Kurgo has a line of dog travel products, many of which work to minimize driver distraction. Knowing I often have a pack of dogs in my car — I’m a dog sitter — the company sent over three to try out: the Direct to Seat Belt Tether, the Auto Zip Line-Leash/Zip Line Combo, and the Backseat Barrier. We took them for a test drive.
Full disclosure: My dog, Riggins, uses a Sleepypod ClickIt Sport Harness. After doing research for an article on the safety of car restraint harnesses for dogs, I decided it was the product Riggins would use while we are on the road.
But as mentioned, he isn’t the only pup in my vehicle most of the time. Usually between three and seven dogs pile in. Most of the dog parents don’t use or provide a car-restraint harness, so it is often up to me to find ways to keep the dogs out of my lap. Here is what we experienced while using the Kurgo products.
This doggie seat belt is a simple yet effective concept. The tether has a latch plate on one side and a carabiner on the other. Simply click the latch plate into the female side of the seat belt in your car and hook the other end to your dog’s harness. Ta-da! Now your pup can only wander the length of the tether.
Although Kurgo sent me one of these products to review, I already own and use one. In fact, I’ve tried a number of different brands of this type of tether design and like Kurgo’s the best. It is hefty enough to keep even big dogs from crawling into the front seat.
One of the good things about this type of tether design is that you can leave it latched in your car’s seat belt and don’t have to remove it each time you take your dog out of the car. That is, until the seat needs to be used by a human.
My backseat is almost always a human-free zone, therefore I have two of these tethers attached and ready to go at all times. I’ve used them on all sorts of dogs, from big to small, from crazy to calm, and all have been able to ride happily and comfortably in the backseat.
Most importantly, the tethers keep me from having to worry about the dogs making their way up to the front seat and me, the driver.
The Auto Zip Line-Leash/Zip Line Combo is similar to the Seat Belt Tether insomuch as it keeps your dog isolated in the back of the car. The difference is that the zip line goes across the car or car seat and the dog is attached to the line using a removable leash. One end of the leash is attached by carabiner to the zip line, and the other end is attached by carabiner to your dog’s harness.
The zip line has different options for how you secure it to your seat belts or passenger handles. Since my backseat was already occupied, I put the zip line in the cargo area of my car, which I fondly refer to as the “way back.” Per the instructions, I looked high and low, literally, for the cargo hooks as described in the product’s installation instructions. Apparently, the people who designed my 2012 Ford Escape didn’t feel these hooks were necessary. There are hook-like things in the ceiling covered by plastic things (“things” is obviously not the technical word, but it’s close), and I chose to use those. They looked cargo-hook like. The problem was the S-hook in the zip line was too fat and could only attach to part of the hook. After more searching, it was the only thing I had to use, so I went with it.
When the zip line worked, I really liked it. The pups who got to ride in the way back were easy to hook up and had the freedom to stand up, lie down, or even walk back and forth barking at fellow travelers on each side of the car. I wished I had another tether so I could hook up two dogs at once back there.
Although the goal of the product is to keep the dogs secure while the car is in motion, I found that the item was just as useful at keeping the dogs safe when I opened the back door. It’s always a struggle for me to lift up the back door while crouching down, hand out, saying “stay” over and over again. Then I have to masterfully grab leashes as dogs shoot out of the back like they are starting a race. With the zip line, at least one dog in the way back was secure until I unhooked him.
The problem came when one overanxious dog, Happy, REALLY wanted to be in the front seat. Normally Happy goes in the way back and out the front seat. In his effort to get to his goal of licking my face, he ripped part of the car’s hook, leaving one end of the zip line not secured.
I haven’t tried to fix it yet, but I hope I can reattach it since the product was helpful to me and the pack.
To say that I failed in my installation of the Backseat Barrier would be an understatement. This is from someone who can actually put together an Ikea piece of furniture without cursing violently and throwing things. Much like the zip line, my car wasn’t following the rules set by the installation instructions. I gave up on even reading them and just kept attaching things to other things (again, not the technical name of these items). Kurgo offers support via chat on its website, but because I didn’t have that kind of patience, I ran inside my house and grabbed a few small carabiners to help out.
By the time I finished, the barrier was in place and as sturdy as one could expect. I put in the dogs, and within seconds one had easily climbed over the barrier and planted his bum on the passenger seat as if he had called “shotgun” before getting in. This was a continuous issue with all of the big dogs in my pack, like Riggins. In fact, for dogs like Riggins, having the barrier was actually worse than not having it since it became harder to push them back to their own seats when they were straddling the barrier.
When I had tiny little Chloe, a small member of the pack, in the backseat, the barrier worked great for her. The sweet bundle of fur would much prefer to ride on my lap, but was unable to navigate up and over the barrier. It also stopped the big dogs with the seat belt tethers from putting their heads on the armrest and licking my arm — which happens more than you would expect.
Quality: Kurgo’s quality is always something you can count on.
Style: The basic color of the products can blend in with any car interior.
Function: When used as a tool against driver distraction, the seat belt tether and zip line do what they should: keep the pups away from the driver. The barrier works with small dogs or when used in conjunction with one of the other two products. On its own with large dogs, it hinders more than helps.
Creativity: These are similar to other products on the market, although I’ve always liked the Kurgo brand for its quality and customer service.
Value: At $13 for the Direct to Seat Belt Tether and $25 for the Auto Zip Line-Leash/Zip Line Combo, these are good solutions for improving driving safety. The $45 Backseat Barrier is worth it if you have the right dog and car for the product to work well.
Keeping the occupants of your vehicle safe starts with the driver being able to focus on the road. Products like these three from Kurgo are worth any amount of money if they keep you from having an accident.
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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.