The concept intrigued me: a rear-facing car seat for dogs. So, I contacted manufacturer PupSaver for a loan of its newest canine car seat, the PupSaver 45, and my family spent a few weeks testing it with Sawyer, our 7-month-old border collie.
The PupSaver 45 is one of four car seats made by the Atlanta-based family-run business. It's modeled on its first seat, the Original PupSaver 30. The numbers in the name indicate the maximum weight the seat is designed to handle, so the PupSaver 30 is for dogs weighing up to 30 pounds and the PupSaver 45 is for those weighing up to 45 pounds. Sawyer weighed in at 34 pounds when the PupSaver arrived.
The PupSaver 30 and 45 are polyester-fiber-filled car seats; the Air PupSaver 25 and 45 car seats have air-chamber-filled seatbacks, which make them lighter and less expensive to ship. All PupSaver car seats are meant to be used with the company's compatible harness, which is offered in five sizes; the harness can be used to walk a dog, as well.
PupSaver's car seats and harness have been crash-tested by MGA Research Corp., one of the testing agencies used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to crash-test cars and child-safety seats. Redesigned in 2015 to use all of a vehicle's car-seat connection points, PupSavers employ Latch and tether anchors along with the seat belt (five connection points for the belt). A company spokeswoman confirmed that both versions met federal safety standards for child-safety seats in crash-testing.
The PupSaver 45 comes ready to use right out of the box, complete with a plastic clip used to keep the shoulder belt fully extended while attaching the seat belt, Latch and tether anchors. If the Latch anchors in your car are difficult to reach, the company will provide J-hook extenders on request to aid in attachment at no additional charge.
We installed the PupSaver in our 2014 Kia Sportage and had no issue connecting to the Latch or tether anchors; attaching the seat belt to the car seat was easy, as well. It took around 20 minutes to read the directions, watch an instructional video and install the seat. I appreciated the inclusion of the clip for keeping the shoulder belt fully extended while I installed the seat. It's a brilliant solution to an issue I've encountered using other pet-travel products: The shoulder strap often retracts before I have the product fully installed.
With the clip holding the shoulder strap in place, pull the seat belt around the car seat and buckle it. Attach the lower Latch anchors. Next, fasten the three buckles on the base of the car seat around the lap section of the seat belt. Pull the loose shoulder belt around the back of the PupSaver and underneath it, using the two buckles on the back of the car seat to secure the shoulder belt. Next, attach the top tether strap to the car's tether anchor. Finally, remove the clip and allow the shoulder belt to gently retract to point where it is snug around the PupSaver, and reclip it at the retraction point.
PupSaver has installation videos on its website and YouTube; I found the one below, for the Air PupSaver 45, helpful. Aside from inflating the seatback, installation is the same for both car seats.
The compatible PupSaver harness is easy to use, too. Adjust it to fit your dog comfortably, then slip your dog's front legs through the openings and fasten the two buckles across its back. The D-ring on the chest is used to connect the harness to the ring on the strap in the seat bottom of the PupSaver.
Sawyer took to the car seat and harness ... well, like a border collie to herding. The harness fit him well and he was comfortable walking, standing and sitting while wearing it. Once clipped to the PupSaver seat, he easily and comfortably laid down. Sawyer frequently stood up and turned around, and occasionally sat up and looked out the window. He never whined or barked, and seemed totally comfortable for the duration of our trips, whether they were 10 minutes or 90 minutes. Most important, the car seat remained firmly in place when I purposely hit the brakes hard while driving.
The PupSaver 45 costs $199.95 (includes shipping) and the harness is $24.99; they can be ordered at PupSaver.com. We returned the car seat to PupSaver once we completed our testing.