By Joanna Mitzel
My boyfriend works in the transportation industry and travels frequently for work. For me, that often means two things: Number one, when I do come along for the ride, I spend a lot of time just watching the road, observing travelers (often with pets) and their vehicles. Number two, due to his schedule, it is often just me caring for our four senior animals (one weighing nearly as much as me) and their transportation needs.
Therefore, when it’s time to purchase a new vehicle, the needs of my animals are a top priority. While that may sound extreme to some, the folks at Nissan disagree. Though merely a concept, the Nissan X-Trail 4 Dogs is designed with both the dog and owner in mind.
The rear compartment has super functional features including easy to clean materials, a portable shower and blow dry system and a slide away ramp to help larger or older dogs enter and exit. It’s fully equipped with safety features like the cargo compartment divider and clip in harness hooks to use as seat belts. There’s even a two-way camera to communicate with your pups, a non-spill water bowl and a treat dispenser. (Photo courtesy of: https://www.simplemost.com/nissan-xtrail-4dogs-dog-lovers-dream-car/)
Until this dream concept car becomes a reality, an article from The Dogington Post (http://www.dogingtonpost.com/7-best-cars-for-dogs/) outlines the top features to consider when shopping for a vehicle with your dog(s) in mind.
- A rear lift gateallows your dog to jump in and out of the car easily; it also makes for more convenient loading in/loading out of pet carriers, crates and kennels.*Also, ideal for ramps, especially ones that fold for transport.
- Fold-flat seatscreate a spacious area for your dog to sit while keeping the actual surface of the seats clean from hair or scratches.
- An airy cabinis especially beneficial for large dogs to stretch out.
- Rear cargo-attachment ringletshelp keep carriers and crates from sliding around.
- A containment barrier/dividerkeeps your dog from jumping up to the front seat while the car is in motion.
- A low ride heighthelps dogs—especially older ones—get in and out with ease.
- Rear climate controlkeeps your dog cool and comfortable in transit no matter what the weather is like.
- A sunroofbrings in fresh air and sunlight so you can keep your dog from hanging his head out of the window.
- Underfloor storagegets your things out of the way so your dog can ride more comfortably.
There are numerous articles online listing the top vehicles for dog owners using the above criteria. Many of the vehicles are small to midsize SUVs with a few trucks, small cars and vans topping off the lists. I’ve had the opportunity to test drive many, and have found that—while not the most glamorous—hatchbacks, wagons and vans tend to best suit my needs.
Due to my boyfriend’s work, we have a fleet version of the Ford Transit Connect. It is a smaller sized shop van with no carpet or upholstery. It offers space for dog beds, and has tie downs to safely secure multiple crates. Best of all, it’s low to the ground allowing me to easily help Sal into the back. This is the perfect vehicle for shuttling everyone to an adventure all at once.
While I currently have a small VW SUV which gets the job done adequately (with a little ingenuity since Sal refuses to use a ramp), my top pick and next vehicle will be the Honda Fit. Though it is a smaller commuting car, its fold flat seats, wide opening doors and low to the ground step-in make it ideal for loading and unloading my pack. We don’t spend a lot of time actually in the vehicle, so its lack of overall size would not be a concern for me (Also considering we have the van for a more extended trip).
Shuttling multiple dogs from point A to point B—especially seniors and those with special needs—can be a rather arduous task. However, it’s been my experience that the common sense advice of “the right tool for the job” really does apply in this case. When you’re outnumbered by animals three, four or more fold, the additional investment in value and accommodation for four-legged family members will save more in time and effort over the life of both your vehicle and your animals.