Dog-friendly cars that’ll keep your pup safe and happy

Look for these features when car shopping to make your life easier and keep your dog comfortable

By Karen Kwan Wheels.ca

Jul 10, 2021 4 min. read

Article was updated a year ago

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Buying a car for your dog? It’s more common than you may think. When Yuki Hayashi adopted her dog, Cliff, six years ago, he was too anxious to go for walks from their home in Hamilton with the buzz of the city surrounding them. So, she purchased a vehicle to drive Cliff to walk the quiet trails a few kilometres away.

“I wanted a small car that was still big enough for my 75-pound dog to sprawl out comfortably in the backseat,” she said.

Given that Cliff sheds a fair bit and can get pretty muddy and wet, Hayashi also wanted leather seats since they’re easier to keep clean. She went with the Kia Soul as it was one of the few that fit her priorities and budget.

Another dog mom in Toronto, Hayley Greenberg, not only gave up her sports car for an SUV to accommodate her two 60-pound hounds, but she’s since supersized her SUV twice for them.

“I first had a Mercedes GLK 350, but the dogs were still fighting for space to lie down in the trunk,” Greenberg said. So, she upgraded to a Nissan Murano. While the dogs were able to stop jockeying for space, Greenberg said the vehicle wasn’t big enough for her active lifestyle.

“I snowboard, kayak, and hike—I’m always lugging around sports equipment—and the dogs were monopolizing the whole trunk.”

Enter her current SUV, a seven-seater Volkswagen Atlas. With the third-row seats flat, the cargo space is extra-large. “I never use those extra seats, I’m a single mom with one kid,” Greenberg said.

Looking for a vehicle for your dog? Here are some other dog-friendly features to consider when shopping for a car for your four-legged best friend:

Roof height

Think about your dog’s height as they sit and stand in the car, including how tall they are when they lean their head back. One of Greenberg’s dogs, Sally, repeatedly cut her nose in their first two SUVs whenever she lifted her head to bark. Check if there is a height-adjustable cargo floor (such as in the Honda CR-V) if you’ve got an especially tall four-legged pal.

Comfort levels

Emma Bonger of Mutt Love Dog Walking and Training specifically chose her Dodge Journey so that she could easily lock the car with its engine and air conditioning running so her two dogs – and her clients’ four-legged friends – can wait safely and comfortably inside. While many cars will only keep your car running for 10 minutes if you’ve used the key fob remote engine start, research vehicles that give you the ability to extend the time the engine is running beyond the first 10 minutes (such as a few in the Acura and Honda range). Tesla, on the other hand, takes keeping your dog at a comfortable temperature a step further with its Dog Mode, which allows you to control the vehicle’s temperature remotely, while also displaying on the 17-inch screen, “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry.”


Minivans, with their low floor height compared to SUVs, can be easier for dogs to get in and out of, which is something to consider if you have an older dog or several dogs to transport. “It’s the vehicle of choice of dog walkers,” said Bonger. Both Hayashi and Greenberg have dogs that are slowing down with age and they’re starting to look into steps and ramps to help Cliff and Sally get into their SUVs.

Vehicle sensors

With the fob in your pocket or handbag, it is extra helpful to be able to simply swipe your foot beneath the rear of the car to open the trunk when you’ve got dogs in tow. Greenberg is thankful she got this upgrade with her VW Atlas so she can easily hold back her excitable dogs as she opens the tailgate for them to hop into the car.

Interior trim

All dog parents have to contend with mud and fur, so ask the dealer about pet-specific accessory upgrades. For example, GMC offers two-sided non-skid seat covers that offer protection against shedding and mud, and all-season floor liners keep your pup’s fur from getting embedded in the car’s carpeting. Alternatively, a reversible cargo floor that’s carpet on one side and plastic on the other, such as the one in the Acura MDX, is another useful option. If your dog sheds a lot, older editions of the Honda Odysseys come with a built-in vacuum, HondaVac, which is convenient when it comes to managing excess fur on a regular basis.