(Pictured: the pink EZYDog harness on Lizzie, the black Aspen harness, and the Ruff Rider Roadie on the Dal)
Lizzie likes to help Daddy drive the big truck. She sits right next to him and leans against the gearshift knob. When Daddy has to shift, he first has to shove Lizzie out of the way. This isn't easy, since she weighs nearly 60 pounds.
She also enjoys riding "shotgun" with me in the little truck. But I'm a protective mom, and every time I tap the brakes, I'm reaching over with my right arm to keep her from sliding forward off the seat. This isn't safe either, since I should have both hands on the wheel and be paying attention to the driving, not the dog next to me.
The solution is a seat belt restraint device. It keeps the dog where she's supposed to be: in her seat, out of the driver's way. Everyone's safer, including you, if you happen to be on the road when I am.
Seat belt restraints for dogs are becoming more popular as we haul our dogs more places with us. There are quite a few on the market. Over the years, we've used at least three different brands. Some were complicated to put on, some were not comfortable for the dogs, and all were an extra bit of bother. But any of them was better than none at all.
The first we tried was the Ruff Rider Roadie. It was touted as really "hot" when it first came on the market about 10 years ago. At $35, it should have been. Yes, it was pretty well designed for safety, but it was so complicated to put on that most people gave up on them and stuck them in a drawer. Also, our Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were too active in their seats, and they'd get paws and legs stuck and twisted while we were driving. We'd have to pull over to extricate them.
Next, we tried an Aspen seat belt harness, a common brand available at Petsmart, Petco and the like for around $15. It went on easily and seemed comfortable to the dogs. Basically, it did the trick; it held them on the seat. I gave it away, however, to someone who convinced me they needed it more than we did, and I didn't replace it.
The third one we've tried is the seat belt harness from EZY Dog (the same company that makes those terrific handle leashes. I like this one because of its simplicity. It's nothing more than a sturdy dog harness with a loop on the back to accommodate the seat belt. I imagine it will hold Lizzie in place if I slam on the brakes. I don't know if it's orthopedically designed like the Ruff Rider Roadie, but all I really want to do is keep her from becoming a 60-pound missile. I also like that it's available in various colors including pink (Lizzie's favorite color). The price is good too...well under $20, as I recall.
One big caution with any seat belt restraint: if you go into a store and leave the dog in the car, unclip the dog from the seat belt. A dog can get very twisted up, just like ours did, in short order. There's a chance of choking, strains, or cutting off circulation to limbs.
Now, if you think your dog doesn't need a seat belt, consider this:
You're in an accident and you're incapacitated. Rescue workers try to help you, but your dog, who was in the car with you, won't let them touch you. Seconds count at such a time, and you don't want someone to have to shoot your dog just so they can get to you.
You're driving, and your dog interferes with your ability to steer, shift, or apply brakes. You're in an accident, you're to blame, and you're sued for everything.
Your dog is riding in the back seat. You're in a wreck, with the car coming to a screeching halt. Your dog is hurled forward into you and through the windshield.
You're in a wreck, and your dog escapes the car and runs away in a panic.
They're ugly scenarios, but they've all happened. Your best protection for you,, your dog, and the other drivers is to secure your dog in some sort of a seat belt harness or a crate.