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Product review: Two car booster seats for small dogs

As you may know from earlier posts, we have a Snoozer car booster seat for Chloe (specifically, the Snoozer medium Lookout, without the optional drawer). It works perfectly for us and for Chloe, but a couple of readers have written to me and mentioned that their dog has learned to hop over the side of the Snoozer onto the car seat (the Snoozer harness strap loops through the same seat belt strap that holds the back of the Snoozer to the back of the car seat, so a motivated dog can drag her harness attachment along the seat belt past the corner of the booster seat). That’s not tragic, because their dog is still strapped in safely, but it’s annoying. I was happy, therefore, to be nudged by reader Jen, who wrote to me and asked what I thought of the Bowsers car booster seat for dogs.

Bowsers Booster Car Seat

Frankly, I hadn’t given it a thought, but a wonderful Seattle pet store called Fido & Scratch (a bit off the beaten track, in the Mt. Baker neighborhood, but well worth the trip) had one in stock for me to inspect. In person, the booster seat is just as attractive as it looks on the company’s website. It’s the same size as our Snoozer, and holds a dog at window height, but it’s more refined-looking — it’s covered in pretty, micro-fiber material, and it’s secured by discreet straps rather than the car’s seatbelt.

A closer look at the Bowsers’ straps (the car seat is tipped onto its front for this picture)

To me, however, the straps seem too low-keyed. They are attached at the lower, back corners of the structure, and they end in two toggle clasps. If you’re installing the booster seat in a car seat that has a back (like the back seat of a mini-van — you’d never put your dog in the front seat, right?), you stretch the two straps from front to back and clasp them together. If you’re instead dealing with a seat whose back is part of the car, like the back seat of a sedan, you’re supposed to clip the toggle clasps onto the latch bars you’ll find near the doors and next to the seat belt buckles (they’re mainly meant to secure baby seats). I’m just not convinced that those little toggle clasps would hold up in an accident. I prefer our Snoozer, homely as it is, because the booster seat is held to the car by the car’s seat belt. And that leads me to…

L.A. Dog Company’s L.A. Rider Car Seat

Fido & Scratch had another car booster seat I hadn’t seen before, from the L.A. Dog Company. It wasn’t nearly as pretty as the Bowsers car seat — it’s covered in a simple cotton/poly twill fabric — but I really like its design. I may, in fact, like it better than our Snoozer. It’s secured to the car by the lap part of one of the back seat belts, which passes around the belly of the booster seat, in a channel that keeps the belt from slipping. That’s solid — arguably more solid than our Snoozer’s system.

The L.A. Dog Company seat also solves the problem I mentioned at the beginning of this post. On our Snoozer, you fasten the harness attachment around the lap portion of the back seat belt, and your dog is discouraged (or not) from jumping overboard by the pressure of the seat belt against the booster seat. On the Bowsers car seat, you fasten your dog’s harness attachment around the nearby seatbelt. It’s secure, but there’s really nothing stopping your dog from hopping out of the car seat. The L.A. Dog Company seat, by contrast, includes a small loop through its back, and you attach your dog’s car harness to that loop.

The black loop is nearly invisible against the charcoal fabric, but if you can make it out, you’ll see that it’s small enough to keep your dog’s harness anchored in the middle of the booster seat, preventing her from hopping down onto the car’s back seat

My thanks, as always, to Dog Jaunt’s readers, who keep me on my toes. In the process of looking at these two car booster seats, by the way, I noticed a new, collapsible car booster seat from Sherpa. I haven’t yet found a Sherpa product I’ve liked, but I’ve ordered this one, and I’ll let you know what I think of it when it arrives.

26 comments

  • kadiee

    We went from large dogs (rottweilers) to a small dog (a 16lb boston terrier) and one of the adjustments we had to make was how to secure him in the car. He travels with us all the time and I wanted him to be secure in case of sudden stops (or heaven forbid, an accident) and also be able to see out of the window. After much research I found the Fido Rido and we have been using it for over two years. He can sit or lay down and wears a harness that secures him to the car seat. The car seat is made of the same material as a child’s car seat and is secured by the seat belt. I can’t recommend it highly enough for small dogs and think it is the pick of the crop for dog car seats. I just wanted to pass this along after reading your article as I truly believe secure car seats are vital for small dogs that travel with us in cars.
    Thanks for all the effort you put in to your articles……I really enjoy reading them!

  • Monica McLaughlin

    I am not convinced any of these dog seats are worthwhile, because there are no laws regarding standards. Use of them may mislead an owner into believing their dog is safe. I bought a foam rubber dog seat and it is just that — a foam rubber bucket. In an accident that would crush like — well just like foam rubber. I bought my second dog a real baby seat, but, of course the dog just lays on top of it and is secured to the headrest.

  • Jessica @ YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner

    Thanks for the information. I’ll need it if I decide to jump on the ol’ carseat bandwagon. for now I was just thinking of tethering them to the seatbelt with a harness and leash or just keep them in a crate that is tied down. Any reason to get a booster seat instead of one of those things…..except for the “look out the window” issue (thinking safety reasons)?

  • Thanks so much for your comment, Kadiee! I looked at the FidoRido a long time ago, during the search that ended in our Snoozer, but it sounds like I need to look at it again, with the benefit of hindsight. Thanks for nudging me back towards it!

  • Hi, Monica — It is true that there aren’t any standards (at least, none that I can find). In fact, you have to search pretty hard for a film of pet crash dummy tests. In their absence, the best I can think of to do is look at what’s available, and imagine what might happen in a crash. Chloe’s Snoozer is essentially a lump of hard foam, but in the accidents I’ve been in, at least (and there have been several, some very serious), the back of the back seat didn’t compress up against the back of the passenger seat. My main concern, therefore, is to keep her and her platform firmly attached to the car, so she doesn’t become a 13-lb. projectile. I like the Snoozer and, now, the L.A. Dog Company seat because they use the car seat belt to strap the seat in, and car seat belts HAVE been tested thoroughly. For her harness and attachments, again, I’m just guessing, but I’ve chosen the sturdiest materials I can find, with padding across her chest — it’s the best I can do. Why bother at all? When she first came home, she seemed to be carsick when she couldn’t see out the window. Now, I suspect she’d be fine, sickness-wise, but she surely does enjoy looking out the window.

  • Hi, Jessica! I think your safest approach is keeping the pups in a crate, strapped/clipped to the car seat or to the trunk tie-downs, and then second-safest is the harness approach, with the harnesses clipped to the car’s latch bars (we do the latter with Chloe when we’re driving rental cars while we’re traveling away from home). The only reason I use a car booster seat is because Chloe had troubles with carsickness when we first brought her home, and a booster seat seemed to be the cure — these days, she just really enjoys looking out the window, and the car seat plus harness is the safest way I can make that happen. If your doxies are content in their crate, I’d stick with that plan.

  • Carrie

    I’m going to have to jump in and also sing my praises about the FidoRido!

    Your post and the comments above kicked me into high gear to do a quick post on my own thoughts on our own car seat over at Mochi’s blog – http://post.ly/1xDwQ

    I also had a bunch of pictures on my phone where I snapped pics of the girls on the FidoRido in one of those moments where I’m gushing over how cute my dog is. (We’ve all been there…)

  • Jade

    We’ve been using FidoRido the past 2 years too for our Yorkie and we love it! I like how they use a special pulling harness that attaches to the FidoRido. The harness is very light weight we use it for walks too! The only thing is that my yorkie can’t turn around when hooked on the FidoRido, because there are straps on each side, so force is distributed across the harness esp with sudden stops. But safety always comes first!

  • Jen

    Wow! Thanks SO MUCH Mary-Alice for going above and beyond in your review of these car seats. You do SUCH a wonderful job with your reviews. I’m so glad to find someone who is so thoughtful and articulate in reviewing all things dog related. You’ve given me a lot to think about when considering a booster seat. I will definitely look into the FidoRido and L.A. Dog Company seats. Also, thanks for the heads up on the great store in Seattle. We live in Bellingham, which has next to nothing to offer in the way of specialty dog stores–just chains and a couple of very tiny, sparsely stocked, local shops–so next time we are down that way we will stop in to check it out. Keep up the wonderful work, Mary-Alice. You really do have a talent for this. I have checked out lots of other similar websites, and yours is by far the best.

    Warmest regards to you and Chloe!

    Jen

  • Jen

    Hello again Mary-Alice,

    I do agree now that I can see how it’s installed that the Bowser just doesn’t look too safe–You are right. Of course, for our little loved ones safety should be the number one priority. After reading your review I just also stumbled upon this seat, the Animals Matter Companion Car Seat, while looking for the LA seat you reviewed. It appears to be made by the same parent company as the L.A. Dog Company–Animals Matter. It costs a ton more, but It does have the microfiber and a more refined look. I’ll probably go for the one you reviewed, since I’m fine with the twill and agree that it looks very safe, but for those who might want safety AND a bit of glam, without too much concern for cost, here is what I found…

    http://www.animalsmatter.com/product_companion_car_seat.html

    It appears to have the exact same restraint system as the L.A. seat.

    Good Night.

    Jen

  • Isn’t that attractive?! Thanks so much for pointing it out, Jen — now I need to find it and the FidoRido and see what they’re like in person!

  • Debra

    Thanks so much for this information. Your site is great! Can you give an update on the seat you like the most? I have a 10 lb. mini schnauzer who is on her 3rd Snoozer Booster seat and I have always know that is not really safe. I have her in a seat belt also attached to the back of the seat, but I know there has to be a better seat out there. I am anxious to hear your views on these seats because I have been searching the web for several weeks to find out information to purchase her a new seat.
    Thanks again.
    Debra

  • Hi, Debra! Now that I’ve seen the L.A. Dog Company seat, that’s the one I’d buy — I find the way it’s attached to the car more secure than our Snoozer Lookout seat. I’ve reviewed the collapsible Sherpa seat I mentioned in another post — it works well as a travel seat, but, for Chloe, it’s a little snug for everyday use. It too attaches securely to the car, and your dog is smaller than Chloe, so it might be a good choice for her. Right now, those would be the two I’d decide between.

  • Debra

    Thank you so much for replying. I also sent you an email concerning this. I do like the LA Dog Company seat from the pictures. Did you ever compare this one with the Animals Matter Seat? I think they are made by the same company and just wondered if the price difference was worth it in your opinion.
    Also, when using the LA seat what type of harness would you use?
    Thanks again for all of your wonderful info.
    Debra

  • Debra

    Hello again Mary Alice,

    I forgot to ask you if you reviewed the Fido Rido again.

    Also, is there a link to the LA seats for the LA Rider or Animals Matter (which ever you prefer) and / or the Fido Rido (if you have reviewed that again) that when I purchase you could get credit for.

    You have been so helpful and put so much work into this important review that I would like for you to receive credit.

    Thanks again,
    Debra

  • Well, thank heavens for you, Debra — I hadn’t seen the Animals Matter seat before you drew my attention to it. I’m now trying to track one down in the Puget Sound area so I can look at it in person. It is a beauty, and it looks very similar to the LA Dog Company seat — I like how they share that channel for the seat belt. Until I see it, I won’t know for sure how the two compare, but the price difference may just be due to the different fabrics. With the LA Dog Company bed, I would likely choose to attach Chloe to the car with her existing combination of a harness and a PetBuckle belt: http://www.dogjaunt.com/2010/03/chloes-car-safety-harness/ The booster comes with a loop to attach your dog’s harness to, but the loop itself is anchored to the foam back of the seat, and I prefer the solidity of her harness and strap.

  • Debra, how kind! I don’t have a link to give you (I do get some credit for Amazon purchases made from my links, but I don’t see the LA Dog Company seat on Amazon, and I haven’t yet reviewed the Animals Matter seat you brought to my attention). I also haven’t yet reviewed the Fido Rido seat — I should, I know, and I will, but boy, it’s ugly. Alright, alright, I’ll get on it. 😉

  • Debra

    Hi Mary Alice,
    I just wanted to update you to let you know I decided on the LA Rider Car Seat and to let you know of a wonderful site that I found the car seat on. The store is located in Indiana, and the owner took over an hour with me on the phone to guide me in the right direction of different products…including food and safety. She was very knowledgeable about the needs of small dogs and I was very impressed with both her and what she offered. She has high quality merchandise and many things to choose from. The name of the store is Pampered Pet Boutique and the site is: http://stores.pamperedpetboutiquellc.com/StoreFront.bok
    Thought you and your readers might be interested in checking it out.
    Thanks again for all your help. I’ll be keeping up with your site. Debra

  • James Holloman

    I bought a Puggle last year and was doing the “cute little dog in my lap while driving” thing until she got excited one day and I almost crashed into a telephone pole.

    Getting a car seat for my dog has been the best thing along with everything else that comes with owning a dog.

    Great post,

    James

  • Margaret

    I’ve used the snoozer for years; two sets. My dogs love to look out the windows so a booster is necessary. I use a harness to fasten them to the seatbelt. I saw a Jack Russell jump out a driver’s window when a policeman a policeman stopped the driver. The Jack raced across the median on Interstate 68, ran in front of my car and up into the forest at top speed. It doesn’t take much testing to solve that problem–booster+any kind of attachment to the car. If undecided, try anything–just do it. Now I am trying to find booster seats that let the dogs stretch out. Never mind their weights–14 and 20 lbs; they are ten years old and curling up makes them stiff. The bigger one has longer legs and the smaller has some arthritis. I’m thinking the 3X LA Dog rider might accommodate the 16″x16″ one, and the 2X LA for the 8″x12″.
    Question: Do you know of one that boosts the whole backseat up all across the back? Snoozer used to make one–elevated our shepherd about 6″, but it did not have any secure means to fasten it to the car, and the sherpa type cover just collected dirt and hair in a few hours.

  • Drat, Margaret, I don’t — I’d recommend the PetEgo Pet Tube, with two of the “optional” pillows (the large size stretches all the way across a car), but it doesn’t lift your pet up to window level.

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