5 things I love about buckling my dog into the car

After you're in a car crash, it's easy take the steps to secure your dog the next time around. It's an automatic thought. But if you haven't been in a crash, the idea is a little more abstract. Here's my experience as I transitioned into the "buckle up your dog" lifestyle.

When I got my current dog River, I obsessed over getting her a Center for Pet Safety certified seatbelt to use and vowed never to let her in the car without her certified seatbelt on. Ever.

A year and a half later, she still wears her seatbelt every single time she gets the car. There were 3 options for a dog her size to choose from, but she ended up in the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness. And we both love it.

1. It creates routine and expectations.

Dogs thrive on routine. It creates predictability, gives structure. They know what to expect.

Dogs don't speak the human language. I have no doubt that they pick up on what you say to them and do understand a lot, but when you have a full conversation....it's probably like getting bits and pieces of a static radio, which you only tune out.

However dogs do communicate through body language. Buckling up your dog creates predictable body language regardless of what you are saying. After months and months of repetition, River knows that when it's time to go, she hops into the car, sits in her seat, and waits to be buckled in. It's her routine and the expectation.

When you're in a rush, this is a very good routine for a dog to have.

2. My dog can still look out the window and sniff the wind.

Piper (if you don't know, she was my first dog, who died from injuries in a car crash) loved to ride in the car. She used to stick her head out the window and sniff the air, and let the ears flap in the wind. It was pure joy.

So when people tell me that they want their dog to be able to look out the window and sniff the wind, I completely get it.

Luckily, with the Sleepypod harness River is using, she can do that, if she chooses to. River tends to sit in the car or lay down. She's got her own personality. But, she does like the window rolled down all the way, as she sits and stretches her head out the window just enough to sniff the glorious scents around the city. If she wanted to channel her inner "Piper," she could. I love that she has that option.

3. My dog and I have freedom.

Piper used to roam all over the car. From window to window to middle console. She enjoyed the freedom. So when I started buckling up River, I wondered if she would ever experience the same freedom that Piper did.

Here's the thing - the freedom that Piper had in the car wasn't safe for either of us. There were plenty of times where I was distracted because Piper was panting in my face as I was trying to drive. If Piper were safe, she wouldn't have broken her spine and been paralyzed. She wouldn't have been crying out in pain after the crash.

River has a freedom that Piper never did. She can still stand up, sit down, lay down, turn left and turn right in her Sleepypod harness, all on her side of the car. But she can move around safely. And you know what? It's enough.

I love that she can still move around, but has her own space. River is buckled up into the passenger side of the back seat, so I can just look back and see her.

I used to have to turn myself around or look through the mirrors to check on Piper. The Sleepypod harness gives River just enough mobility while keeping her safe, and it gives me the freedom to focus on driving. Excellent.

4. My dog is in the safest product available.

It took decades for human seatbelts to evolve into what they are today. Right now, dog seatbelts are in the early stages, and I have done the research to make sure that I found the right product to keep my dog safe in the car. The safest product on the market.

This isn't just to make sure River doesn't get killed in case we get into a car crash. That's not guaranteed. Life isn't guaranteed.

It's for those sudden stops when you're caught between a yellow and red light. It's for the braking when another driver decides to change lanes right in front of you. It's for when there's a pedestrian in the street that decided not to wait for the walk light.

Has your dog ever fallen off the seat at a sudden stop? Did you have to hold your dog on your lap a little tighter? I don't have to worry about that, because River is buckled up.

A few months ago, (I forget exactly what caused this now), I had to slam on the brakes. I had been going about 30mph, but it was a serious sudden stop. The first thing I did was turn back to look at River. Her Sleepypod harness did exactly what it said it could do. I saw River's body project forward just a bit, but then the Sleepypod harness caught her and pulled her back onto the seat. River just brushed it off and settled back into looking out the window. She was totally fine.

Nevermind the fact that I took my eyes off the road - my dog was safe. If she wasn't buckled in, River would have most likely gone flying off the seat. I love that she is in seatbelt and is as safe as possible.

5. It gives me peace of mind.

I trust that River's Sleepypod harness will protect her. I've seen the crash test videos multiple times and have compared it to the other testing that has been done with other products.

I trust Center for Pet Safety.

Knowing that they test at 30 mph which is the same as the child safety restraint standard, knowing that they use a crash test dog that is weighted proportionate to how a real dog distributes its weight in the car, knowing how much research Lindsey Wolko, founder of Center for Pet Safety, has put into this...it all gives me peace of mind. She's got high standards for testing (she's developed a whole set of guidelines, it's incredible), and I love that.

I've seen the crash testing in person and all of the hard work her and the team put into ensuring that these tests accurately simulate a front end collision. The precision, care and passion that she puts into this - because she truly cares about you and your dog's life, is enough for me to feel confident about the product I am using.

I love that I have peace of mind that River is safe in the car. Because Center for Pet Safety has high expectations, and 3 very awesome brands have risen to the occasion and create products that we can trust. For River, I use the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness because that's what suits her best, but I would trust any of the other certified products.

So, if you're debating on whether you should buckle your dog into the car, go for it.

Resolve to do it, commit to it. Yes, there's an adjustment period. There was for me. It is a lifestyle that you choose to have so that you and your dog can both have a better life. A longer life.

I love buckling up River in the car, because I love my dog. Our time together matters, and that's what the Sleepypod harness does for us - gives us more time to live life to the fullest.


Piper's Walk is a socially-conscious small business dedicated to the safety and well-being of all dogs.

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