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If you love taking your dog out on road trips, you’ve probably heard about dog seats. They can help keep your pet secure and in place, allowing you to focus on driving. But are they a great investment? 

Should You Restrain Your Dog During a Trip? 

Whether a dog needs a seat belt or not is still debatable. Many experts and safety advocates recommend dog seat belts because they can prevent distractions while on the road and protect your pets in case of a collision. 

However, it’s also true that seat belts can restrict a dog’s movement, making them uncomfortable during the trip. 

Are There Laws That Require Dog Owners to Restrain Their Dogs? 

There are no federal laws that require you to restrain your pet during your trip. However, some states have laws requiring pet owners to buckle their dogs while in a car. These states are Hawaii, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. 

If you live in these three states, you must have a dog seat belt or a carrier before you can go on a road trip with your dog.

Reasons to Buckle Up Your Dog During Your Trip

car dog seat belt attached to dog
Buckling up your dog can make your trips safer not only for you but for your dog as well.

Here are some of the reasons why it’s a good idea to buckle up your dog while inside your car: 

Safer Trips 

Buckling up your dog can make your trips safer not only for you but for your dog as well. Dogs can get thrown around in case of a collision. Buckling up your dog will help prevent severe injuries during the trip. 

Also, while rolling down the windows to let your dog enjoy the view is tempting, it’s not entirely safe. Something might trigger your dog to jump out of your window. If you want to roll down your windows during the whole trip, securing your dog with a seat belt will make the experience safer. 

Less Distractions 

According to a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Kurgo, roughly two-thirds of dog owners admitted being distracted by their furry companion while they’re behind the wheel. 

Indeed, it’s hard to focus if there’s a dog barking and roaming around in your back seat. Even if your fur baby is typically charming and well-behaved, you’ll never know what will trigger their barking or unusual behavior during the trip. 

Legal Compliance

As mentioned, some states have strict pet restraint laws. So if you happen to live in one of them, be sure to comply with these laws to avoid getting into trouble. In New Jersey, for example, the fine for violating the pet restraint law can go anywhere between $250 and $1000. 

Can Pet Car Restraint Violations Affect Your Insurance Claims? 

If you’ve been involved in a collision and have received a citation related to pet car restraint laws or distracted driving, your insurance agency might deny your claims. You can contact your local attorney to learn more about the laws that apply in your state. 

Even if most states don’t have pet restraint laws, most have laws on distracted driving. 

In fact, you can get a ticket once it’s proven that a pet is causing a distraction in your vehicle. 

How Does a Dog Seat Belt Work? 

A dog seat belt usually comes with a harness for dogs to wear. You’ll have to adjust the harness correctly so that your dog will be comfortable and safe during the trip. 

The harness usually has a belt clip at the back that locks or connects to a car’s existing passenger seat belt buckle. Note that a dog seat belt’s structure can vary depending on the product. 

How to Choose the Right Seat Belt for Your Dog 

There’s a plethora of dog seat belts available on the market, so do you choose the right one for your fur baby? Here are some things to consider when shopping for a dog seat belt: 


The first thing you should consider is your dog’s size. Choose a harness that’s suitable for your dog. To be safe, you might want to get an adjustable harness, so it’ll be easy for you to adjust it according to your dog’s size.


Your dog seat belt will protect your fur baby during the whole trip, and it’s normal for dogs to chew on the harness and belt, especially if they’re stressed or anxious. So you must choose a dog seat belt that’s made with high-quality materials. 

User Reviews 

If you have extra time, you can check out user reviews online. They will give you an idea about how a certain harness or seat belt performs. Also, getting insights from other pet lovers is never a bad idea. 


Keeping your dog safe inside your car shouldn’t cost you a fortune. Many brands sell top-notch seat belts, so you’ll surely find one that fits your budget. You can get a dog seat belt for around $10 to $30. Some can be priced higher depending on the brand and type.

Other Pet Safety Options

different pet safety options while inside car
There are other options you can try if you don’t want to restrain your dog using a harness.

Below are other options you can try if you don’t want to restrain your dog using a harness. Take note, however, that you’ll have to verify if these options comply with the pet restraint laws in your state, especially if you live in Hawaii, New Jersey, or Rhode Island.

Dog Carriers

If you have an overly active little dog, a harness might not be the best possible option for you. You might want to check out dog carriers instead. Many dog carriers can be securely fastened to your car seat, so it’ll not fall off or shift around during your trip.

Dog Barriers

Dog barriers, as the name suggests, keep your dog contained in one area of the vehicle. This usually works for large vehicles like SUVs where you can keep your dog contained in the backseat.

If you’re really not comfortable with the idea of restraining your dog in a harness, this option might work for you.

Dog Car Seats

Just like babies and toddlers, dogs have a special car seat made just for them. A dog car seat is usually designed for smaller pets. You can securely attract it to your ride’s car seat, and it’ll help keep your dog safe and steady during the trip.

The seat is usually equipped with a padded or raised bottom so the dog can have a view of the window.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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