The Best Car Harness and Seat Belt for Your Dog

When my family German shepherd, Clancy, was about seven years old, I found out just how important it is to secure a dog to any vehicle she is riding in. Clancy and Bella were riding in the bed of my dad’s truck on a Saturday-afternoon drive in the mountains. She’d been riding in the bed her entire life without being tied down; we lived in semi-rural Montana and regularly drove somewhat slowly on country roads during family adventures. But one March afternoon, my dad drove over a particularly large bump. He looked back to the bed of the truck to check on the dogs, only to find Bella standing there looking lost.

Clancy was gone.

He stopped the truck immediately and my family got out to look for Clancy. She was lying on the dirt road, struggling to stand up. It turns out that she’d been too close to the edge of the bed when my dad had driven over the bump, and the poor girl had flown out and landed on the road. We loaded her inside the truck and immediately took her to the vet — and used a leash to create a makeshift car harness for Bella.

Clancy sustained minor injuries that thankfully healed after a few weeks, but from then on, we always secured our dogs in the car. When they were in the bed of a truck, anyway. But when we got Eira and she crawled all over my lap during our first car ride home, I decided a harness for inside the car would be wonderful, too.

A harness can keep your dog off your lap while you’re driving, and it can also prevent your dog from being ejected from a vehicle in the event of a crash. Eira doesn’t come in the car with me very much in the summer because I can’t — and do not want to, of course — leave her in a hot car. Even with the windows all rolled down and the temperature outside not exceeding about 85 degrees on a really hot day (remember that this is Alaska!), the car is too hot for my fur-baby.

But in the winter, she loves to come with me in the car. So I finally ordered her a car harness and tested it out, and I love it! So does Eira. She can lie down with it on, or sit, or stand, so it’s not too restrictive. And I feel at peace knowing that she’s as safe as she can reasonably be while riding in the car with me.

Read on for a review of the harness and seat belt we bought for Eira!

SlowTon Dog Harness Plus Seat Belt

First, a note: not all car harnesses come with seat belts! That’s why this harness caught my attention: it’s affordable, well-made, and includes a seat belt AND a harness. The only thing it does not include, as I found out when I received the package, is instructions for how to put the harness on your dog. While you can find instructions online, I just put it on how I thought it went — and it was on backwards! But here’s the really cool thing: even then, the harness worked well.

(That doesn’t mean I’m going to keep putting it on wrong, of course. But note that instead of the red part being on the dog’s back, as it is in my photos and videos, it should be in the front.)

Here’s what the package looks like upon opening:
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The SlowTon Car Harness and Seat Belt for dogs. 

Eira already wears a harness to go walking, so she knew what to do when I brought the harness to her — smart puppy. I buckled her into the car, but she wasn’t so sure she liked that. Twice, she tried to climb out of the car while I was trying to take pictures of her. The harness stopped her, which is exactly what I was hoping it would do.

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Eira trying to escape the car; the harness prevented her from leaving, thankfully. I know that it would do the same in a car accident. 

I actually didn’t know that the dog-seatbelt would actually buckle into a person-seatbelt in my car, so that was really neat to discover. The seat belt itself is made of fabric with a bungee-type cord inside, which keeps Eira from getting hurt if I have to slam on the brakes — the bungee will allow for some of the shock to be absorbed by the leash instead of by Eira’s body.

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See how the dog seat belt clips in? Pretty cool, isn’t it? Also, even though the harness is technically on backwards, it does fit well this way.  In this photo you can also see the bunched fabric that signals the bungee-cord section of the leash. 

Eira didn’t seem too impressed with her new harness and leash before we started to drive. I think she was confused, perhaps thinking, why do I have to wear a seat belt all of a sudden? 

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Eira looking like a typical teenager:
Mom, do I really have to wear this thing?

But once the car started to move, Eira seemed to settle in to her new safety harness and car seat belt. It allows for complete range of movement on her part: she can sit, stand, or lie down. But it doesn’t allow her to crawl into my lap, which is good because she’s rather tall these days and would definitely impede my driving in a way she didn’t as a younger puppy.

I took a video of us driving slowly down a country road so that you can see the harness and seat belt in action.

By the end of the drive, Eira seemed to realize that the seat belt helps keep her safe and allows her to ride up front with mama with ease. Usually, without the safety measures, I’d be worrying about Eira moving around too much. Back when she was a puppy who hated the car, I had a close call when she tried to “help” me turn the steering wheel. Because I couldn’t see, I nearly crashed into a car in the oncoming traffic lane! I don’t blame Eira — I should’ve been using a harness.

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By the end of our car ride, Eira realized her new seat belt and harness meant she got to sit up front with Mama more often and give me lots of kisses. Yay!

I plan to take Eira on lots of car rides from now on, especially as the weather creeps closer to fall and then winter. I used tie her leash to the chair and then worry that when I left her in the car (in the winter), she’d get tangled in her collar and leash and choke. I always think of the worst-case scenarios! If I didn’t clip her to the leash, I fretted that she would chew the steering wheel or my son’s expensive car seat, to the point that I moved the car seat out of the car every time it was just Eira and me going somewhere. If I had to leave the seat in, I’d cover it with a blanket.

The SlowTon car harness and seat belt eliminate these problems. The harness is safer than a collar because it goes securely around Eira’s body (and is adjustable). The seat belt, also adjustable, is too short to get tangled in — yet long enough to allow for some freedom of movement.

I’m very happy with the SlowTon car harness and seat belt for dogs, even though I wish there’d been instructions inside the package. Remember, the red part goes on the dog’s belly and chest. Not her back!

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Note that with the above product, some Honda, Subaru, Kia, and even Ford and Toyota car models are not compatible with the seat belt portion. I have a Toyota Camry and thankfully the seat belt IS compatible with my car. Make sure you check before ordering!

There are a few additional car harness and seat belt accessories that can be useful to you as a dog owner. If your dog is a puppy, consider purchasing a chew-proof seat belt to go with your harness.

The Mighty Paw Chew-Proof Dog Seat Belt

This seat belt is made with a steel cable, making it impossible for your dog to chew. This is ideal for if you have a chew-happy puppy who you need to leave in your car (in the winter!). You’ll have the peace of mind that your dog is not actively destroying her new seat belt and everything else in your car. The next time I get a puppy, you can bet I’ll be ordering this chew-proof seat belt.

It only works, however, in car models made after 2002: it attaches to a lower anchor, or tether, designed specifically for car seats. Most cars made after 2002 have these anchors, and that’s what this dog seat belt clips to. It then uses a rock climbing-strength carabiner to attach to a harness.

It’s important to NEVER attach your dog to a seat belt using just a collar. This can severely injure your dog’s neck in the event of a crash.

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Mpow Dog Car Seat Covers

If you want to convert your entire back seat to a car-riding paradise for dogs, get this car seat cover from Mpow. It covers the entire seat, creating a cozy hammock for your dog to hang out in during car trips. The cover protects your actual seats from hair and scratches. The cover also comes with two dog seat belts and a mesh window so that your dog can see you from his backseat perch.

If I didn’t have a toddler whose car seat takes up the back seat, I’d probably get one of these for Eira. They’re too cool! You can wash it in a machine if your dog gets carsick on it or has a potty training accident, too.

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It makes sense that we should provide our dogs with maximum protection when they’re riding with us in the car. A car harness and leash is the best thing you can do to give your dog the highest safety benefits in the car. My elementary school teacher got in a car accident a long time ago. Her dog was riding in the front seat and got ejected from the vehicle. They searched the fields around the car, but they never found the dog; they think he ran away, possibly hurt and probably terrified.

A car harness can eliminate heartbreaking scenarios like that one, and many more.

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Eira with her car harness on — correctly! 

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