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Should dogs be in a crate in the car while driving? I’ve got six reasons why car crating will change your life and improve your car safety game. It’s not illegal to drive with a dog on your lap, but it should be. Having a loose dog in the front of the vehicle is just as distracting as texting and adds an additional layer of danger in the event of an accident.

6. Crating your dog in the car is safer for them

We know that dogs love to wander around in the car and stick their heads out of the window, but it’s just not safe. Especially at high speeds and especially on the highway. I would guess that most Americans ride with their dogs loose in the car because they want their dog to be able to move and lie down anywhere they want.

This is a noble goal. I also want my dogs to be happy and comfortable! But, for the same reason that I don’t let them rummage in the garbage (that would make them very happy), I don’t let them ride loose in the car. A dog car crate is one of the safest ways to travel.

And never, ever drive with your dog loose or tied in the truck bed. I don’t care how well your dogs are trained. Strong winds, flying debris, and physics also don’t care how well they’re trained.

5. Car crates are safer for the driver than other restraint methods

A medium-sized Australian Cattle Dog pokes her head out of the open door of a Ruffland dog car crate
An Australian Cattle Dog in an Intermediate Ruffland kennel | Becca Hopkins, MotorBiscuit

There are various pet-restraint options available today, which I’m glad to see. But unless your dog’s seatbelt is crash-tested and approved, there is a high chance that the restraint system will break in the event of an accident. Without proper restraints, the dog becomes a furry projectile. I’ve seen dogs hit the windshield hard enough to crack it because they were loose in a car when the owner got into an accident. Even at relatively low speeds.

You can secure a dog car crate with strong ratchet straps. By doing this, both the dog and the crate are fully secure if you get into an accident. It’s also safer to leave a dog briefly unattended in a crate than in a harness if you need to stop for gas. The straps, buckles, and clips of a harness could pose a considerable danger to the dog.

The safest place for a dog to be in a car is in a sturdy, comfortable, and well-secured crate.

4. Using crates makes it safer to travel with multiple dogs

Two Australian Cattle Dogs crated separately in two wire dog crates in the car
Australian Cattle Dogs crated separately in the car for safety in wire crates, before I upgraded to better equipment | Becca Hopkins, MotorBiscuit

If you’re traveling with multiple dogs, leaving them loose can be extremely dangerous. What would you do if they got into a scuffle in your back seat while you’re doing 65 on the highway? Even putting multiple dogs into harnesses can be challenging. The dogs could get tangled in each other’s straps or belts and panic. 

Crating in the car allows multiple dogs to have their own space (no more “I’m not touching you” games), be safe and protected, and avoid any possible tangling. Cars with larger interiors can fit more crates comfortably. There’s a reason that a minivan is the #1 best car for dog lovers.

3. Car crates allow for the safe removal of dogs in the event of an accident

Close-up of a ratchet strap attached to a tie-down point on a car kennel
In an accident, this dog car crate can be easily removed | Becca Hopkins, MotorBiscuit

If you travel with your dog in the passenger seat and get into an accident, the dog is highly likely to be injured or escape. A few times per year, I’ll see posts about missing dogs who took off after a car accident. Fear takes over, and dogs who are afraid are more likely to run away from or bite the very people who may be trying to save them. 

If a dog is in a crate, rescue workers can simply remove the entire crate. This keeps everyone safe until an approved friend or family member can come to collect the dogs.

2. Less mess in your car

An Australian Cattle dog sits in a closed dog car crate that is secured by ratchet straps in a Subaru.
Ruffland Kennel in a Subaru Outback | Becca Hopkins, MotorBiscuit

Investing in a heavy-duty car seat cover is a great way to cut down on muddy paw prints, nose prints, and pet stains. However, a dog car crate can nearly eliminate mess from your car. Mud, water, dirt, accidental vomit, etc., can all be contained in an area that’s easy to pull out and hose down. 

I’ve been leasing cars for almost nine years. That whole time, I’ve had at least two dogs running up and down mountains in Vermont mud seasons.  And I’ve always been able to return my cars with impeccably clean interiors. There are no rips in the seat cloth or headliner, no stains, and no chew marks. 

1. A comfortable crate can help dogs with car anxiety

A set of two Intermediate Ruffland crates attached by a coupler bar and secured behind the row of front seats
Ruffland Intermediate dog kennels | Becca Hopkins, MotorBiscuit

A comfortable, properly sized dog car crate can help cut down on car anxiety—if the dog has been appropriately and positively trained to be in a crate, of course. If a dog’s anxiety is caused by cars or other animals outside, a plastic crate can help block some of that visual. 

If a dog gets carsick, a plastic crate or a covered wire crate can help block out some of the disorienting outside movement. It also gives the dog a comfortable, supportive place to lie down.

Choosing and securing a dog car crate

Which dog crate is best for the car? When choosing a wire or plastic crate, be thoughtful with sizing. The dog needs enough room to stand up comfortably, turn around, and lie down. However, the crate should not be so large that the dog will be thrown around in a crash. 

Only a handful of dog car crates have been reviewed, tested, and approved in crash tests by the Center for Pet Safety. Ideally, a crash-tested kennel would be your first choice. However, these ultra-sturdy crates tend to start around $500 and only go up from there. If you own multiple dogs, it may not be possible to outfit your car with enough kennels for all of your dogs. Though, any crate is likely going to be better than no crate.

Where do you put a dog crate in a car? Typically, the rear seat is best because that area is protected by the crumple zone. However, the cargo area is acceptable as long as the kennel is properly secured.

Petmate provides tips for securing a small plastic or fabric pet carrier in the car. These tips work best for small kennels, however. Larger kennels, like the Ruff Land crates in the pictures above, will need safety straps. I was able to secure my ratchet straps to existing bolts in the floor and cargo area of my Subaru Outback.

I hope I never get into a car accident with my dogs on board. But if I do, I’ll know that I did everything I could to keep them safe and protected.


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