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How to Select a Harness

In a perfect world, car crashes would never happen. Unfortunately as drivers, we know all too well that they do. Driver distraction is a common focus of passenger safety experts and university studies. While your cell phone can contribute to driver distraction, so can your pet. Center for Pet Safety applauds the use of pet restraints during travel. Preventing the accident in the first place is absolutely the best option. But because accidents happen, we also want you to have the information you need to choose that product wisely.

Distraction Prevention vs. Crash Protection

Preventing many accidents starts with distraction prevention. Placing your phone in the back seat of the vehicle, or placing it in airplane mode is recommended by many experts. But what about the family pet? Center for Pet Safety actively supports distraction prevention efforts – we all know that prevention is the first line of defense. As a pet owner, you need to evaluate what you are wanting from a product prior to purchase.

Rule #1 – Pets ALWAYS go in the back seat.

A Distraction Prevention Tool Can Help Prevent an Accident

Does using a safety harness prevent distraction? Yes, and no. Yes, it may prevent distraction, but you and your pet have some training to do. If you do not acclimate your pet to the product or select the appropriate design of distraction prevention harness, it can actually contribute to distraction.

Design Matters

We know from our efforts that long extension tethers and zipline-style products increase the freedom of the dog in the backseat. While some pet owners think this is a good idea, Center for Pet Safety has proven that extension products actually increase the risk of distraction and injury to both you and your pet. Dogs that are not properly restrained can slip or fall into the passenger leg compartment and become a distraction. It’s the primary reason why CPS counsels pet owners to avoid harnesses with extension tethers and zipline-style connections. Using a harness product that does not have a tether is our recommended selection to prevent driver distraction.  Read our Extension Tether Advisory.


We cannot stress this enough – you MUST acclimate your pet to the safety device to ensure a positive user experience. This may take some time and depends on the pet.

Center for Pet Safety recommends using the device on several short trips, and increasing the duration of those trips by 5 minutes every time. Use a positive, reassuring, happy voice during your trip and lots of pets and praise when you are done with your training trip. If your dog responds to treats, give them only at the end of the training trip (to avoid car sickness).

But What About Crash Protection?

Many manufacturers make claims of “crash testing” or “crash protection.” Center for Pet Safety has tested the majority of pet travel harnesses on the market and we know that for many brands, these claims cannot be substantiated. Yes, the manufacturer may have conducted crash testing, but their marketing may not be fully truthful. We have also found that the quality control with some brands is faulty.

What Do I Need to Know?

First, you need to know that just because a product claims crash testing – doesn’t mean it PASSED crash testing. In many cases, the grade of Pass is subjective and the manufacturer wants you to think they have completed ample due diligence.

Second, Turn a discerning eye – those positive reviews you read about the product may be bought and paid for by the manufacturer. “Give us a positive review and receive 25% off your next purchase!” “We’ll give you a positive review in exchange for a product sample!” It happens every day. Be a wise consumer.

Third, in the case of an accident a crash protection product will help protect you and your family and give your pet the best possible chance of survival. A distraction prevention tool, may not offer that level of protection. Choose Wisely.

Center for Pet Safety is the ONLY independent non-profit research and consumer advocacy organization working for you and your pets to cut through the marketing hype to get you the facts, author independent test protocols and ratings guidelines and ensure you have a fair and impartial partner in assessing pet product safety.