By Dawn Ross, October 2015
Does your dog jump back and forth from the front seat to the back? Does he try to sit in your lap? Or does he stand on the center console and pant heavily, occasionally licking your face or putting his wet nose in your ear? You are not alone. A lot of dogs love to ride in the car and they just can’t help themselves when it comes to all the exciting sights and scents. Other dogs are just anxious in the car and pester you for assurance.
Fortunately, there are a number of products that can help you. The most common type of product is a pet car barrier. Barriers can be made of cloth, netting, or metal. The least expensive ones are generally easy to install without any modifications to your vehicle. The more expensive ones sometimes require installation, but are often considered safer in crash scenarios.
Durable Fabric Pet Car Barriers
We’ve sold and used a number of different pet car barriers over the years. The simplest ones are from Outward Hound and Bergan. They are made of a canvas cloth and are used to cover the center console gap between the front seats. They attach with straps that wrap around the headrests and the body of the front seats. These work well enough for most small and medium sized dogs but not always for larger dogs who can climb over them. And some headrests are part of the seat and don’t have a way for straps to adjust.
Kurgo also makes a canvas-like fabric car barrier. It is taller and more durable than the Outward Hound or Bergan brands, but it is a little more complicated to use.
The Backseat Bridge from Kurgo is designed to give your dog more room in the back seat, but it also comes with a divider that blocks your dog’s access to the center console. Most other seat extenders do not have this feature.
Netted Pet Car Barriers
Pet car nets might provide more coverage. Our most favorite is The Pet Net brand in standard or large size. The standard fits most cars and small SUVs. It is simple to install. Simply attach to the handles above your windows and underneath the front seats. No car modifications required. The Pet Net brand is coming out with a new pet net product in the near future. It is similar to the Solvit pet net.
The Solvit pet net has a metal frame around it. We have never used the Solvit, but some reviews have said that this frame is easy to bend and warp, making the product useless after a while. I do not know if Solvit has solved this problem. The Pet Net brand company promises their metal frame is more durable.
The material of the Hatchbag Pet Net appears to be much more durable. The problem with Hatchbag, though, is it is difficult to get the right size because there are so many sizes to choose from. Also, the Hatchbag requires that you attach the net with adhesives. The net itself is easy to put up and take down but the adhesives stay in place. We used to sell the Hatchbag some years back but 50% of them were getting returned. And we were having problems with Hatchbag’s customer service.
It should be noted that none of the fabric or netted pet barriers have been crash tested.
Metal Pet Car Barriers
There are a number of companies out there that make metal car barriers. Generally, these stay in place with pressure exerted with expandable legs. The benefit of this is that they don’t require any vehicle modification. The drawback is they are not crash worthy. Another complaint common with metal barriers is that they rattle. Some like the Solvit and the Guardian Gear claim no rattling. I myself have not been able to confirm this.
If you’re wanting a crash tested barrier, check out the TraficGard or the Variobarrier from 4x4 North America. (As of the date of this article, the Variobarrier is still in the design phase and is not yet available for sale). These products have actually been made in Germany and their construction is consistent with the quality of German engineering. As with anything crash tested, these two products are comparatively expensive. They also require installation. The TraficGard requires that you have some specific features in your car so be sure to read the product description before you buy one.
Other Products That Prevent Distraction
Keeping your dog in a crate or having him war a dog car harness is a great way to keep him from distracting the driver. Depending on which crate or harness, your dog may also have some protection in a car accident. In general, the more expensive the product, the more likely it is to be crashworthy. This is not always true, though, so be sure to do your research.
The Car-Go pop-up shelter from Sturdi Products is a dog shelter that can be secured in the car. It is like a carrier in that your dog is completely enclosed in it, which means he can't distract you. It fits in the back seat or in the cargo area.
One final product that deserves mentioning is the K9 Car Fence. This product is a cross between a pet net and a pet car seat. It works very well at keeping dogs from being a distraction. It claims crash testing, although I have not yet had a chance to research their crash testing methods or see the results. I used this product when it first came out and found it relatively difficult to set up. However, they have since redesigned the product to make it easier and even have helpful videos.
Note from the author: The pros and cons mentioned of each product are generally based on my personal experience or on the experience of others who have left reviews. Crash testing claims made in this article are the claims of the manufacturers of those products. Always do your research when buying a product that claims crash testing. A company can actually claim they've crash tested, but don't have to disclose that their product failed crash testing. As of the date this article was written, there are no laws in the US that regulate the safety of pet travel products.