The 5 best dog collars in 2021, according to a professional dog trainer

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best dog collars are durable, comfortable, and will keep their looks over time.
  • A harness is a safer option for walking a dog, but a collar is important for attaching ID tags.
  • We tested and researched a variety of dog collars, including nylon, leather, and martingale collars.

The primary function of a collar is not to walk your dog but to keep them safe. In an emergency situation, the ID tags on your dog’s collar are the quickest and easiest way for someone to get your dog back to you.

The best dog collars are those that are comfortable enough for everyday wear but durable enough to stand up to your dog’s biggest adventures. For those who prefer not to use a harness for walks, the collar must also have strong hardware and fit well without chafing when attached to a leash. A dog’s physical safety is a crucial consideration as well – at the end of this guide, we discuss the risks of using prong and choke collars, which we do not recommend.

To choose the best dog collars on the market, I’ve combined what I’ve learned over a decade of experience with dozens of collars as a certified professional dog trainer with the advice of Melissa Bain, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist and professor of clinical animal behavior at UC Davis, and Carlo Siracusa, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist and associate professor of clinical behavior medicine at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

These are the best dog collars in 2021

The best dog collar overall

French bulldog wearing the Lupine Eco best dog collar overall

Featuring a lifetime guarantee and eco-friendly materials, the Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar stands out for both its durability and sustainability.

Pros: High-quality hardware, comes in three widths, sizes cover necks from 8 to 28 inches, nine colors, made of recycled materials, lifetime warranty even in the case of chewing, affordable

Cons: Lacks padding and reflective materials

In the collar department, most dogs need nothing more than an attractive, functional collar made with high-quality materials. The Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar has that in spades, and that’s not all: This collar is also made from recycled plastic bottles and comes with a warranty that protects your investment for life.

From its look and feel, you’d never know that the Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar was made out of plastic waste. I like that it is both soft and strong while remaining attractive, with a two-tone woven texture available in nine colors. This collar comes in three widths (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch) and two sizes, appropriate for necks from 8 to 28 inches in circumference.

The Lupine Pet Eco Dog Collar is constructed with premium hardware and the custom-designed buckle made by YKK, the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, remains easy to buckle and unbuckle over time. The welded steel D-ring for holding tags, and clipping a leash if needed, is sewn firmly into the material. The collar comes with a lifetime guarantee, but chances are you won’t need it unless your dog turns it into a chew toy.

LupinePet Eco Dog Collar doesn’t get fancy with extras. It doesn’t have padding, lacks reflective materials, and there’s no way to have your dog’s name and phone number stitched into the strap. But for a basic dog collar that will last you a lifetime, you can’t go wrong with this product.

The best budget dog collar

small dog wearing budget-friendly blueberry pet dog collar

The Blueberry Pet Classic Nylon Dog Collar is an attractive, well-designed collar available in a range of colors and sizes.

Pros: Made from nylon with high-density webbing, buckles made from eco-friendly plastic, available in many colors and styles, metal D-ring is chrome-plated

Cons: May not withstand heavy chewing, the material may fray over time, may hold odors

If all you need is a basic, attractive collar that will hold up to everyday wear, the Blueberry Pet Classic Nylon Dog Collar fits the bill. Blueberry’s Classic Collar is made from durable nylon with high-density webbing, strong buckles made of eco-friendly plastic, and a metal D-ring coated in chrome. 

Though it won’t last forever the way our top pick will, this is a well-constructed collar. The company claims they’ve done over 600 laboratory tests to ensure the quality of their collars, and I haven’t found mine to stretch out over time, though some people have experienced fraying over time. 

The Blueberry Classic Nylon Dog Collar comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, from bright pink to subdued green and flowers to plaids. Matching leashes are also available. The Blueberry Classic can also be embroidered with your pet’s name and phone number for an additional four dollars.

This is a great choice for dog guardians on a budget who want their pup’s gear to look great.

The best leather dog collar

feminine looking person and a corgi wearing Perri's Padded Leather Dog Collar

Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collar combines style and function for a comfortable, handsome collar.

Pros: Handmade, genuine leather and padded lambskin lining for comfort, durable stainless steel or solid brass hardware, resistant to wear and tear, available in a wide variety of colors and five sizes

Cons: Buckle and D-ring may be too close together on some collars, requires leather care

Leather collars offer a level of durability that nylon can’t provide. A good leather collar just gets softer and more supple with use. As long as your dog doesn’t turn it into a chew toy, a well-made one like Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collars could last a pretty long time.

Perri’s leather collars are handmade by Amish craftspeople and lined with lambskin padding. I love that they look like luxury items, without the price tag. Even with extra padding, the collar doesn’t feel overly stiff, which is always a concern with leather products.

Perri’s collars are also surprisingly one-of-a-kind. They come in 42 different color combinations, including black or brown on the outside lined with bright, metallic, or patterned padding. The hardware on Perri’s Padded Leather Dog Collars is made of solid brass or stainless steel. Because it’s a handmade product, Perri’s collars occasionally have flaws, namely the buckle and D-ring being placed too close together to easily attach a leash if needed. You can return the collar for a replacement, however. Sizing can also run smaller or larger than advertised. 

Like any leather item, without semi-regular cleaning with a leather-care product, Perri’s collars will show some cracking and wear. But if you take care of this collar, it will take care of your dog, giving them years of comfort.

The best martingale dog collar

german shepherd wearing best martingale collar from If It Barks

Made with heavy-duty materials, the well-made If It Barks Martingale keeps dogs from escaping their collar.

Pros: Nonslip design prevents dogs from escaping, handmade in the US, made with extra durable nylon, the hardware is nickel-plated steel, size can be customized, available in two widths and up to 12 colors, can add a buckle for easy removal

Cons: May not withstand heavy chewing, the width may be too large for very small dogs

The If It Barks Martingale Collar is a well-made martingale constructed with heavy-duty materials. The brand has sewn its collar out of two layers of extra durable nylon webbing and added nickel-plated steel hardware to stand up to daily use. One of my favorite things about If It Barks is that if your pup has a neck too small or too large to fit into their standard sizes (small, medium, and large), they’ll customize a collar for them. 

I’ve found If It Barks Martingales to be much sturdier than the average martingale without feeling too stiff or inflexible. Unlike some collars of this kind, you can opt to add a buckle to this collar so that you don’t need to slip it over the head of a sensitive or hand-shy dog. However, it may not withstand heavy chewing and may also be overpowering for more petite dogs.

A martingale collar, or limited-slip collar, prevents dogs from escaping by tightening enough to keep the head from fitting through the loop of the collar. Unlike a choke collar, a martingale will never tighten more than a couple of inches and should not cause discomfort. On a dog that pulls frequently, a martingale, like any collar, could put dangerous pressure on the trachea and neck, according to Siracusa.

And, if you have a skittish, noise-sensitive, or Houdini dog, there’s always a risk that they will escape their collar. Some dogs, especially those with narrow heads like greyhounds and whippets, or with big, muscular necks, can lose their collars without even trying. “For dogs with relatively little difference between the head and neck diameter, a martingale is a good choice,” Bain added.

The best headcollar

person walking a dog wearing PetSafe Gentle Leader Headcollar

With a padded noseband, the Petsafe Gentle Leader helps to curb pulling without using a body harness or causing pain.

Pros: Padded noseband, sold in five sizes and eight colors

Cons: Dangerous for over-aroused dogs, dog must be desensitized to headcollar before use

A headcollar isn’t so much a collar as it is a harness for a dog’s head. Designed on the same principle as a halter for a horse, headcollars help to alleviate pulling in dogs by putting a walker’s control at the front of their pet instead of at their strongest point at their back.

One of the biggest problems with a headcollar is that chafing on the nose can occur, even in dogs that walk calmly. That’s one of the reasons we selected the Petsafe Gentle Leader Headcollar, which has a noseband padded with a layer of neoprene. It’s also our top pick for the best no-pull headcollar in our guide to the best harnesses for dogs.

Headcollars have their limitations. Bain advises against using a headcollar for a dog who is difficult to control and lunges on walks. For calmer dogs, however, Bain says headcollars “are very effective in helping to control dogs that pull, and can be the foot-in-the-door to help train dogs to walk nicely on leash.”

Bain prefers the affordable Gentle Leader “for its ease in fitting and use.” Indeed, this headcollar has only two straps, one around the nose and one around the ears, the latter of which is adjustable. The noseband attaches to the leash with a slip-loop to naturally size to your dog’s snout.

The Gentle Leader comes in five sizes and eight colors, and your dog will require desensitization before they are comfortable wearing it. But if you’re looking for an alternative to a harness for a dog that pulls on a leash, this headcollar is a good option for dogs that are not easily over-aroused.

What else we considered

a dog wearing the Coastal Pet New Earth Eco Friendly Soy Dog Collar
  • Coastal Pet New Earth Eco-Friendly Soy Dog Collar: This has been one of my personal favorites in the budget category for years for its softness, pliability, and durability. Made from soy fibers, the Coastal Pet New Earth Collar doesn’t retain smells and washes easily in the laundry. It was narrowly nudged out of our top budget spot due to the relative lack of colors, only 12 muted tones compared to the Blueberry Classic Dog Collar’s 22 (plus all the patterned options), and because pricing goes up for some sizes and shades. But if you’re looking for a good option for under $5, this may be the one for you.
  • The Company of Animals Halti Head Collar: The thing I like best about the Halti Head Collar is its additional safety tether, which connects the halter to your dog’s collar and will help you maintain control if a strap breaks or your dog worms out of the device. Like the Gentle Leader, the Halti also has a padded noseband and additional straps on the side of the snout to help balance out the halter and keep it in place.

Safety considerations for dog collars

Collars that add pressure or pain to your dog’s neck on walks, usually to prevent them from pulling away, should be avoided. “I do not recommend owners use prong or pinch collars on their dogs,” said Bain.

Even martingale-style collars can be dangerous for dogs that pull frequently because of the pressure they put on the neck. “It can cause problems to the trachea, it can cause problems to the bone structure of the neck, and then it can cause problems to the circulation that goes and comes from the brain,” Siracusa explained. 

Because of their design, some collars can also be dangerous when left on a dog without supervision. The martingale collar, for example, which has an extra loop of material that can get caught on things, should be removed after the walk is over, according to Whole Dog Journal. The head collar, too, should only be worn for walks. “Flat collars should be worn by dogs to hang their ID tags,” said Bain. She added they are relatively safe to keep on 24/7 as well.

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The 4 best dog life jackets in 2021, with advice from veterinarians and pet safety experts

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A life jacket can prevent a dog from drowning and is recommended when a dog is in or around water.
  • Six experts shared what they look for in a dog life vest, such as strong handles and bright colors.
  • The best dog life jacket is the affordable, sturdy Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Some dogs seem born for the water while others would rather keep their paws firmly planted on the earth. But there’s one thing both water babies and poolside loungers have in common: A dog life jacket can keep accidents in and around the water from turning into tragedies.

No one life vest is ideal for dogs of every size, shape, and ability. Fiona McGlynn, contributing editor at BoatUS Magazine, told Insider Reviews that the best life jacket is one that fits properly, is comfortable in water and on land, and has plenty of functionality like durable handles and well-balanced flotation. We carefully considered the advice of McGlynn and five other dog water safety experts when developing our selection criteria for the best dog life jackets in this guide.

Here are the best dog life jackets in 2021

How we chose the best life jackets for dogs

There are currently no standards or certifications to guide pet guardians when selecting a quality dog life vest. “Unlike human flotation devices, canine flotation devices are not regulated,” said Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia. “There has been very little scientific examination of the flotation needs of pets.”

For this guide to the best dog life jackets, we relied on the recommendations and experience of the experts we consulted, as well as two studies conducted on dog life vests in the 2010s. With the help of these resources, we came up with the following checklist of essential features, then used it to conduct a thorough analysis of the dog life jackets currently on the market. Those that best met the criteria were selected as winners.

The best dog life jacket overall

Best dog life jackets in 2021 plus water safety tips for dogs

The Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket is built with comfort, safety, and affordability in mind for small and large dogs, alike.

Pros: Neoprene belly band, three adjustable straps, foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, affordable, available in five sizes

Cons: Only comes in one color, hand wash only

Whether your dog is big or small, a natural swimmer or a natural sinker, the Outward Hound Granby Ripsto Life Jacket offers protection and comfort in and out of the water. In the 2012 dog life jacket evaluation conducted by the BoatUS Foundation, this one excelled in every category and was favored by the testing staff for dogs of all sizes.

The Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket is made of thick, buoyant foam panels inside a ripstop nylon shell. A flexible neoprene band fitted with three Velcro strips and two adjustable, quick-release buckle straps wraps around the belly. A third strap buckles at the chest.

A foam chin panel on the chest strap helps keep a dog’s head above the water, a feature veterinarian Gabrielle Fadl, medical director and vet at Bond Vet in New York City, likes to see in a dog life vest. In their tests, the BoatUS Foundation found the Granby’s flotation foam evenly distributed enough to keep a dog horizontal in the water. Out of the water, they noted that dogs wearing the vest appeared comfortable and their movement was not restricted.

While the extra-small and small sizes have one solid, padded handle for pulling a pup out of the water, the medium, large and extra-large jackets have two handles for better leverage and more comfortable lifting. The vest comes with multiple reflective accents that improve the likelihood of spotting a dog in the water. 

The Granby Life Vest is remarkably affordable, even for extra-large dogs. No matter their size, ability, or familiarity with the water, this is an excellent life jacket for every dog.

The best neoprene dog life jacket

Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket worn by an australian shepherd

The snug, low-profile neoprene Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket is insulated and comfortable in and out of the water.

Pros: Neoprene provides additional insulation and warmth, three adjustable straps, has a foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes

Cons: Straps may rub on barrel-chested or chubby dogs, only comes in one color

Neoprene dog life jackets are less bulky and more comfortable than other vests. They also offer insulation to keep a dog’s body temperature from dropping drastically in cold water. Even with its sleek design, the side panels of the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket are packed with plenty of foam to keep even novice swimmers afloat.

The jacket has a neoprene belly panel fitted with two adjustable buckles. A third adjustable buckle strap at the chest has a foam insert to help keep a dog’s head above water. Unlike some of the other designs we selected for this guide, the straps do make contact with the dog’s skin at the edges, which could cause some discomfort and rubbing after a long day at the water’s edge, especially if your pup has a barrel-chest or a chubby belly.

This life vest comes in five sizes. The extra-small and small sizes have one sturdy handle at the back for lifting a dog out of the water in an emergency, while the larger sizes have two straps for better leverage. The Dawson Life Jacket has reflective accents for better visibility in the water.

In their dog life jacket evaluation, the BoatUS Foundation found that thinner neoprene vests like this one tend to bunch up less on a dog that is sitting or lying down out of the water, making them more comfortable overall. That combined with the additional warmth and insulation provided by the neoprene material make this as good of a choice for dogs who spend a lot of time in the water as it is for dogs who prefer to sun themselves on deck.

The best life jacket for small dogs

Dog wearing Ruffwear float coat dog life jacket while standing on a paddleboard

The high-quality Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket fits snugly for dogs as little as 13 inches in length.

Pros: Two adjustable buckles and an adjustable telescoping chest strap, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in six sizes and three colors, D-ring for attaching a leash, machine washable

Cons: Pricey, no chin float

For smaller dogs, a life jacket should have the right balance of buoyancy and comfort without so much foam or fabric that it overwhelms little swimmers. The Ruffwear Float Coat, available in sizes for dogs as small as 13-inches long, has a tailored fit packed with foam flotation that doesn’t hinder the movement of short legs. 

Mark and Kristi Jagger, dog surfing instructors with the So Cal Surf Dogs Club in San Diego, California, told us that this jacket seems to fit the best and the handle on top of the coat makes for easy water retrieval. A 2017 study identified this vest as the best of those tested for keeping an incapacitated dog afloat in open water

The Float Coat wraps around the belly and secures with two adjustable buckle straps. The chest strap has an adjustable telescoping design that slips over the head. Depending on fit, the belly straps may partially rub against the skin or cause discomfort. Its nylon sides are packed with closed-cell foam, which helps to keep a dog upright while swimming. One sturdy handle is sewn into the back of the vest and there is also a D-ring for attaching a leash and a loop for hanging a light. It does not have a chin float.

This jacket comes in three bright colors, but McGlynn recommends skipping the blue one which would be harder to see in the water, even with the vest’s reflective trim. The jacket also comes in six sizes and can be washed in a machine on the gentle cycle in cold water, then hung to dry. Like all Ruffwear products, the Float Coat comes with a hefty price tag but with its durable construction, it will last and last.

While the jacket will work for any size dog, its snug fit and small sizes will keep little pups afloat in the water without compromising mobility or comfort.

The best life jacket for large dogs

golden retriever wearing Kurgo surf n turf life jacket for dogs.

The Kurgo Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket scallop design and double lifting handles work well for large breeds both in and out of the water.

Pros: Three adjustable straps, two sturdy lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes, two D-rings for attaching a leash, removable flotation layer, doubles as an on-land nylon vest, inner layer is machine washable

Cons: Moderately pricey, only comes in one color, no chin float

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket is built tough for large, active dogs. The vest earned the highest score for extra-large pups in the BoatUS Foundation’s evaluation where reviewers particularly liked its two perpendicular lifting handles for hauling a dog out of the water and its scalloped design, which fit the shoulders and rear haunches well.

This jacket is also more versatile than the others we considered for this guide. It has two built-in detachable layers, one stuffed with foam for flotation, the other a simple nylon ripstop shell that can be worn as an extra layer for on-land adventures. This vest has two adjustable buckle straps on its belly panel and a third adjustable strap at the chest. Two metal D-rings are sewn into the top of the vest, one of which doubles as a bottle opener. It does not have a chin float.

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket comes in five sizes but only one color: red with grey reflective trim. The inner layer is machine washable on the gentle cycle after removing the flotation device. It should be hung to dry. While the jacket is moderately pricey, it comes with Kurgo’s lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects.

With its two-layer design, solid double lifting straps, and athletic fit and styling, the Kurgo Surf N’ Turf is a sturdy option for large breed swimming and sea-faring dogs.

FAQs about dog water safety

dog wearing ruffwear life jacket and dog without life jacket, both in water.jpg

Learning about the risks dogs face when in and around the water can help ensure they stay safe. We tackle some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Can all dogs swim?

 “While doggy paddling is instinctual to many dogs, not all dogs know how to swim,” said Fadl. “It’s crucial to allow your dog time to learn, and their time in the water should always be supervised for their safety.”


What dogs are more vulnerable to danger in the water?

Whereas some dogs are natural water babies, others may be more likely to experience challenges, even if they’ve entered the water willingly. McGlynn told us that older pups or those with limited mobility may be more likely to tire out when swimming and, when tired, may be more susceptible to dangers like rip currents. Dogs with lower body fat like greyhounds and boxers may also struggle in the water if their body temperature drops too low.


For what activities should a dog wear a life jacket?

Anytime a dog is in or around water, even if it’s just a swimming pool, a life vest is worth considering. Accidents can happen even if you have a strong swimmer. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are all activities in which a dog should wear a life vest and in dog surfing, life vests are mandatory. “A lot of dog owners use them for fun on the beach, too,” said McGlynn. “Just swimming and retrieving, there could be currents that pull them out.” Ultimately, though, it’s up to pet parents to determine whether their dog should wear a life jacket based on the dog’s experience in and around the water, said Wolko.


Should my dog wear a life jacket around the pool?

If you have a dog that has spent little time around a pool, putting them in a life vest is just common sense, said Wolko. Only after a dog has been properly introduced to a pool, including how to use the stairs to exit the water, is it okay for strong-swimming dogs to go life vest free. Even if your dog has pool experience, they should wear a life vest when visiting unfamiliar pools that may be designed differently.


What color life jacket is best spotted in the water?

All of the experts we consulted told us dog life vests are easiest to spot in the water when they are brightly colored. “Colors like blue and gray are not going to stand out as well in the water,” said McGlynn. Reflective accents sewn into the exterior also help improve visibility.


Can a dog still drown while wearing a life jacket?

Unfortunately, it is possible for a dog to drown while wearing a life vest. “Dogs who are not well supported from a flotation perspective can panic or tire from treading water, increasing the risk of drowning,” said Wolko. Dogs wearing life jackets may also face extreme danger if they become trapped under the water or if waves or rapids are splashing in their nose and mouth, McGlynn added. A life jacket that is properly fitted can help minimize the risk, as can educating yourself about canine water safety before enjoying the water.

How to fit your dog for a life vest

A life jacket that fits properly is essential to keeping a dog safe in and around the water. The best way to ensure proper fit is to take your pup into a brick-and-mortar store to try your options rather than ordering online, according to several of our experts. Because dogs come in so many different shapes and sizes, what fits one comfortably may not be appropriate for another.

When fitting a dog for a life jacket, McGlynn told us to look for a vest that fits snugly but has no buckles or straps that are tight enough to ride up or rub against the skin. She also suggested examining how the life jacket fits both when a dog is lying down and standing up. If your dog will be wearing a life vest for several hours, it should be comfortable in every position.

Chest girth, neck girth, and weight are also crucial considerations when fitting a dog for a life jacket. Take the following measurements to narrow down the size that’s right for your pup.

Chest girth: A dog life vest is fitted according to the width and shape of a dog’s chest. To get their chest girth, measure the circumference around the widest part of the chest right behind the front legs. You’ll get the most accurate reading when your dog is standing in a relaxed position. If their chest girth falls between sizes, choose the larger option.

Neck girth: A dog life vest should not be so tight around the front of the chest and neck that it may press against the windpipe. To determine girth, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck around it’s thickest part, just below the collar. When in doubt, size up! 

Weight: While you can’t fit a dog for a life jacket by knowing their weight alone, it’s important to make sure the vest size you’ve chosen can support their weight in the water. If your dog is heavier than recommended for the life jacket that fits them best, either size up or look for a different brand that is labeled for their weight.

Our sources

To come up with the selections for this guide, we consulted with a variety of experts on dog water safety including a veterinarian and surf dog instructors. Each answered questions via phone or email in March 2021. Our advisors include:

We also consulted the following online sources:

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14 travel essentials to keep your dog safe and comfortable in the car, recommended by experts

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  • If you’re taking a road trip with your dog, you’ll need to ensure their safety and comfort.
  • We rounded up the best dog car travel accessories, including a crash-tested dog crate and harness.
  • You can protect your dog from overheating on the road with window shades and plenty of water.
  • For more expert reviews and buying advice, check out the Insider Reviews homepage.

Best dog car travel accessories to take your pet on a road trip

With changes to how we travel, Americans across the country are hitting the road with dogs as their copilots. Whether your plan is to hike and camp, explore back roads and under-the-radar towns, or visit family and friends, the promise of an adventure on the open road is intoxicating not just for you but for your dog, too.

To ensure the success of a road trip with your pup, you’ll need a handful of dog car travel accessories to keep them safe and comfortable during long drives. As a professional dog trainer by day and travel writer by night, I have years of experience hitting the road with dogs. I’ve combed through my own gear to come up with this list of essentials for a canine-friendly road trip.

For expertise on traveling safely with a dog in the hot summer months, I’ve consulted with veterinarian Tanya Fraser, medical director of VCA Allendale Animal Hospital in Allendale, Michigan, and Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia. Below we’ve rounded up our favorite travel gear as well as tips for traveling safely with your dog.

Here are 14 of the best dog car travel accessories for a canine-friendly road trip:

A crash-tested kennel to protect your dog in a collision

dog car travel crate from Lucky Duck

Lucky Duck Lucky Kennel Intermediate, available at Amazon, $569.99

According to Wolko, you should never travel with your dog in a plastic crate that has been buckled in with a car seat belt because it can easily fracture in a crash. Instead, use a crash-test-certified crate to give your pet the best possible chance of survival in a crash. The Center for Pet Safety has tested several crates for their Center for Pet Safety certified list, including the Lucky Kennel by Lucky Duck, which received a five-star crash-test rating. Crating may also help alleviate motion sickness in some dogs, according to Fraser.

A crash-tested harness to travel safely with your dog outside of a crate

Best dog car travel accessories to take your pet on a road trip

Sleepypod Clickit Sport Dog Safety Harness, available at Sleepypod, $79.99

Sleepypod Clickit Terrain Dog Safety Harness, available at Sleepypod, $94.99

Testing done by the Center for Pet Safety indicates that a crash-test-certified travel harness is an effective way to keep a dog safe on a road trip, especially a dog that has never been crate trained or that suffers from confinement distress. Sleepypod’s Clickit Sport Harness and Terrain Harness each earned a five-star rating. They attach to the seat belts in the back seat of a car through built-in loops. 

A hammock-style seat cover to keep paw prints and dirt at bay

orvis dog car seat cover for road trip

Orvis Grip-Tight Windowed Hammock Seat Protector, available at Orvis, from $169

If any portion of your road trip involves hiking, camping, or other explorations of the great outdoors, do yourself a favor and get a water-resistant seat cover to protect your car from moisture and dirt. This version from Orvis blankets the back seat and the backs of the front seats. A see-through mesh panel between the two front seats prevents your dog from feeling too isolated.

A foldable car ramp for pets with mobility issues

Petsafe car ramp for dogs

Petsafe Ultralite Bi-Fold Pet Ramp at Chewy, Amazon, Wayfair, from $69.95

Just because a dog’s mobility is limited doesn’t mean they aren’t an ideal road trip companion. Bring along a lightweight car ramp to make your travels with an older or disabled dog go more smoothly and save you from having to lift them in and out of the vehicle 20 times a day. In between stops, just fold up the ramp and slide it behind the seat for easy storage.

A pet first-aid kit just in case

pet first aid kit

Rayco International Ltd. Pet First Aid Kit, available at Amazon and Walmart, $24.99

From foxtails to ticks, there are dozens of nasty surprises that await your dog on a road trip. Be prepared for the dangers in your path with a high-quality pet first-aid kit. Fraser also recommends downloading the American Red Cross’s Pet First-Aid app to help you navigate minor injuries. If you’re headed for a specific destination, she also suggests looking up a local emergency clinic before you arrive.

Shades to block the sun and keep car temperatures down

munchkin window shade to protect dog from overheating

Munchkin Brica Window Shade, available at Buy Buy Baby, Target, and Amazon, from $13.99

Even with the air conditioning on full blast, the interior of the car can heat up to uncomfortable levels when temperatures get extreme outside. Sunshades can help to minimize the greenhouse effect inside the car by blocking the heat out. Don’t expect them to help when you’ve parked the car, though. Temperatures can skyrocket inside a parked car in just minutes. “Never leave your dog in the car, even with the windows down, and even for just a few minutes,” said Fraser.

A spill-minimizing bowl so your dog can quench their thirst anytime they want

large travel water bowl for car

Heininger Waterboy Portable Pet Bowl, available at Chewy, $13.38

Heininger’s portable water bowl, which has a reservoir that fills with water when laid flat, has lived in my car on and off for years. Leave it out while you drive — the well has been designed to minimize spillage — or stand it up to drain the well water back into the jug. The BPA-free device holds up to 3 quarts of liquid. 

Interlocking treat-dispensing puzzle toys to help alleviate boredom

west paw dog toy for car rides

West Paw Toppl, available at Chewy and Walmart, from $15.95

Keep your dog from getting restless on the road by occupying them with treat-dispensing puzzle toys. West Paw’s Toppl can be stuffed with treats, spread with peanut butter, or sprayed with cheesy goodness. For smarty pants dogs, try combining a large Toppl with a small one to create a toy that’s a bit more challenging.

A soft, washable blanket that doubles as a dog bed

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Carhartt Dog Blanket, available at Chewy , Amazon, and Carhartt, from $75.99

If you’re exhausted by the end of a day of driving, so is your dog. Whether you’re staying in a hotel or camping overnight, pack something soft and cozy for your pup to cuddle up in. I always bring a soft, washable blanket along for the ride. Not only is a blanket easy to fit into an overstuffed trunk, it’s ultra-portable and can double as a dog bed whenever needed.

A dog-size backpack for outdoor adventures

ruffwear_approach_backpack Ruffwear

Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack, available at Ruffwear, Backcountry, and REI, $79.95

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking or backpacking on your road trip, it’s only fair that your dog should carry their share of the gear. Always limit your dog’s load to no more than 25% of their body weight and make sure the pack fits properly before your adventure.

An insulated water bottle with a dog bowl built right in

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Kong H20 Stainless Steel Dog Water Bottle, available at Amazon and Chewy, from $10.90

Whether you’re on a nature walk or in a socially distanced beer garden, keep your dog hydrated with a combination water bottle and dog bowl. This version from Kong is made of insulated stainless steel that will keep liquids cool and refreshing all day long.

A long line to let your dog safely explore new environments

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Signature K9 Biothane Long Line, available at Amazon, from $19.96

Even if your dog has an excellent recall, the allure of the new environments they’ll be exploring on your road trip may prove more powerful than your cue. Bring along a 15- to 20-foot long line to give your dog some freedom while ensuring they remain out of trouble.

Grooming wipes or waterless shampoo to quickly remove grime and nasty smells

earthbath_grooming_wipes Chewy

Earthbath Green Tea & Awapuhi Grooming Wipes, available at Petco, $14.99

Bodhi Dog Waterless Lavender Dog Dry Shampoo, available at Chewy and Amazon, $13.29

On the road, there may be hundreds of miles between you and the closest dog-washing station, but if your dog is living their best road trip life, chances are they’ll need at least a little cleanup before your trip is over. Grooming wipes are an easy way to freshen up your dog’s coat or remove debris from their paws or muzzle. If you’ve got a dog that loves to roll in stinky things, I can tell you from experience that you’ll need something stronger to remove the stench. A waterless dog shampoo works a bit better and it never hurts to bring a bottle along for the ride.

A folding travel crate for use inside a hotel room

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Orvis Hose-Off Folding Travel Crate, available at Orvis, $129

To keep everyone safe when you leave your hotel room, you’ll need a portable crate to set up inside your room. While most hotels don’t require this, I’ve heard one too many horror stories about a hotel staff member who has been bitten after walking into a room with a canine guest. Choose something that collapses flat and has a handle for easy carrying. I like Orvis’s version, which also has two doors and plenty of ventilation and comes with a padded fleece mat.

Additional safety tips for road trips with dogs

To ensure the success of a road trip with your pup, you’ll need a handful of items to keep them safe and comfortable during long drives. Dogs also need regular breaks from the road, just like we do. “Stopping every few hours to get out, move around, and use the bathroom is ideal,” said Fraser.

All that driving also increases the possibility that your dog may, at some point, experience some car sickness. Most dogs outgrow motion sickness in puppyhood, according to Fraser, but if your dog is prone to nausea in the car, things like withholding food for a few hours before traveling or letting your dog see out the window can help. Roll down the window for additional airflow but not so low that your dog can thrust their head into the wind. That’s very dangerous. “You know the sound your windshield makes when a rock hits it? Imagine your dog being hit by that rock. Ouch!” Wolko said.

Before you embark on your trip, Fraser recommends making sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccines and parasite control. Consult your vet if you have questions. They can also provide you with anti-nausea medication if your dog frequently experiences motion sickness.

 

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