Greyhound Car Danger: how to keep him safe

Open the car door, and summon your dog to get in. Then, hop in, buckle your seatbelt, and off you go, free as a breeze.  This pattern is followed by most, even though about a third of us know someone whose dog has been injured (or injured another) while riding, untethered, in the car. 

To maximize greyhound car safety, the dog should be secured. The options are as follows: barrier, soft-sided crate (secured), Vari-kennel (secured), and seatbelted harness.  In all cases, the greyhound must be wearing his ID tags, in case he escapes the car after an accident.

Is this all really necessary, or is it just more nanny-state nonsense?  It’s more of a consideration, depending on traffic and road conditions where you live.  Certainly, there’s always a chance of an accident; but in urban areas, this is more of a concern.  For example, in the greater Boston area, where I have been in several accidents and even more hair-raising near-misses (without the dog, thank goodness), one would certainly want to take extra safety measures with one’s greyhound.        

Believe it or not, there really is not a lot of information out there on this topic, especially for greyhounds.  Read on for help in making the best decision for your pet.

Greyhound ID Tag: Don’t leave home without it

Regardless of which side of the debate one favors, it is crucial to have a secure ID tag on one’s dog, whenever he rides in the car.  Should there be an accident, and he jumps out of the car, it increases the chance that he will found and returned.

Airbags are Not for Dogs

If your greyhound is in a part of the car which is fitted with airbags, ALWAYS disable them before setting out!  An airbag may save your life, but it could do just the opposite to your dog.  The force of a deploying airbag is too great for dogs and small people, and can cause fatal injuries.  In fact, my 2005 Nissan Maxima actually has a sensor that turns off the airbag to the passenger seat if anything is placed on it that weighs between 10 and 100 lbs..

Should I Restrain My Greyhound in the Car?

It’s so easy not to!  Candidly, I have been struggling with this issue myself.  I thought I had a safe travel solution for my greyhound, when I got a car with a comfy rear compartment.  Well, it turns out that Lily gets carsick back there….and I think she feels lonely and fretful, as well. 

We tell ourselves we’ll just take it slow and drive extra carefully; but, as I told my kids when they started driving, you can’t always avoid every bad driver, and it only takes one…

In an accident, our greyhounds become projectiles, which can injure both us and ourselves.  According to Kurgo, manufacturer of canine auto safety gear, “an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force.”

I am no longer comfortable with the idea of having my greyhound going free-range in the car…but her gangly build, thin skin, and lack of protective fat make the standard safety options underwhelming.  Let’s take a closer look at these options together. 

Car Barriers for Greyhounds

The barrier is typically fashioned from coated wire mesh or a grid of metal bars.  It is placed between the area in which the dog is riding, and that in which the pasengers are riding.  

In the event of an accident, your dog will have less room to bounce around.  You and your passengers would benefit from not getting hit by the dog; but the dog is provided with little significant protection.  The Center for Pet Safety brings up this distinction, which is easy to forget when choosing a device to keep our greyhounds safe in the car – The difference between devices that prevent your pet from distracting you, as opposed to those which will actually protect him in the event of a crash.

Soft-sided Crates: helpful in fender-benders

 Like the barrier, a soft-sided crate will reduce pet distractions.  There are other advantages, as well.  First, because your greyhound would be confined to a smaller space, there would be even less room for him to move around.  Still, he could still get bounced around pretty badly in an accident…but what if there was less space around him?  

My thought is that the soft crate could be firmly anchored in the back seat, using the existing seatbelts and carseat anchors.  Then, place some “bumpers” around it.  You may already own one of those sturdy space-fillers that fit in the footwells of the backseat.  If you put that in, and then placed some lengths of high-density foam on the remaining three sides of the crate, it would certainly be an improvement.  Be certain not to block the crate’s ventilation.  It’s pretty DIY, but it has possibilities.

Plastic Kennels, Padded & Anchored – Your best bet?

Those big, chunky plastic kennels are frequently cited as the crate of choice for most people travelling with a dog.  They’re tough and sturdy.  

I would still be concerned about the hound getting banged-up against the hard inside of the crate during an accident.  This, too, could probably be padded somehow, but it would have to be on the inside.  Again, do not block the ventilation.  

One potential problem with adding your own padding to a plastic crate is the greyhound may decide to start picking at it.  Most of my greyhounds would be OK with it; but my first grey, Peaches, was a termite, when it came to foam rubber.  Every flip-flop and pool toy we owned had fang-marks and complete bites out of them.

Harnesses: a definite maybe

A harness, fastened directly to the seatbelt, would be the perfect solution, if your greyhound wasn’t such a…well, such a greyhound!  Good car harnesses are well-rated by the Center for Pet Safety.  Unfortunately, their recommended harnesses are built wrong for sighthounds, who tend to have deep chests and lack that protective layer of fat.  

What you need is a harness that covers a greater area of his body, so any force of an accident exerted by the harness would be distributed over a greater area of his chest.

Be sure to choose a harness that connects directly to the seatbelt itself.  Harnesses which connect by a tether are very hazardous.  I will spare you the graphic description of “A car accident involving a restrained dog within the vehicle: a case report,” an article which appeared in the veterinary journal, Veterinarni Medicina.  Let’s just say that the tether does not actually prevent injury to the dog; it just swaps one type of injury for another, as he would fly forward, and then be jerked back by the tether.

Aluminum Kennels: tough may not equal protective

These kennels will certainly contain your dog, even in a rollover crash.  There are, however, two drawbacks.  Again, your greyhound will be tossed around inside of the hard crate.  The distinct disadvantage of this Rolls-Royce of dog crates is the price.  The ones I saw online ranged between $750 – over $2,000.

Why is There No Satisfactory Solution?

I think the answer lies in our litigious society – Any entrepreneur who might try to invent and market a greyhound-friendly safety harness would be quickly deterred by the thought of legal liability.  One lawsuit would eat up all the profits, and then some.  The idea of being ruined by something one thought would be helpful and profitable is disincentivizing, to say the least.  Still, I will keep watching for the advent of such an invention.  We owe it to our pets to provide them with the same margin of car safety we provide to ourselves.

Resources for Further Info

Beth Levine on her personal experience with greyhounds in the car:

A fascinating array of traffic-safety stats from Kurgo:

The Center for Pet Safety is a greyt resource for greyhound owners:

What really happens to a tethered dog in an accident (it’s not pretty):

Categorized as DIYs, Health

By Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!