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Properly restraining your dog can be the difference between life or death for the passengers and the dog in the case of a sudden stop or car crash.
Alyssa whom I met through my Instagram account, messaged me recently:
“My husband has a truck and I have an SUV. The dogs can go in my SUV trunk, although they aren’t secured to anything. And I’m realizing in my husband's truck there wouldn’t be anywhere for them to go besides right next to the car seat. My dogs have been amazing with the little one, but my anxiety just can’t help but think WHAT IF? I already feel like my trunk isn’t “secure” enough, but right next to the car sear is even worse!”
That WHAT IF question is the one that prompted me to look into it as having a 60 pound loose dog next to 6-pound babies didn’t feel safe at all.
*In the U.S., visit www.centerforpetsafety.org (CPS), a non-profit organization that conducts rigorous product evaluations on commonly available pet safety products using realistic, specially designed crash test dogs. It is an unregulated industry, and many dog restraints, harnesses, and crates marketed as "crash tested" have not passed the CPS rigorous crash tests.
Some companies test their products independently, to the same or more enhanced testing protocols CPS uses
Expert Tip: If you want to avoid having the dog and baby in the same row:
Many parents of newborns and infants choose to have the dog secured in front with the airbag turned off* while one of the parents is in the back with the baby.
*Many cars have sensors that will turn the passenger airbag off if the proper weight isn’t detected. There may also be a button to turn off the passenger airbag. Check your car manual for instructions.
Before I had my kids, I knew nothing about projectiles or babies and dogs in the car. Lola used to ride in the back seat, loose. I know!
I asked Holly Choi, a CPST-I and the founder of Safe Beginnings, about the most significant risks:
“Anything that isn’t restrained in a vehicle has the potential to become a PROJECTILE in a crash, meaning the person, animal or object will move towards the point of impact in a crash, at the speed the crash occurred at.
Of course, the point of impact can be different in each crash (front, rear, side-impact), but since we don’t know, we want to, at all costs, avoid the possibility of a dog being able to fly toward a child.
There is a lot we can’t control. We can control how everyone rides in the car. Sometimes that might mean:
We have learned from our mistakes. After years of driving a small SUV, we upgraded to a minivan. Now, Lola has her seat with the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness, and there is enough room for a crash-tested kennel.
If you are in the market for a new family car, check out The Car Mom. Kelly Stumpe reviews and tours cars for moms and families and offers car buy consultations and courses.
A comprehensive list of crash-tested harnesses, kennels, and carriers is included in the Preparation Course. The car safety handout has a helpful Frequently Ask Questions section.
Dog Meets Baby follower: “Our +80lb fur baby is always buckled in with his crash-tested harness! He sits in the same row as our 9mo son and behaves very well. I had to slam on the breaks, and I quickly learned how important it is to have him buckled in!”
The difference in price between crash-tested kennels certified by the Center for Pet Safety is less significant than harnesses.
1. Gunner Kennels come in 4 sizes: small, medium, intermediate, and large. The website has a sizing guide with useful kennel and vehicle fit finders. The large Gunner Kennel is not certified by CPS.
The Gunner Kennels are crash-tested, double-wall rotomolded, and made in the US. All kennels have a lifetime warranty. 5-star safety is ensured when paired with Gunner Strength Rated Anchor Straps. Use code: DOGMEETSBABY for free shipping.
Dog Meets Baby follower: “We have the baby in the second-row middle seat and our mini Aussie in a Gunner kennel in the third row/trunk. It was a hefty investment but absolutely worth knowing they are both safe. We had to upgrade to a three-row SUV from a sedan, but I have zero worries we are all safe.”
2. Lucky Duck Kennels come in two sizes and are patented one-piece rotomolded kennels.
Currently, 6 carriers (4 from Sleepypod) for dogs up to 18 pounds have successfully passed the Center for Pet Safety Certification Testing.
As one Dog Meets Baby follower said: ” Never thought we would need a 3-row vehicle for 2 adults, 1 baby, and a large dog.”
I never thought I would be driving a minivan. The main reason for upgrading the car was the lack of space for Lola if we wanted her buckled in or crated.
If you are like me not so long ago, with your dog loose in the car, now you know what to do and that there are options. It is an adjustment, often pricey, but knowing I did everything I could to keep my family safe is priceless.