When my mini Aussie, Rio, was a puppy, I let us fall into some bad habits. If it was just the two of us in the car, he’d crawl over the center console and hop into my lap. Very cute when he was the size of a loaf of bread, but not exactly safe. It’s extremely distracting to have a squirmy dog in your lap, and that’s a hazard not just to you and everyone else in your car, but everyone else on the road, too.
Need hard evidence? Volvo conducted a study last year in which they followed drivers with restrained and unrestrained dogs in their car. The drivers whose dogs were loose in the vehicle exhibited more than twice as many instances of unsafe behavior, and spent significantly more time driving while distracted. On top of that, both drivers and dogs were more stressed when the pups were loose in the car.
So, I’ve smartened up. On all of our road trips lately, Rio’s been traveling in style in a double-walled Gunner Kennel. These things are massive, heavy, and extremely sturdy. They’ve been tested to withstand 4,000 lbs of force, and they can also survive a 630-lb weight being dropped on them from above 8 feet.
I’m very happy to say that Rio and I haven’t crash-tested the kennel ourselves—and we do not plan to, and neither should you—but Gunner’s website is full of stories from customers who say their pets survived wild crashes. One guy’s springer spaniel puppy was riding in a Gunner kennel in the back of his pickup truck when they got hit by a semi. The kennel was thrown from the bed of his pickup truck and rolled at least 30 feet, but the dog was OK. Another guy’s Tundra rolled twice, landing upside down with the kennel underneath it. The dog, a yellow lab, was terrified but unhurt.
I put a simple (read: cheap) dog bed in the bottom of Rio’s kennel to give him some cushion, but Gunner offers quite an array of luxurious upgrades made specifically for their line of crates. They have tear-resistant orthopedic beds to make sure your pup is comfy, tie-down straps so you can secure the kennel inside a van or to the bed of your pickup truck, and fan kits you can install through one of the side panels to provide better airflow. Because Gunner’s kennels are double-walled, they provide significant insulation against both hot and cold temperatures. Gunner claims the inside of the kennel can stay up to 40 degrees cooler than external temperatures on hot days.
Again, disclaimer: I do not recommend leaving your dog in a hot car under any circumstances. But I will say that I have absolutely noticed that this kennel does insulate well. Rio and I just roadtripped together from Denver to Providence and I left his kennel in my car overnight when we made stops. When we eventually reached home and I brought the kennel inside, cold air dumped out when I opened its door, as if it were a cooler.
Especially during the winter, when roads are icy, daylight is in short supply, and your margin of error on the road is lower than usual, you’re putting everyone in your car in danger if you let your pets wander around without putting them in a kennel or buckling them up in some way. Gunner Kennels aren’t cheap—they start at $400—but if you’re a serious road tripper, it may be a small price to pay for safety and more peace of mind.