to both the dog and anybody they hit. 

The Benefits of Using a Dog Seat Belt

Cars cater to the body position and weight of humans but not so much for pets. Relying on the inbuilt safety belts provides very little protection to your pooch in the event of an accident. Seat belts specifically made for dogs have several life-saving benefits. 

Securing Your Dog


An effective dog seat belt is strong enough to withstand the force generated upon collision. Even a minor accident will pose a massive risk to an unrestrained dog. Hitting the breaks suddenly or sudden speed increases will send them falling from their seat.

A seat belt harness should fit your dog properly, not too tight that it’s uncomfortable, and not too loose that they can escape. Using a dog seatbelt with an adjustable length instead of other restrained methods like a crate gives them the freedom to move about in the seat. 

You Can Drive Distraction Free


We all want to receive affection from our pooch, but driving is an activity that calls for our undivided attention. It is illegal in some states to drive with an unrestrained animal in the car because it can be extremely distracting.

Suppose you’re busy driving, but your pup is licking your face and climbing on your lap. Such distractions are precursors to accidents because your mind isn’t entirely on the road ahead. Dog seat belts keep them on their seats then playtime can happen as soon as you arrive safely at your destination. 

Your Pup Stays in the Vehicle


Dog seat belts ensure that your dog stays in the vehicle, whatever the case may be. Dogs that are running loose in the event of an accident can be a problem for EMTs and pose further risk to themselves by potentially dashing into the road.

Furthermore, it’s good practice to prevent your dog from being able to jump out of an open door or window, even when you have stopped. You always want to be able to put your dog securely on a leash before they are able to get out of the car.

How To Use A Dog Seat Belt 

Proper Usage of Dog Seatbelt for Your Dog's Car Safety

Maybe you’re a first-time owner who just discovered that dogs need seat belts. How do you put them on? Dog seat belts attach the harness on your dog to the car’s seat belt buckle, strapping your dog to the seat safely.

Steps To Use A Dog Seat Belt:

Fasten Into The Seat Belt Buckle

Cars come with a seatbelt buckle where the dog seat belt clip is attached. Ensure that the dog seatbelt attachment fits your car’s latch system properly to avoid jamming. The PawSafe dog seat belt features a universal design clip that is suitable for most vehicles.

Attach the Seat Belt To Your Dog’s Harness

Once the dog seatbelt is properly attached to the car’s seat belt, simply clip the tether to the D-Ring of your dog’s harness. The PawSafe no-pull harness is versatile because once you arrive at your destination, you can simply detach the seat belt, attach your leash, and use the harness to walk your dog.

Adjust For Comfort

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Are Dog Seat Belts Safe?

Yes, dog seat belts offer an impressive amount of safety and protection to your pup. Dog seat belts compensate for what human seat belts lack in providing safety to your pets. 

It is important to remember not to attach the tether strap of the dog seatbelt to a dog collar. When you use collars in concert with dog seat belts, the collars can pull on the dog’s neck leading to damage.

Crash Testing 

Unfortunately, there aren’t standards or industry tests for dog restraints used in cars. Some manufacturers claim to sell “crash-tested harnesses,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there aren’t reliable third-party agencies or government directives to perform these tests. 


The Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a nonprofit organization, performed specially designed crash tests using dummy dogs. These tests didn’t follow any government regulations, and they showed just how deceptive claims of crash testing are.

Only 7 of the 11 harnesses that claimed to be crash-tested passed the initial strength portion of the test. Out of the harnesses that passed the strength portion, only 3 made it through the crash testing part of the test. Again, there aren’t government guidelines on pet safety products, so these test results are misleading. 

Consumer Reports

Reviews from users and third-party users are the best way to determine how good a dog seatbelt is. The pet safety industry is an unregulated field, so comments from people who have had first-hand experience effectively gauge the quality of a dog seatbelt.

PawSafe has had many customers write reviews expressing their gratitude for the product. Testimonials show just how durable and convenient the PawSafe dog seatbelt is. The results speak for themselves.

Dog Seat Belt Laws by State

Driving with an unrestrained pet is not just unsafe but also illegal in some states. In Hawaii, it is illegal to hold an animal in your lap or allow one in your vicinity to interfere with driving. Some states such as Washington, have comprehensive distracted driving laws on tasks not associated with driving, including interacting with your pet. 

In states such as Nevada, New Jersey, and Washington, animal cruelty laws make it illegal to transport an animal improperly. The court can nail you for improper animal transportation when you drive with an unrestrained pet, regardless if you have a small dog or a larger dog. 

Luckily, these laws apply only in extreme cases such as manslaughter where your dog, as a projectile, accidentally kills someone. However, just because it’s legal to drive with an unrestricted license in your state doesn’t mean you should put your dog at risk.

What to Look For in a Dog Seat Belt?

When it comes to dog seat belts, you are spoilt for choice with all the brands in the market today. It is essential to know what to look for when choosing the right dog seatbelt for your canine friend. A dog seatbelt with the right features will keep dogs safe and secured in the car.

Chew Proof

Some dogs tend to chew on whatever is in their vicinity whenever they’re excited or bored. Car rides can be boring to an active dog, especially if you don’t give them enough attention. A chew-proof dog seatbelt can withstand the wrath of your dog’s teeth because of the quality and durability material. 


The ability to stretch makes a dog seatbelt effective in protecting your dog in the event of an accident. The seatbelt bungee tether absorbs shock on impact if an accident occurs, which could prevent injury to your dog. 

Adjustable tether

The tether connects the dog harness to the car seat belt. A suitable dog seatbelt should have an adjustable length, making it convenient for people with multi-pet households. An adjustable strap is cost-effective because it can fit all the dogs in your household. It is also vital that you can adjust the tether to allow for the range of movement your dog has in the vehicle.

Other Considerations for Dog Seatbelts

Dog Size

Different dogs vary greatly in size, and you must adjust the dog seatbelts accordingly. Adjustable seatbelts cater to the differences in dog sizes, with more space provisions for larger dogs.

A well-fitting dog seatbelt gives enough wiggle room for your dog while in the back seat. On the other hand, it restricts movement enough to ensure that they are not a distraction when you’re driving. 

Car Compatibility

The nature of dog seatbelts makes it critical to choose the right one that is compatible with your car’s specific seat belt buckle. A dog seat belt should fit into your car’s buckle or else it will jam, which can be quite frustrating.

Universal metal buckles will likely attach to the dog seat belt clip with minimal issues. Take a visual note of your car’s seat belt buckles before buying a dog seat belt to ensure they are compatible. 


What Is the Best Dog Seat Belt?

The PawSafe Dog Seatbelt offers safety, extra durability, and comfort, making it an excellent choice as a restraint for your pup. The best dog seat belt comes down to you as the pet owner, but it should give you value for your money.

PawSafe believes in giving our customers quality above all else. Our dog seat belt is made with high-quality nylon fabric that is lightweight but strong enough to handle the force generated on impact. The dog seatbelt meets the standards for a proper seat belt that we have stated above. 

The PawSafe dog seat belt clip is designed to be compatible with the buckle of your car seat with a low probability of jamming. Additionally, the tether is super sturdy and adjustable, making our dog seatbelt a one-size-fits-all for all the dogs in your household.  

Using Pet Car Seats, Car Barriers, Carriers & Crates

There are other forms of restraint for your dog when you’re going out for a ride. These alternativ-e-archives effectively keep your pet inside the vehicle during the drive with little to no distractions to you as the driver.

Pet Car Seats

Pet car seats look very comfy for smaller dogs, and we are sure they are. The issue with some dog seats is that they aren’t very effective restraints. A larger dog can quickly jump out of the seats and get to licking your face and climbing your laps.

Most dog seats specifically used in cars come with an inbuilt car harness and a loop that attaches to the top of the car seat. The harness avoids the situation where your pooch jumps out of the seat. Dog car seats are best for small to medium-sized dogs.

Dogs travel in safety and comfort when using a car seat

Carriers & Crates 

Crates are convenient for anxious dogs and those with separation anxiety. Such dogs are crate trained to deal with negative feelings making the crate a safe space. If your puppy is nervous, the crate offers a familiar environment that enables them to relax.

Crates and carriers are suitable for large dogs who simply wouldn’t fit a dog car seat. Crates and carriers offer adequate restraint during rides. However, they are not secured inside a crate. This means that in the event of an accident, they can be thrown about and injured. Most crates also tend to collapse and buckle under the force of impact, trapping a dog inside.

Car crates give dogs a sense of security and safety

Car Seat Covers

Car seat covers with a barrier are effective at preventing your pooch from distracting you, as they can keep your dog safely in the back seat. However, in the case of a collision, dogs are not secured and can be flung through the barrier or out of the window, meaning that these are not the safest options for traveling. 

Car seat covers with a barrier give you dog it’s own personal area

While the forms of restrictions mentioned above effectively protect your pooch on the road, a seat belt is the best. A dog seatbelt is cost-effective, and offers freedom to move about in the backseat. 

A Harness is Essential

A dog seatbelt works by attaching a harness to the buckle of your car’s seats. Dog harnesses cover the shoulders and chest, thereby distributing the pressure exerted on the body. On the other hand, collars rest on the neck, so all the pressure of a sudden stop will be isolated to the neck area.

In an accident, the force generated by impact exerts stress on their neck. This force can lead to severe neck and spinal injury and can be fatal if the neck snaps. For maximum safety, simply attach the dog seatbelt to a quality harness such as the PawSafe dog harness.

Getting Your Dog Accustomed To a Seatbelt

For most dogs, a seat belt needs a bit of getting used to for the first couple of drives. It is essential to ease your dog into being restrained using a seatbelt to make it a positive experience. Slowly introducing a seatbelt will ensure a  more relaxed dog, and rides will be a pleasant experience.  You can follow the following steps.

Let Your Dog Wear the Harness Around the House First

The house is a familiar environment for your pup, making it easier for them to wear the harness. Once the dog appears relaxed with the harness on, you can take them outside with the harness on.

Take Your Pup on a Short Car Ride to a Pleasant Destination

If your puppy enjoys playing, a ride to the park will make them dread the seatbelts less. Your pooch will associate riding in the car with the seatbelts on with pleasant activities such as playing. When the dog makes this association, putting a seatbelt on them will be easier.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Once they get the hang of staying in the backseat with the car harness and car seat belt on, be sure to give them treats and praise. Your dog will find going on rides with the seatbelts on to be a pleasant activity, and they will look forward to going for drives.  

How To Prepare for a Road Trip With Dogs

The first few drives with your pooch may be challenging for you and your pet. You can take some steps to ensure that the ride with your dog runs smoothly and safely. The most important precaution to take is to ensure that you strap your dog safely into the seat. Once your dog gets accustomed to being restrained during rides, taking trips will be a breeze for you both

Steps to ensure that travel is save & easy for your dog:

Loud Music

Avoid Loud Music

Loud music can overstimulate your dog leading to restlessness. A restless dog will chew on anything in their vicinity and will bark and howl. A serene environment will ensure that the dog remains calm until you get to your destination. 


Carry Doggy Treats

Dog treats or chews are a good way of rewarding your puppy for carrying themselves properly during the ride. Positive reinforcement shows a dog how to act the next time for them to get treats again. A favorite chew can keep them occupied so that they do not notice they are restrained.


Plan Your Stops

Your dog will need to stop for potty breaks, especially during a long trip. Planning when and where to stop in advance will help you manage your time better. It is also vital to make sure your dog drinks lots of water and stays hydrated.


Prevent Fast Getaways

It may be fun to drive at high speeds but not when your dog is in the car. High speed could make your dog restless and anxious, leading to distracting behaviors like howling. Driving fast is not the safest practice, so avoid driving fast with your dog in the car.


Use a Car Seat Cover 

Some breeds such as the German shepherd are big shedders. A car seat cover is important in protecting your seat upholstery to avoid arriving at your destination with a furry mess. 


Get Comfortable With a Dog Bed

You can carry a dog bed from home for your dog and put it on your seat. Carrying your dog’s bed is calming because it reminds your pup of home. Familiar objects such as your dog’s bed help a dog with anxiety, and you will notice them being a lot more relaxed. 


Collapsible Food Bowl

In case of a long journey, you will need to feed your dog along the way. A collapsible food bowl is portable, making it convenient to carry. Simply fold the collapsible food bowl and put it back into the bag when your dog finishes eating. 


Ensure Your Dog is Hydrated

Dogs must have access to clean water during rides, especially on long journeys, to avoid dehydration. Our portable water bottle is easy to carry and comes with a unique foldable bowl from which your dog can take the water. 


Keep Your Dog Clean 

A dirty dog will mess up your car and cause it to stink. To avoid stinking up your car, wash your dog every month with our quality shampoo. Avoid overwashing your dog as that would strip your dog’s coat of essential oils leading to dryness. Only wash your pooch before rides if they are very dirty. 

Trips in the car should be a time of excitement for you and your dog. Taking some or all of the steps above will help ensure it’s a calm and tranquil environment so you can both enjoy the ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Words

Your dog’s safety when you’re traveling is a matter of utmost importance. You should use a quality dog seat belt along with a dog harness to ensure that your dog is always secure in the vehicle. An unrestricted dog can distract you from driving, which can lead to accidents.

The PawSafe dog seatbelt is an excellent choice for a dog restraint in the car. The adjustable tether accommodates dogs of different sizes, which is cost-effective for dog owners with many fur babies.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.