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Dog Seat Belt vs Dog Car Harness – Keeping your dog safe in the car

Dog Seat Belt vs Dog Car Harness – Keeping your dog safe in the car

Many dogs, like Olly the Beagle here, love going in the car, but do you know how to keep your dog safe in the car?

I thought I’d share all the practical, legal and helpful things you need to know to keep your dog safe in the car and importantly, whether a dog seat belt or a dog car harness is the best things for your dog.

Who’s been in the car and smiled at the sight of a dog with their head out the window, long ears flapping in the wind, jowls flapping? Wouldn’t we all love to be doing that too?  But is the dog safe whilst doing this…

Our dog, and many dogs, think of “walkies” when they get into the car (and forget that the car also takes them to the vets luckily!). In order to take your dog in your car a dog seat belt or harness is now required by law to stop your furry friend from distracting the driver. Gone are the days of allowing your dog to roam around the car, which definitely makes for safer driving.  Dogs must have a restraint of some sort whilst travelling in the car.

There are 2 options if you’d like your best friend to travel in the car with you, a dog seat belt or a dog car harness. So which do you need?

Let’s consider the difference between the two…

The difference between a dog seat belt and a dog car harness.

A dog seat belt and a dog car harness offer two different options to secure your dog in the back seat. Both do the same thing, so it really comes down to your dog and your preference.

Dog Seat Belt

Dog seat belts work as human seat belts and plug into the buckle as normal then can be clipped onto the dog’s collar or harness at the other end. The seat belt is adjustable so you can set the correct length for the size of your dog. They are designed to be long enough to offer your dog the option to sit upright but not long enough to allow them to move around in the back seat.

The seat belt is a simple option to securing your dog in the car as it utilises their own collar or harness and they are cost effective. As they are great value for money you can have one in each of your cars to ensure you are never without a secure option to take your dog with you.

The great benefit of a dog seat belt is that you can unclip from their collar or harness and clip on their lead and you are ready to go, not changing harnesses when you’ve arrived at your walk or destination.

One thing to point out here is that the best option is to clip a dog seat belt to a harness rather than a collar (although there is no restriction legally to clipping to a collar). If you were to be involved in an accident the pull on the dog’s neck when attached to a collar could cause more harm to your dog than the pull from a harness.


Dog Car Harness

A dog car harness, unlike dog seat belts, do not allow dogs the same freedom of movement in the back seat as they are attached directly to the car via the harness. This does mean that your dog could be safer in the event of a crash. However not all dogs like to be restricted in movement whilst in the car.

So how do they fix? The harness fits around the chest and upper body as with a standard harness. The vehicles seat belt then slips through an opening or strap on the back of the harness, resulting in your dog being belted into the car as it is with a human passenger.

A dog car harness can spread the impact force of a sudden jolt to the dog’s body, lessening the strain on a single part of its anatomy – a seat belt attached to a collar, for instance, could cause injury to a dog’s neck in the event of the car braking suddenly, while a harness repositions that impact more widely across the dog’s chest.


So now you understand the differences and know the safest thing is to secure your dog, what is the legal requirement for a dog to be secured in the car?

Legal requirement for a dog to be secured in a car

Safety and Rule 57 of Highway Code states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt or harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

If pulled over by the police, a driver deemed not to have proper control of their car, which includes not securing your dog in the car, may receive up to £1,000 on-the-spot fine. That fine could increase to a maximum of £2,500 and nine point on your license for failing to drive with due care and attention. One other thing to bear in mind is that insurers may also refuse to pay up if they find out that you have an accident caused by an unsecured dog in your car.

Okay so you now understand that you need to secure your dog so to help you decide here’s the pros and cons for the different options. With these we refer to our own options on offer at TreatYourDog so please check if you are looking or using different brands that they work in the same way.

The Pros and Cons of a dog car seat belt


  • Allows the dog a small amount of movement in the back seat, and is particularly applicable to small to medium breeds of dogs
  • Very easy to install in the car and attach to your dog’s existing harness or collar
  • Easy to switch onto a lead for walking from the car
  • A cheaper option than a harness


  • Provides limited restraint, so a dog could still be thrown around or fall off the back seat if the car stops suddenly and the belt is on a long setting
  • A large dog could chew through if they are a natural chewer


  • Keeps a dog secured in one spot in the back seat, reducing the risk of injury or distraction for the driver
  • Spreads the strain caused by a sudden stop around the dog’s torso rather than his neck, as would be the case with a seat belt attached to a collar
  • Can dual as a walking harness if buying something like this strong harness


  • The option to move around is reduced for your dog, which may lead to agitation during a longer car journey or for a dog who is young
  • Safety isn’t always guaranteed, as the harnesses will still allow a dog to catapult into the back of the front seat when the car stops suddenly
  • You must change the harness to their walking one or remove this to take a walk from your car
  • More expensive than the dog seat belt option


And finally does the size of your dog influence where your dog should be in the car and whether you should choose a dog seat belt or a car seat harness?

Well yes… But it isn’t just size, temperament will also be key in your decision making over the best way to secure your dog.  As is the size of your car and the need to use the boot space or not.

So you now know the law and the need to restrain your dog properly in your car and you know the options for securing a dog in the back seat of your car. Over to you to decide which is the best option for you.

As always the team at TreatYourDog can help if you have further queries so please get in touch at and we will get back to you quickly.


Happy car travelling with your dog…and don’t forget to cover up your back seat to avoid unnecessary dog hair, mud and goodness knows what else our gorgeous furry friends might have on them when returning to the car! Here’s what we use for our car when Pepper has had a good nosy around on her walk….

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