Dogs in Cars: Are They Really Safe?

When I was first tasked with designing something to help safely let a dog lean out a window without destroying the fabric, I instantly wanted to know about safety. I read up on how to travel with dogs, different types of harnesses, cages, and barriers, if dogs should be allowed to hang their heads out the windows, and even briefly reading up on flying with dogs. The overwhelming amount of information shocked me at first – not because of the quantity, but because of the similarities. It all seemed to say the same thing: dogs should be safely strapped in and never allowed to hang their heads out the windows. Loose dogs are dangerous. Safety first. Buckle up. Roll up the window. End of story. This was surprising to me; not because I had no idea dogs should be strapped in (I have a dog, I know to do this) but because of why. Turns out, loose dogs are a much bigger danger than people think. They can wander all over the car, distracting the driver and can fall if the car has to stop suddenly. And, in an accident, they can become furry projectiles, injuring themselves – and possibly the other humans in the car – resulting in broken bones and possibly death. But what about leaning out the window? Surely that isn’t so bad. Well, I was blown away by this. Aside from the usual dogs-can-fly-out-the-window-and-possibly-die argument, there was a whole other world of reasons why not that I hadn’t even considered. Dogs lean out the window in the first place because they love the sensory stimuli. The sights, sounds, smells is all amazing to them; they get to experience something totally new every second the car is moving. However, they can get into a whole lot of trouble. While leaning out the window, the dog’s ear flaps can swell due to constant flapping against the had. This can lead to lifelong ear problems as well as scar tissue forming in the soft tissue inside the ears. Wind or dust particles can also cause ear infections and dust and pollen will aggravate dogs with allergies. A dog’s eyes are also at risk; debris, rocks, and bugs can fly into their eyes impairing their eyesight. I also researched quite a few brands of safety harnesses, and all of my research seems to say one clear thing: overall, the harnesses completely fail. I read up on some safety tests conducted in 2011 and 2013 that put some brands of harnesses through the same tests used to determine how safe our seat belts in cars are. All but one failed, and even the one brand that passed still gets mixed reviews. The main problems with the harnesses are that they break, do not prevent the dog from flying forward, do not stabilize the spine, and quite a few of them have been known to tangle around the dog, cutting off their air supply. If their owners had not reacted quickly, the dogs would have choked to death. So, in keeping with the design challenge, I designed my own harness. This harness (in theory) will stabilize the spine, control head excursion*, prevent the dog from flying forward, will distribute weight evenly over the dog’s chest, has lower torso control, and is tangle-proof, comfortable, effortless, as well as having variety so as to fit multiple breeds of dogs. I call it the Pooch Protector. It is Enjoyable, Effortless, and Protective (EEP). The sizes range from extra-small to extra-large, and is made of nylon and mesh with stainless-steel adjustable straps that allow for the dog size variety. I created two models of this, a low-res and medium-res model just to get the feel for the shape of it and how it works. Finally, I put together a powerpoint deck detailing all of this, and pitched it to an audience. I hope that this work will help improve dog’s very low safety standards; man’s (and woman’s) best friend deserves to be just as safe as we are currently. So remember – strap on your seat belt and buckle that harness – its gonna be a bumpy ride!

*how far the dog’s head leans forward



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