There’s no doubt about it: dogs are becoming valued as family members more than ever before. In our family, Bella rides with us to the trails, on extended road trips, to the brewery, to the Ranch in the summer, and even to the office to work with Pat nearly every day. Needless to say, she spends a lot of time riding in cars. Usually, Bella has the back seat to herself in our cars and is not restrained in any way. Recently, EzyDog sent us their new Drive Harness to try out, which is a crash tested dog car harness. The EzyDog Drive Harness made us rethink the way we travel with Bella. Most people don’t have a lot of experience with crash-rated harnesses for dogs, so we thought we’d share our initial questions and concerns on using a car harness for Bella, paired with our actual research and experiences.
Why a dog car harness?
We did some research to better answer this question. Many states are beginning to implement laws regarding proper restraints for dogs riding in vehicles. While this is great news for the safety of our pets, the laws are in reality being put into place to protect the lives of humans. Dogs that travel in the laps of drivers, ride in front seats or otherwise steal the attention of their owners can be significant distractions while on the road. Additionally, in the event of a collision, even a small, 10lb dog when unrestrained can cause serious bodily harm or even fatal injuries to people riding in the car.
Of course, if you are here you also probably think of your dog’s own safety. Proper restraints can help protect or even save the life of your dog in the event of a crash and may prevent a frightened fido from running away after a fender bender. Other vehicle hazards for your pup include open windows of moving vehicles, front seat airbags, and riding in the bed of a truck. There’s a lot of great information out there, so if you are interested in specific canine accident statistics or regulations in your state, we suggest doing a little research of your own!
What makes a crash-tested harness different from a regular harness?
A crash tested dog harness, as the name implies, has been put through rigorous crash-testing scenarios to ensure that it meets safety standards to protect your dog and human occupants in the event of an accident. A car safety harness is designed to be strong enough to withstand high impact forces and is specifically designed to fit your dog to limit injury caused by the harness itself. Everyday harnesses are not designed for either of these purposes, and should not be used with the intention of protecting your dog, or yourself, in the event of a crash. Not only could an everyday-harnesses easily snap under the impact of a crash, straps not meant for serious forces could cause physical harm to your dog.
Will my dog hate it?
While Bella was a little confused over why we were restraining her in the car at first, she got used to the EzyDog Drive Harness after two or three uses. It helped that we got her used to a few short trips with the EzyDog Drive Harness before asking her to be patient with a longer drive. On extended trips, we gave her a few extra stretch breaks than usual. Most dogs we know tend to associate getting in the car as a gateway to something fun and enjoyable, so we found that the harness after time really just becomes a small yet necessary annoyance to your dog in order to get to something way more exciting.
We also tried out the EzyDog CLICK Adjustable Car Restraint, which clicks into a car’s seatbelt and then clips to the dog’s harness. This method of restraint allows for more movement and may be a viable option if you discover that your dog simply cannot tolerate full restraint. However, this method may not adequately protect your dog in the event of a crash and is really only designed to minimize driver distraction. Furthermore, if your dog accidentally has a strap tangled under a leg, a crash in this situation could cause a very serious injury. The EzyDog Harness, when used without a longer restraint attachment, allowed for Bella to comfortably sit up and lay down, but as the lap belt tightens this seems to restricts her movement incrementally more and more as the ride goes on.
Basically, the higher the level of restraint, the less freedom for your dog… but the level of safety for your dog AND the human occupants of the car increases significantly. These are factors to consider when deciding on the best method of restraint for your dog when riding in the car. We are still on the fence as to which method we ourselves prefer but may alternate between both depending on the type of trip we are on. We may also explore the slightly different EzyDog Seat Belt Restraint, which seems like a common ground between the two.
Bottom line….the harness used with only a seat belt as a restraint method is by far the safest way to go.
What is special about the EzyDog Drive Harness?
While we are new to using safety harnesses with Bella, there were a lot of features on the EzyDog Drive Harness that stood out to us as uniquely noteworthy. First of all, after you initially adjust the harness to properly fit your dog, you can use the Mag-Lok™ Instant Fit closure system to easily put the harness on and off. We LOVED this design. Additionally, we found EzyDog’s instructional video (below the product description) very helpful in making sure we were adjusting the harness properly. Like most dog gear, it took us a few uses to really fine tune the fitting. In a couple of instances, I wasn’t paying attention and put the harness on with one side twisted inside out, and I didn’t realize it until we were a few miles down the road. This was my error but was something we thought potential users should be aware of.
The harness itself is designed as a wide and substantially padded vest, to cushion your dog and help prevent injury from the straps themselves. We loved the overall sturdy feel of the harness, and the design integrates seat belt straps which cross over the dog’s chest. Sturdy safety buckles remind you if you forget to double back the adjustable webbing by displaying the words WARNING on the portion of the hardware that shouldn’t be visible after the straps are properly secured.
Additional features that we appreciated were the velcro straps that keep extra webbing out of the way after adjusting the fit for Bella, as well as the two rings that come together as a singular attachment point for a leash or other car restraint.
While the Ezy Dog Drive harness is not cheap and retails at $99, the quality of both the materials and design is obvious. To us, this is a clear case of “you get what you pay for.” In our opinion, if you are truly interested in investing in the safety of your dog while riding in the car, then this is a great product for both you and your dog!