Buckle Up! Keep Your Dog Safe with the Right Dog Seat Belt

Spring is here and the warmer weather comes with the anticipation of summer road trips and days at the doggy park. Before you hit the road, consider some basic safety tips for your dog to make sure your trip is both safe and fun for everyone.

Dangers for Dog Riding in Cars

Dangers for Dogs - White dog sticking its head out the window of car

For most people, letting a dog roam freely in the car is not a big deal and is considered the norm. After all, who doesn’t love watching a dog stick their nose out the window to smell the fresh air with their ears flapping in the wind?

However, letting dogs have their way in the car is not only a danger to themselves, but to everyone in the vehicle, especially the driver. These dangers include:

  • During a collision, a loose dog can become a dangerous projectile even at a relatively slow speed of 30 mph>. 
  • Anxious or excited dogs are prone to jump out of the windows (even if they’ve been trained not to).
  • Dogs who are allowed to hang out the window can be injured by outside objects that get too close to the car.
  • Just like with humans, if a dog isn’t properly restrained, a deployed airbag can cause severe injuries.

While these are scary thoughts for pet owners, there’s an easy way to keep you and your dog safe while driving: dog seat belts.

Why Dogs Need Seat Belts Too

Some people may scoff at the idea of buckling up a dog just to go to the park or the groomer, but seat belts are important to keep dogs safe in the car, just like they keep you and your family safe.

Besides the above reasons, having a dog buckled in with a seat belt keeps the dog comfortably in place while reducing distractions for the driver. Having a dog running around the car and climbing over the seats may be cute at first, but it can increase the risk of an accident. Instead of having to discipline your dog or be distracted with worry that they are putting their nose too far out the window, it’s best to keep them safe with a seat belt so you can focus on the road in front of you.

States Requiring Seat Belts for Dogs

No state has a law requiring seat belts for dogs yet, but there are many restrictions prohibiting unsafe practices while driving with your dog. Most state laws focus on having your dog or other pet on your lap while driving. Other general guidelines for state laws include:

  • You cannot transport a dog in a closed trunk
  • You cannot have a dog in the back of an open truck unless it is properly restrained
  • A dog cannot be on a lead that’s outside your car or vehicle while the car is moving
The following states have laws that will penalize those transporting unrestrained pets:
  • Arizona - Drivers will be charged if they drive with an animal on their lap, or if the animal is being transported dangerously as determined by law enforcement.
  • Connecticut - No pets are allowed to be on a driver’s lap. Driver’s will be charged with distracted driving. 
  • Hawaii - Drivers cannot have pets on their lap or in the front of the car. 
  • Maine - Drivers will be charged with distracted driving if they have their pets on their laps.
  • South Carolina - Drivers may receive a ticket for negligence when driving with a pet on their lap if law enforcement deems it unsafe.
  • Washington D.C. - There is a $100 first-offense fine for having a pet that causes distractions while driving.
  • Wisconsin - Pets are not allowed on driver’s laps and those who break the law will be charged with inattentive driving.

Choosing the Right Dog Seat Belt

Choosing the right seat belt for your dog - pug in car with leash

Now that you understand why your dog needs a seat belt, how do you choose the right one? After all, it’s not like cars come automatically with dog seat belts. In order to find the right seat belt for your dog, keep in mind the follow:

Find one that works with your dog's harness. Seat belts are perfect for dogs of all sizes when used correctly in conjunction with their harness. Never use a seat belt with a collar because it will pull on their neck and cause more harm than good. Also, look for a harness and seat belt that won’t chafe your dog when wearing it for long periods of time.

Sizing matters. Refer to the manufacturer's sizing chart when selecting a dog car seat belt. You’ll want to make sure it’s not too snug or too big. If your dog is in between sizing, it’s better to size up so the seat belt can be adjusted down to fit properly.

Does it work with your car? Make sure that you pay attention to how the seat belt attaches to your car as well. Some, like the Adjustable Car Dog Leash, attach to the seat of the back seat, while others may require you to use baby seat connectors.

Types of Dog Seat Belts

Like a baby car seat, there isn’t just one make or model of dog seat belts. There are three common styles: harness, clip-in leash attachment, and loop strap attachment.


Most harnesses that are designed specifically for use as a seat belt come with an attachment like a leash that typically uses a carabiner to keep your dog safe. A few harnesses attach directly to the seat belt. You will need to insert the car’s seat belt through the loops. Don’t pull it too tight; you should be able to sit and lay down comfortably.

Clip-in Leash Attachment 

Clip-in Leash attachments are a convenient choice for a dog seat belt. You can hook it directly to your dog’s harness or collar, although we always recommend using a harness to avoid neck strain. The seat belt clips directly in the seat belt buckle point for ease of use.

Loop Strap Leash Attachment

Loop Strap leash attachments, like a clip-in leash, clips to your dog’s harness or collar, except that it has a loop at the other end to fasten over your car’s headrest. This style of seat belt is easy to install and is adjustable to dogs of all sizes.

The Car Leash Dog Seat Belt

The Car Leash Seat Belt is an excellent choice when looking for a dog seat belt. It is adjustable and will fit dogs of any size from the smallest chihuahua to the biggest Saint Bernard. The seat belt easily fits over any headrest and can be adjusted from 18 to 30 inches, allowing just enough room for a dog to move around without compromising its safety. You can also use it with your dog’s favorite harness–just hook it over the headrest and clip to your dog’s harness. 

“I had a car leash that clipped into the seat belt but never really had too much confidence in it as it was low and didn't adjust short enough for my puppy. I got the adjustable car leash that goes around the head rest of the seat and feels much more comfortable. Puppy seems to like it too. Having it anchored at the top rather than at seat level seems much safer.” - Dianne R.

Car Seats for Dogs

If you have a smaller dog or a new puppy, consider purchasing a car seat or booster seat for safety. Dog car seats are a good option for those who need an extra boost, plus they keep your dog comfortable on long car rides.

Most dog car seats clip directly into the seat, using the existing seat belt to secure it. Each car seat should have interior slips to attach to your dog’s harness or collar to keep them safe. When choosing the right car seat for your dog, keep in mind the following:

  • Dog Car Seat Size - Like a harness, the car seat shouldn’t be too big or too small for your dog. Check the dimensions of the product as well as the weight limit. 
  • Cleaning - While plush booster seats might seem like the best choice, keep in mind that accidents happen, especially with untrained puppies. Look for a car seat with a removable cover that can be thrown into the washer. 
  • Ease of Use - If you’re going to be moving the car seat around a lot, find one that clicks into the seat quickly and can be switched out without difficulty. If this is a permanent seat for your dog, look for one with multiple restraining points for extra safety. 
  • Breed - Along with size, keep in mind your dog’s breed when looking for a dog car seat. Thicker dogs like pugs might need wider car seats, while dachshunds might need a longer seat. 
  • Material - The material of your car seat matters. Dogs can have sensitive skin and some fabrics may be itchy to them. Look for hypoallergenic fabric if possible and easy to clean material. Keep in mind the amount of padding a seat has as well. Older dogs might need extra padding or memory foam to be comfortable.

Comfort and Safety with Dog Car Seat Belts

Keep Your Dog Safe - Terrier in Car with Harness

We love our dogs and want them to be happy, comfortable, and safe at all times, especially in cars. While people have long let their dogs run loose in the car, accidents have shown that it’s time to keep them secure with dog seat belts, or if they are smaller, dog car seats. A secured dog will be less of a distraction and you can focus on your drive knowing you are protecting them and yourself from potential harm.

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