Small Dog Car Safety

Last month, we reviewed car safety harnesses for medium and larger dogs. This product provides the best protection in the car for tiny and small dogs (45 lbs and smaller).


As we described in our review of car-safety harnesses in the May 2021 issue, even the best products on the market for medium and larger dogs are limited in the amount of comfort and safety they provide – and none of them can accommodate dogs smaller than 11 lbs. Happily, there is a very safe and comfortable car-safety product available for small dogs (those 45 lbs and less): the PupSaver. 

The dog is held in place in the middle of the padded seat by a strap that clips to a ring on the front/bottom of the harness – lower than a front-clip walking harness, but not quite between the dog’s front legs. The combination of the harness and the strap provide only part of the protection, however; the shape and padding of the PupSaver, assisted by the shoulder belt, help catch and contain the dog if he’s been thrown by the force of a collision.

For the best way to understand how the seat works, see the crash-test videos on the PupSaver website ( The website also has links to several videos that show you how to install the seat. We didn’t find the installation to be difficult, but a friend found it more daunting and reported that the video made all the difference. 

Like infant safety seats, the PupSaver provides the highest degree of safety when installed in the back seat of a car. Though the car’s seat belts are used whether it is installed in the front or back seat, the PupSaver’s metal j-hooks can be used to additionally secure it with the car’s LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system in the back seat. 


The owner of our tiny test dog, Samson, anticipated that he would feel constrained by his inability to see over the curved, padded back of the PupSaver, particularly when it was installed in the car’s back seat. In reality, Samson relaxed into the cushioned seat without a fuss. That turned out to be a non-issue, particularly because he could still stand up and see out the side window. 

As a mother and grandmother with extensive infant- and toddler-car-seat experience, I was concerned about installing the PupSaver in the front seat; rear-facing infant car seats are never supposed to be installed where an airbag could smash into and displace them, injuring the baby in the seat. But because the PupSaver is soft, not rigid, if an airbag went off, at most it would push the cushioned PupSaver and dog into the car’s seat back. In fact, a number of testimonials on the PupSaver website describe accidents where all the car’ airbags deployed and the dogs were unharmed.


The PupSaver seat comes in three sizes: PupSaver Petite (for dogs who weigh 10 lbs or less); PupSaver (for dogs 10 to 30 lbs); and PupSaver 45 (for dogs 35 to 45 pounds). The price varies by size and type of fabric used for the cover, but ranges from $150 to $180.

The PupSaver compatible harnesses are sold separately for $30. They are available in four sizes, ranging from XXS Petite (for dogs who are 5 to 6 lbs) to Medium (for dogs who weigh 30 to 45 lbs). 

Does this seem expensive to you? It did to us, too – until we tested the product for the past six months and saw how easy it was to install and use, how much our test dog liked it, and how well it worked. When you add in that fact that small dogs usually live longer than larger dogs (and so you could amortize its cost over a longer time), it seems like a great investment to us. 

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  1. That was one of our considered options for our 9 pound dog – that v. a sleepypod which she hates (she has confinement issues as well as travel issues) but this crash test review stopped me. Have you reviewed this article and safety testing? i’d like to find something that makes her more comfortable than a good tether and a comfy bed attached to a pet vest harness – the sleepy pod car harnesses are too large, sadly. And I’d never ever put a dog in a seat in the front. Side air bags are also an issue.

    • Good on you for checking out the CPS crash test, too. Their test didn’t look as great as the video posted by PupSaver on its site — but in neither test did the test-dog-dummy get released and flung off the seat. As we said in the review of car-seat harnesses in the May 2021 issue, every product on the market is imperfect, because cars are designed for human bodies, not dogs. Given that none of the car-safety harnesses we looked at work well for the under-15-pound set in particular, we are satisfied that this is the best product for the tiny and small dogs on the market so far.

      One thing the CPS said in their review that is NOT correct: They suggested that PupSaver instructs people to install the PupSaver in the front seat.They do not – they clearly indicate that the dog will be safer in the back seat. However, they DO say the seats can be used in the front OR back. We’d always recommend the back seat.