Load Up™ Car Harness: Testing & Design

It was a request we heard often from our customers: "a vehicle restraint harness, but constructed from quality materials... and one that's comfortable and my dog wouldn't mind wearing."

Tapping into our depth of harness design knowledge, familiarity with strength-rated hardware, and our eagerness to explore new paths, our Design & Development team set out to design a dog harness specifically for vehicle use. And, in 2015, we launched the Load Up™ Harness. Strong, secure, and ergonomic – designed from a dog's perspective and focused on the dog’s comfort over long road trips with their humans.

Human and dog getting buckled up in a car

In 2021, the Load Up underwent a design update that stays true to the integrity of our original design and includes some feature and material updates in response to feedback from customers.

What's new? Out with the pass-through buckle, in with the side-release buckle. While both styles offer the strength-rated construction critical to this application, the new forged Anodized Aluminum 6061 side-release buckle offers a much easier on/off experience – something our frequent Load Up harness users asked for. The shell material also got an upgrade, both from a durability standpoint and to fall in line visually with the rest of our gear designed for life on the go in the Journey Collection.

FAQs About The Load Up Harness

What is the Load Up Harness designed to do?

Our goal in offering the Load Up Harness is to equip dogs to hit the open road with a comfortable, easy-to-use vehicle restraint harness that's built strong to withstand the rigors of sudden vehicle movements.

While the United States doesn't currently have Federal regulations that fully define restraint for our canine companions, some states, like New Jersey and New Mexico, do have laws that require a dog to be ‘restrained’ in the back seat and out of the front seat where they could distract the driver. 

What makes the Load Up Harness different from other vehicle restraint harnesses for dogs?

Ruffwear’s Load Up Harness combines strength-rated hardware and high-quality webbing and materials to offer a strong, secure restraint for dogs traveling in vehicles. It focuses on the dog’s comfort and safety, and the dog’s ability to sit and stand comfortably in the back seat.

In observing sled test videos of other restraint harnesses that have the seatbelt attachment points high on the dog’s back, the dog tends to flip off the seat and their back legs swing forward.

With all that in mind, we’ve taken a different approach with the seatbelt attachment. Our designers chose to have the seatbelt attachment point low and at the base of the dog’s back. As a result, the Load Up:

1) gives dogs freedom to stand up and lay down, making the harness more comfortable for the dog over long road trips

2) keeps the dog in an upright position in the event of a crash

Has the Load Up Harness been crash tested? Under what parameters?

Yes. As part of our product development process, we tested prototypes of the Load Up Harness at MGA Research Corporation (http://mgaresearch.com/), an independent test facility.

This testing was a key part of our product development process. It confirmed for us that we had designed a structurally sound and secure canine restraint harness that performed as intended.

Here's a summary of the test parameters:

The canine restraint was dynamically tested under the conditions outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 Child Restraint Systems (FMVSS 213). The canine restraint was installed on the canine crash test mannequin per the manufacturer’s (Ruffwear) instructions and then secured to the test bench restraint system. FMVSS 213 employs a standard bench seat that represents the rear seating environment of an automobile. The seat bench and add on restraint was then subjected to the 30 mph generic frontal crash pulse detailed in FMVSS 213.

MGA Research performed three separate dynamic tests of the Load Up Harness in with 25-pound, 45-pound, and 75-pound dog-mannequins.

Dog mannequin wearing harness on car bench in a testing facility

Here are videos from all three dynamic sled tests:

Dynamic test of Ruffwear’s Load Up™ Harness – 25 lb dog 

Dynamic test of Ruffwear’s Load Up™ Harness – 45 lb dog

Dynamic test of Ruffwear’s Load Up™ Harness – 75 lb dog


Dynamic test images of Ruffwear Load Up Harnesses

These photos taken from sled test videos of Ruffwear’s Load Up Harness. In all three of Ruffwear’s dynamic sled (crash) tests of the Load Up Harness, the dog mannequin stayed in an upright position and on the seat.

Three freeze frames of dynamic testing done on Load Up Harness with dog mannequins upright

Why isn’t Ruffwear’s Load Up Harness listed as ‘CPS Certified’ on the Center for Pet Safety’s website?

While Ruffwear’s Load Up Harness has been dynamically (crash) tested under the test conditions of FMVSS 213, the Load Up Harness has not been tested against The Center for Pet Safety’s Safety Harness Crash Test Protocol.

Based on the results of our dynamic tests, the Load Up Harnesses would not meet CPS’s current certification based on the excursion measurement limits (how far forward the dog travels in a dynamic test) defined in the testing protocol.

In order for the Load Up Harness to test within CPS’s excursion limits, the seatbelt attachment point would likely need to be affixed higher on the dog’s back. We believe that Ruffwear’s seat belt attachment location produces the optimal approach when considering both safety and comfort.

What’s the correct way to put the Load Up Harness on my dog?

Refer to our Quick Start Video or follow these step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: How to Loosen Straps on Harness

Step 2: Put on Dog and Step 3: Attach buckle

Step 4: How to Tighten Straps

How do I secure the Load Up Harness to the seat belt?

Check out this video for how to use the Load Up Harness, and here's a quick diagram for reference.

  1. Pass seatbelt through "ATTACH" loop
  2. Click tab portion of seatbelt into buckle
  3. Remove slack from seatbelt

Diagram for how to attach a seatbelt to the Load Up Harness

Questions about the Load Up Harness? Contact us at bark@ruffwear.com or call us at 888-783-3932 Monday – Friday, 8am – 4:30pm Pacific Time.