How to Transport Dogs Safely in Pickup Trucks

June 25, 2009

By Julia Williams

The other day I was traveling on the freeway when I noticed the pickup truck in front of me had a beautiful chocolate lab bouncing from one side of the truck bed to the other. I was appalled to see that the dog was not tethered in the back of the truck! I’ll never forget the terrified look on the dog’s face as he struggled to maintain his balance and keep from flying out of the truck.

Transporting your dog untethered in the open bed of a pickup truck is an accident waiting to happen. When you let your dog ride loose in the back of your pickup, you endanger both your dog and other motorists. One quick turn, abrupt stop or unexpected bump in the road, and your dog can be catapulted into traffic. This can result in painful broken bones, bruises and road rash, and even death. If they do manage to survive the fall and oncoming traffic, it can cost thousands of dollars in veterinary bills to fix them up.

Letting your dog ride unsecured in the back of a pickup truck is not only unsafe and potentially deadly for dogs, it’s illegal in some states. Most states that don’t yet have legislation in place to protect dogs from this dangerous practice, are working on it. Regardless of the law, responsible pet owners have a moral duty to ensure the health and safety of their companion animals, both at home and on the road.

Some people believe that taking the dog with them is better than leaving them home alone. But consider this: having a lonely dog waiting for you when you get home is a million times better than having one get killed or injured from falling out of a pickup truck bed.

If you simply must take your dog with you in the back of your pickup truck, there are several different options for keeping your beloved canine companion safe. The safest is to buy a topper for the truck bed so your dog can ride in an enclosed area, protected from the road and wind hazards.

A large, sturdy dog crate (such as those required for airline transportation) is also a good option, provided that the crate is securely tied down to prevent it from sliding around the truck bed floor. Although these cost less than a truck bed topper, they can still run several hundred dollars or more depending on the size and type of crate you buy.

Another option is to secure the dog directly behind the truck’s cab by cross tethering. This is accomplished by securing a rope to each side of the truck, with a short leash attached in the middle for the dog. Be aware, however, that if the leash is too long, the dog could fall from the truck’s rear and be dragged along the street.

Cross tethers designed specifically for restraining dogs in the backs of pickups can be found at most pet stores as well as online. A properly installed cross tether secures the animal to the truck in such a way that it can’t go over the bed or choke itself. The safest (and most comfortable) way to cross tether your dog is with the addition of a padded harness. This prevents entanglement and limits the dog’s range of motion to ensure that he won’t choke.

The German Shepherd in the photo above is using the Kurgo K9 Truck Tether along with the Kurgo Smart Harness which is made from automotive seatbelt webbing. This tether and harness will fit all pickup trucks, and can also be fitted to the vehicle’s seats to allow your dog to ride inside during inclement weather. Both of these together cost less than $50. That’s such a small price to pay to keep “man’s best friend” safe and sound while riding in the back of a pickup truck.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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  1. Sabby says:

    Today as I was driving to work I saw the same thing. The poor dog was so frightened and bouncing from one corner to the other on the back of a truck. I was wondering where I can report this. I took a few pictures and had a chance to take the license plates. Who can I contact?

  2. Crisher says:

    A D ring installed in the floor of the bed with the use of a tethering strap seems like it might also help the dog feel secure.

  3. Jared M Palmstein says:

    I drive a flatbed truck and my rottweiler can go from in the cab to the flat bed whenever he wants and I don’t leash and he just knows how to ride back there and when hes back there I don’t do anything stupid I don’t think it’s mean at all or unsafe

  4. Beth says:

    Only jerks let their dogs ride in the bed of a pickup. Period!

  5. Vince says:

    Makes me sick to see dogs riding in back of trucks Paws are burning. They are overheating. Should be against the law period.

  6. Lawrence says:

    The K9 truck tether recommended in this Julia Williams article does not seem to be available anymore on the Kurgo website. Any alternatives?

  7. Kerrie says:

    Someone I know has just stated that he is going to put his two large labs in the back of his pickup that has a soft tonneau cover and close that over them to drive from Gainesville, FL to Illinois. I was appalled when I heard this and told him it was cruel and need some advise on what to do or who to contact to stop this from happening. This cannot be safe or legal. These dogs won’t even be able to stand up, since this cover is lever with the top of the truck bed. Please if someone could please give me some guidance on what to do here, because he says there’s no issue with it and i’m very concerned.

  8. Alexis says:

    Is tying to a harness better than a collar. I tied my tow in the back but my st bernard is so long I was worried she might bounce her ass out

    1. joe bracamonte says:

      i think a harness or a collar are both fine, what matters is that the lease (tether) is of proper length. The best way to give your dog(s) a ride/transport is to tether them overhead, by a device called ‘Sport Your Dog’. It hold the leash over their head in the center of the truck bed. The Idea is that, there being held by a person, and the greatest thing about this new device is that multipule dogs don’t get tangled. It clamps on to the sides of the truck in the post hole tie downs and only weighs 12 lbs. It is very safe and gives the dog(s) more freedom and mobility.

  9. Scott Medenwald says:

    On this beautiful sunday afternoon, I was traveling home from a visit at a family members home. My two dogs were tethered in the back of my truck enjoying the air in their faces and their afternoon outing, when some rude, arrogant jerk felt the need to point his finger at me shaking his head and told me it was illegal to transport dogs this way. My dogs have traveled this way over a thousand times and truly enjoy it, not to mention it is totally legal and safe, as long as they are tethered.
    The reason for my comment is to remind others that sometimes its better to mind your own business, than to comment on something they are ignorant to, not to mention rude. My dogs are spoiled and maybe even the happiest dogs in town. Have a great day.

    1. Doug says:


      Not going to jump all over you but I had a friend that transported his dog this way for years until one day going down the highway a piece of metal got kicked up by another car and sliced through the dogs face leaving it blind in one eye and a massive cut across the dogs face.

      1. Christopher lewis says:

        Everyone knows someone that has done something that had a different effect than someone else. As long as you know your dog is safe, where you are traving, and have to proper material to hold or cage them then legally your good. Doesn’t matter I can roll a truck and we all get hurt. As long as I tried my best like an honest person and animal lover then your fine and within your legal rights