How We Tested
We researched independently crash-tested and certified safe dog carriers, crates, and harnesses from the Center for Pet Safety in the USA and the Automotive Engineering Safety in Australia, and then selected 13 products for real-world testing in a car with a dog.
Each testing duo received a car seat or restraint designed for their dog’s size. For three weeks, our canine test subjects were buckled up and taken for rides both long and short. All the while, each human counterpart observed and provided feedback within the following categories: ease of use, ease of cleaning, security, size, and overall value.
At the end of our trial period, we gathered and analyzed the data and information provided by our testing teams. We then ranked and categorized our top picks to simplify your search for the right car seat or restraint to keep your dog safe.
What to Look for in Dog Car Seats
Many harness and car seat makers claim that their products have been crash tested, but there are no industry standards for car pet restraints. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for crash testing that’s been conducted by independent third-party groups.
For example, the Center for Pet Safety performed crash tests by using a dog crash test dummy, allowing it to create safety standards and requirements to evaluate pet travel items. So far, only a few products have received the center’s crash test certification, but others are working to be certified.
The safest products are typically more expensive than other car restraints, but they are well worth it, according to Center for Pet Safety founder Lindsey Wolko, who has seen the results of the crash tests and heard so many accident stories.
“We recommend that they look at this as an investment. These are going to be more expensive, because there’s more due diligence conducted on the products,” Wolko said. “Something is better than nothing to prevent distraction, which can prevent a crash in the first place. However, if you are in a crash, and your pets are in the wrong products, there can be serious consequences.”
Always pay attention to the size and weight guidelines to make sure that a seat or harness will fit your pet correctly. If a restraint doesn’t fit right, your pet might be able to escape, which could cause a distraction or be dangerous if you were to have an accident.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
After real-world testing, this roundup was updated by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce Pets, who shares her home with a happy Pomeranian named Gidget. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Mejorada embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.
A previous version was written by Mary Jo DiLonardo, who has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies. Pet health and safety are very important to DiLonardo, and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.
For this story, we consulted with respected safety expert Lindsey Wolko of the Center for Pet Safety. We also interviewed Dr. Jamie Richardson of Small Door Veterinary for background on the dog car seats Richardson likes, what to look for in a car seat for your dog, and why dog car seats are important to own.