I have a confession. Sometimes Mr. N would ride in my lap in the car. I know it’s unsafe. But Mr. N has terrible crate anxiety which I think stems from being shut up in a crate for 10-16 hours as a puppy and he will whine almost the entire way if he’s confined in the car. And if I have to listen to him whine for a half-hour straight, my brain will explode and we’ll get into a car accident anyway.
We’ve tried several different car set-ups for small dogs including crates, carriers, and booster seats. He really hates anything where he’s confined or restrained and I couldn’t find a booster seat that had been crash-tested. I thought he would be more comfortable with a car harness but they don’t make crash-tested ones in his size and manufacturers recommend against it for tiny dogs.
Then I found the Air PupSaver
and it ticked the vast majority of the boxes. The car seat looks like a bolster bed which is Mr. N’s favorite type (he likes using the edges as a pillow). I can use it in the front seat. It has been through crash testing at the MGA Research Corporation and passed the canine variation of the FMVSS 213 crash test since 2012.
The updated model comes in two sizes (under 25 lb, 26-40 lb) and in a black-and-white hounds-tooth pattern.The rear-facing design is meant to mimic infant seats in their safety design. And the airbag style seat back helps makes the seat lighter and safer. You fill up the three compartments with air with the provided pump before using it. I found the pump a little tricky to use until I discovered that one of the air valves had to be blocked off while filling it.
Mr. N’s ringing endorsement would be that he hates it less than everything else we’ve tried and if he must be restrained in the car, this would be his pick. He actually finds it very comfortable, he just dislikes captivity. Before I put it in the car, it was sitting on the living room floor for a few days. He would use it as a little den and sleep and hoard toys and chews there.
The company also makes Pupsaver-compatible harnesses. I’m anxiously waiting for them to come out with the xx-small harness as they run a little big and their existing models won’t fit Mr. N (x-small to medium). They no longer recommend using collars with their products. Their harness has a chest d-ring which I think will make it easier to attach to the car seat. All of Mr. N’s harnesses have back rings and the seat clasp is bulky which makes it a little difficult to fasten and unfasten from that angle.
The Pupsaver can be used in both the front and back seat if the air bags are turned off in the front. I have not tried the Pupsaver in the back yet because I’m anticipating that Mr. N will throw more of a fit if he is further away from me and I want him to get further accustomed to riding in the Pupsaver first.
There’s an installation video
but basically you yank the seat back away from the air bags, pull out the seat belt all the way and keep it from retracting with a provided clip. Then you fasten the under seat and front buckles on the Pupsaver and adjust the clip. There’s a clasp in the middle of the seat which you attach to your dog’s harness. It takes maybe about two minutes.
Car rides are so much easier and quieter(!) with the Pupsaver. Mr. N’s whining has decreased significantly. He averages about three (on a good day) to about a dozen whines per trip. Compared to when he would whine almost the entire way. I feel much better knowing that he is safely restrained and if we get into a wreck, he’s not going to slide off the seat and go hurling into something. A friend has already offered to buy the Pupsaver off me!
How does your dog ride in the car?
Update: Pupsaver has come out with the xx-small harness and the xx-small harness petite. We were sent the xx-small harness and it fit him nicely over the winter. Now that he has lost all his hair weight and bulk due to a groom, I’ve had to adjust the straps to make it as small as it will go and it just barely fits him when he is not wearing clothes. For dogs Mr. N’s size (seven pounds) or smaller, I’d definitely recommend the petite as it runs a little big. He is pretty fine-boned as well.
The front ring makes it much easier to attach to the car seat. Before it would take some fumbling and moving about of Mr. N’s legs and a couple tries to get his normal walking harness with a back ring attached to the seat. Now I can do it smoothly with one try. And the red and black goes nicely with his houndstooth car seat as well.
He’s been for multiple hour-long walks using the Pupsaver harness and it does not impede his movement or make him uncomfortable in any way. I can lift him by it and his leash in an emergency as well (I would not do this with dogs over ten pounds or so). The harness has proven to be a dual-purpose harness. Often car harnesses can be uncomfortable to walk in for long distances but this is not the case with this one.
This post was sponsored by Pupsaver. They are not responsible for the contents of this article. All opinions expressed are our own.