Dog hanging out car window

Making your dog’s car ride safe.

With warmer temperatures finally here in the midwest,  more people are out and about. I don’t blame them. The parks and trails are now over flowing with people out for a stroll with their dogs.

I love that.

But that brings up a point about traveling safely with your dog. Are you doing enough to keep your dog safe in your car?

Unsafe practices traveling in a car with your dog.

Image this, a three lane highway busy with weekend traffic.  Your dog is enjoying the wind in their face with half their body hanging out the window.  Only their front leg in an L position holding themselves in place. Someone changes lanes suddenly without signally causing you to quickly swirve your car and poof, your dog falls out the window. IF you are lucky, your will survive the fall. AND IF you are lucky, there won’t be any traffic in the nearby lane.

Or maybe another well meaning pet parent has their two dogs loose in the back of their small SUV.  Better, but not the best situation for traveling with your dogs. All I can image is a quick change of direction of the car , or worse yet a collision, sending both those dogs bulleting in the air probably flying out the windshield if the force of the collision is great enough.

This is scary I know.   Please consider how dangerous driving has become with so many distracted drivers and take the necessary measures to protect your dog in case of an accident.

Never, ever should you!

Under no circumstances should your dog EVER ride in the front seat with you.  The back seat or cargo area of the car is a better option. But if you want your dog to truly be safe while traveling in the car with you please consider some of these solutions.

Harnesses with seat belt attachments

Seat belt safety harness for car travel

One option is a harness that has a leash attachment that secures into the seat belt.  This allows you to still have your dog in the back seat but may limit their ability to move or adjust on long car rides.

Harnesses are engineered to hug your dog’s torso and limit the possibility for them to be thrown from the car.

This could be a great option if your dog is already used to riding in the back seat or if you have a car versus an SUV.  Trips lasting an hour or longer you’ll want your dog to be able to stand, stretch, and readjust into a new position. They need to do this to promote good circulation to the limbs.


Relatively inexpensive and adds some safety by restricting your dog’s movement in the car while you drive or if you are in an accident. 


Can be restricting your medium to large dogs movements on longer car rides.  

Your dog could still be projected out of the car depending on how long the tether is and how small your dog is.  Be careful to measure and understand how long the bungee extends at full length. This option won’t prevent injury to the dog as they might still be thrown around the vehicle.

Hard sided crates

Hard sided crate option for car travel with your dog

Hard sided crates are safest choice but they do come with a higher price tag.   You can rest assured that your dog will be safe and comfortable while traveling with you.

There are lots of great manufacturers of hard sided crates, both plastic and metal,  suitable for car travel. Some fabricators will make custom crates for your specific vehicle and plans.  And there are other companies that have premade crates that can be anchored into the vehicle. Do your research and find the best solution for you, your dogs, and your vehicle.

What about your big big pups?  What we chose to do.

Chase fits into that big big pup category being 30 inches from withers to the beginning of his tail.  And 30 inches from again his withers to the ground. Not as big as a great dane but still…..big.

In fact, that newer SUVs models are getting smaller and smaller even if they call them mid size.  Car manufacturers are adding more overhead molding which is reducing the over head space for you and your dog.  So when I took internal measurements of my 2017 GMC Acadia I was disappointed that all the crates big enough for Chase were going to be too big for my car.  I could have something fabricated specifically for my car measurements but that just isn’t in the budget. 

Mim Variocage has some solutions for my problem.  I chose to outfit my SUV with the Mim Variogate and Safe VarioBarrier.  Together they create a safe contained area for Chase in the large cargo area of my Acadia.  

The VarioBarrier will prevent him from being projected over the second row seats and out the windshield. 

The VarioGate secures him if the hatch should goes up unexpectedly. Or I can have him safely contained in the car with the hatch up for ventilation if I’m at a Nose Work trial.  I can even lock the gate to put my mind at rest that no one could take him. He is a handsome, perfect boy after all!

Variogate installed. Closed.
Variogate installed. Open
Complete install including hitch step.


Despite not being a one piece crate, this combo is still a safe option for car travel with your dog when secured properly in your car.  Secure, strong, allows plenty of air circulation.


Not inexpensive.  But you get what you pay for

Making my SUV safer for my dogs has been on my “to do” list for a while. Chase and AJ used to ride loose in the car.  I know, bad, bad, bad. Then we progressed to soft sided crates before installing the safer gate and barrier.

Don’t wait like I did.  Keep your eyes open for people selling their used equipment on any of the internet markets.  Join one of my favorite Facebook groups “Dog Sport Vehicle Ideas & Set-ups” to learn about options, share ideas, and find used equipment. 

Do more with your dog, SAFELY!