Center for Pet Safety Harness Test & Sleepypod Clickit. Click image to enlarge
Article by Mark Atkinson
With the summer travel season rapidly approaching, plenty of people will be planning some serious road trips. For some families, the four-legged members will be coming along as well, adding an extra layer of complexity and more preparation.
We’ve got some tips and advice on how to make at least part of that journey safer and less stressful. Information on harnesses, barriers, crates, feeding and if you’re feeling adventurous, six pet-friendly rides.
Although some treat their pets like their children, unfortunately the laws in most provinces don’t consider them the same. So pet restraints aren’t given the same level of testing and scrutiny as even the least-expensive child car seat. The Center for Pet Safety actually tested a number of different restraints using rigorous US DOT’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
The evaluation was done on a dozen various styles of harness that claimed some kind of crash-worthiness, and only about half made it through a serious static load test. Of the rest, the team used three sized crash-dummy dogs of appropriate weight, and went to town. Some failed spectacularly, a couple provided adequate strength but didn’t keep the dummies from coming off the car seat. Only the Sleepypod Clickit Utility was considered a top performer and worthy of recommendation.
Luckily the Clickit is on sale in Canada priced between $100 and $130, depending on the size. However, because of the harness’s popularity, there could be wait-lists for delays before your order arrives.
Since most pickups and SUVs are quite high off the ground, getting larger pets in and out comfortably and without throwing out your back is a challenge. There are several options out there, but the Pet Gear line of foldable ramps are light, easy to set up, have built-in handles and slip-resistant covers. Obviously, things like size and complexity means the prices vary, but figure about $150 on average.
When our old dog needed serious surgery on his knees, the worst part was keeping him calm while trying to get him up and down stairs, or into our car for follow-up vet visits while things were healing. The vet techs suggested using a towel as a sling to help keep his rear-end supported, which worked but was hard to handle and grip. This Up and Out lift harness from Kyjen would have been perfect for us, especially if his limping had become permanent. Would be ideal for older dogs who have trouble jumping up high. About $25 from several sources.
Pet Gear foldable ramp & Kyjen Up and Out lift harness. Click image to enlarge
Perhaps the easiest way to keep pets separated from anyone else are barriers between the cargo area and rear seats. Made of metal bars or grates, there are a couple ways they could be installed. Some are stronger and more involved than others. If your vehicle is relatively new, chances are the vehicle manufacturer will have one made especially for your model, and will be available to order through the service or parts department.
Other companies, like UK-based TravAll, offer custom-designed barriers that specifically fit your make and model, using the hard points and tie-downs found in the cargo area already. As a bonus, most can be used with the cargo cover in place as well, meaning no need to pull it in and out if your pets aren’t along for the ride. Prices around $160-$200.
Spill-resistant feeding dishes will help reduce the amount of cleaning you’ll be doing once you reach your destination, and Kyjen has a soft-walled collapsible combo that keeps food and water in separate zipped compartments. Guardian Gear has a neat water bottle drink system that’s ultra-portable, but more likely used during quick pit stops along the way.
TravAll pet barrier and cage, Kyjen collapsible water and food bowl, Guardian Gear water bottle drinking tray, IRIS collapsible pet carrier. Click image to enlarge
Getting dog hair out of back seats or carpets is the most frustrating thing ever, so finding some way to minimize the vacuuming is high in my book. Guardian Gear also has a wide range of seat and cargo-area covers, in various colours, sizes and materials. Sure, an old sheet might work, but won’t have straps, or be much protection for – ahem – accidents. Pricing ranges from $35 to $90 and they are available at major retailers.
Beds and travel crates are pretty personal, and chances are you’ll have at least one that can be used for a road trip. If you’re in need of a hard-sided travel-friendly carrier, consider a collapsible one from IRIS, which can be had in small or medium sizes and can be used on airplanes too. Easily folds flat when not in use. Prices start around $80.