A Carseat Nerd's Blog

A Carseat Nerd's Adventures in Carseats

Ever wonder what a 3600 lb dog looks like? January 27, 2013

It looks just like your 60 lb dog in a 60 mph collision.

As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I often encounter parents with dogs who ride in the family vehicle.  Some people, parents or not, opt to use pressure mounted gates to contain their dogs in the car.  My experience with these products has been less than favorable as many will rattle loose and I have actually had the bars fall on my dog while the vehicle was moving!  I typically advise pet owners to purchase and use the Pet Buckle Restraint System by IMMI Outdoor to safely restrain their pet in the car or truck.  I feel this system provides adequate safety for all of the occupants of the vehicle-canine and human.  At the very least, it should prevent the dog from becoming a lethal projectile.  I doubt anyone wants to know what a 60 pound dog feels like when they are hurtling through the air at 60 mph.  It will also safely restrain your dog if emergency response crews need to approach your vehicle after a collision.

According to the manufacturer’s website (http://www.immioutdoors.com/petbuckle/), the PetBuckle restraint has been crash tested at their Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE).  I am reviewing both harness sizes-Small and Universal/Standard as well as the Truck Tether System. I am using my 2003 Honda Pilot for my review as it is our only vehicle with LATCH. Please pardon the mess!  Also note that the checkered Britax Marathon is NOT installed during these pictures.  It is normally installed in the seating position in which I was putting the dogs, so I just moved it over out of my way.  It should not be installed at the recline angle it is sitting in in these photos.

The newer models of the PetBuckle harness have push-button adjusters to make them more secure. Mine are older and have tilt adjusters that tend to loosen, so I have tied knots in the excess webbing to prevent loosening.  Another improvement with the newer harnesses is that IMMI has replaced the rigid plastic chest plate with a softer more rubbery piece.

The PetBuckle Package

When you purchase the Standard PetBuckle restraint, the package typically includes the harness, a LATCHable Kwik-Connect strap, a D-ring and a handy little storage bag.  When you purchase a Small PetBuckle restraint, you only get the harness without the connector strap.  The connector strap is available for purchase separately.

Pet Buckle Restraint System packaging contents

The connector strap can be adjusted in length from 15 to 20 inches.

When the D-ring is attached to the connector strap, you have a handy out-of-car temporary leash too!

For dogs weighing less than 40 lbs, you can connect the LATCH connector strap to your vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors.  For dogs over 40 lbs, use of the D-ring loop is required. You simply buckle the vehicle seatbelt through the loop and attach the connector strap to the d-ring.  If your vehicle has the type of buckle release button that is on the front as opposed to on the top like in my Pilot, I can see it becoming unbuckled if the dog steps on it.  In this situation, I would try pushing the buckle between the seatback and the seat bottom, or try another seating position.

I’ve lost the D-ring that came with one of my harnesses, so I just buckle the belt though the loop of the connector strap.

The Small Breed Harness

The Small Breed harness is designed for dogs under 20 lbs.  I am using my mother’s 6 lb Poodle as my model for demo purposes.

The Small harness fits the 6 lb dog pretty well, though with no opening buckles you have to pull the dog’s legs through the straps as though you were putting a shirt on the dog. I see no reason it wouldn’t also fit a cat that is used to wearing a harness.  Some cats like road trips too!

It doesn’t come with the connector strap, but threading the belt through the loop on the back of the harness resulted in a stuck unhappy pup.  It also caused a lot of twisting of the harness on the dog.  The center strap that should be between her shoulders was down almost at her elbow.  I feel that it is worth it to buy the extra connector strap.

When I used the connector strap at its shortest length, I felt that I had much better results.  Bella could move but not too far and was able to lie comfortably.

I felt that the connector strap at its longest length was way too long!   I attached the connector to the outer lower anchor bar and Bella was barely able to touch the ground.  If I had attached the tether to the inner anchor, she would have been hanging.

The Standard Harness

The Standard sized harness is designed to fit dogs 20 lbs and up.  I am using my 55 lb American Pit Bull (white dog with K on the harness) and my 80 lb Black and Tan Coonhound mix (black dog with Y on his harness) to model with.

The Standard fits both of my dogs quite well.

It does tend to twist on Kailie, but she really doesn’t do well in the car anyway.  Hence the extreme tail tuck!

The connector strap loosened all the way out to its 20 inch length allows both dogs to lie down, but also to enter the front passenger space.

I shortened the strap to the 15 inch length and the dogs were still able to get comfortable while remaining contained in the rear seat.

You also have the option of using the loop on the back of the harness and eliminating extra potential failure points. This is probably the safest option for other occupants in the vehicle as it will greatly reduce the range of movement the dog has in a collision.


Seat belt through harness loop

Seat belt through harness loop

The Truck Tether System

I don’t have a proper and true truck with which to demonstrate the Truck Tether System’s use, so I’ve improvised using the back cargo area of my Pilot.  Personally, I don’t feel that there is any truly safe way to transport a dog in the bed of a truck.  There is no protection from projectiles in the bed, and in a roll-over collision the dog will likely be crushed.  When possible, dogs should ride safely restrained in the passenger cabin.

The Truck Tether is a length of seatbelt webbing with a heavy duty hook on each end and a heavy duty D-ring in the center.  The instructions from IMMI state that the hooks must be connected to metal hooks or o-rings in the cargo bed.  It is my personal opinion that the lower you can attach the hooks the better, i.e. I would not prefer to attach the hooks to the o-rings or cargo hooks located towards the top of the bed wall.  There are no metal cargo anchors in my vehicle, just plastic ones that look metal. I have used them for demonstration purposes only.

The webbing has a push button adjuster on one end and to tighten, you simply pull the tail and of it. The entire length of webbing is about 8 feet, so I can’t imagine a truck bed it wouldn’t span easily.

Once the tether is installed, you simply harness the dog and attach the Kwik Connect strap to the harness and the D-ring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overall, I believe the PetBuckle Pet Restraint System to be the best on the market.  I have been using mine for about five years after Yoda broke several other “dog seatbelt harness” options.   Most of the other market options use a plastic quick clip buckle as the primary (and load bearing) hardware.  I have no doubt that these would break under crash forces.  I recommend the PetBuckle Pet Restraint System for all pet owners, with or without kids!


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