Well, the time has come for me to start car shopping. Although my trusty old 2001 Lexus is still a great car, I think it’s life is nearing retirement. The question now is what do I replace it with? Looking at my personal needs, I realized my next car needs to be “dog-friendly” and suitable for my two Dobermans. So what makes a car Doberman friendly?
First of all you obviously want a safe vehicle. Look up consumer reports or JD Powers for ratings on reliable, crash-tested cars. You don’t want to get stranded on the highway with your dog, with no water and terrible freezing or hot weather.
Ideally a dog-friendly vehicle will have certain key features. For a safe ride with your dog, you want to either confine it to the back seats or back cargo area. You can also use a seat belt harness or a divider to restrict the dog to the back seats. You don’t want him jumping into the front area. This is especially important for clingy Dobermans who want to be up front with the owner and accidentally step on the transmission area controls.
For larger dogs like Dobermans, a hatchback, minivan, SUV or the newer “crossover” category will be a better choice. Pickup trucks are not suitable. Never allow your dog to ride in the bed of a truck. In some areas, this is illegal. Not only is your dog in danger if you suddenly brake but if the dog is leashed and jumps out, the dog may be dragged or choked.
A vehicle that allows dogs to jump into the rear area is convenient. Cars with low sills on the rear hatch or low floors are ideal. Not only is this easier for aging dogs who have a harder time jumping up but it also gives you the option of using a doggy loading ramp. Dobermans with bad stiff legs will thank you. These come either as telescoping or foldable ramps. The other advantage of low rear trunks or hatch openings is it makes it easier for owners to load those heavy, over 30 lb bags of food.
Consider vehicles with rear barn doors seen in the larger Mini Coopers or sliding doors on vans. Another door style to consider is the clamshell side door, better known as the suicide door. It’s important to understand why they are called “suicide doors”. If you exit while the car is moving forward, the suicide door will hit you. Also, there was a case where a door that was partially latched closed, swung open into the wind while driving. Lastly, when parked, if you step out and a passing car hits the suicide door, it will slam closed possibly into you.
Another nice feature to have are rear seats that can be removed or folded down. This would allow a Doberman to lie down or stretch out in the back area. Just be sure that if the rear seats fold down, they fold down flat, or else you’ll need to pad the floor with blankets to make a flat surface. On long road trips, this would allow your dobe to lie down and sleep.
A washable or non-fabric floor in the back cargo area is great. Some dogs get car-sick and cleaning vomit off fabric is not easy or fun. There is a rumor that the rear of the Honda Element can be water hosed down. Don’t do it! Unless you want a musty, moldy smell, water may collect in the spare wheel well, and destroy your door speakers or have water seeping into crevices causing rust. Just use a wet soapy sponge to clean up any messes back there. Don’t hose down the interior of any vehicle.
Another thing to consider in a Doberman dog-friendly vehicle is the fabric of the seats. Just like sofas, some fabrics seem to cling or grab hold of those short hairs more than others. At the dealership ask if they’ll allow you to test out your dog in the back seat (just mention you’re checking the space not the fabric). Also, consider how well the fabric material or color will deal with dog drool or slobber. Leather is not necessarily the best alternative to fabric seats. Leather seats feel hot in the summer and cold in the winter and dog claws can easily scratch the surface. Not to mention some dogs may want to chew on leather thinking it’s similar to toy material.
When evaluating vehicles, you may also want to compare the specs of the cargo area space or cargo cubic feet. Consider getting a vehicle with a sunroof/moonroof or rear windows that open that allow airflow to the back area. You especially want air flow if your dog is prone to doggie farts. If you transport your Doberman puppies in crates, you might want the option of tie down clips to secure crates in the event of emergency braking.
Since Dobermans are large dogs, when they’re standing in the back, visibility backing up may be limited. Consider having a rear radar sensor for backing up or a rear backup camera to help you reverse the car. My preference is the radar detection system as the camera may have poor visibility at night or in heavy rain.
If you’re buying a new car ask the dealership if that model has a “pet package”. Some vehicle brands offer aftermarket dog accessories that you may find useful. These may include dog barriers, ramps, rubber mats, straps or harness clips.
Lastly, the one feature you can probably forget about is the car security alarm system. Your doberman is probably a great deterrent and noise maker.
Here are the vehicles that AAA picked as suitable for dog owners. Note although that Doberman owners may find other vehicles better suited for their big dog needs.
BMW 3 Series Wagon, Volvo XC60, Subaru Forester, Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Element, Toyota Venza, Mazda 3, Mini Countryman, Ford Escape Hybrid, Kia Soul, Nissan Cube.
Are there any dog accessories you find work great with your vehicle? Did I miss any other issues that you’ve experienced having your dog in the car?