Best SUVs For Dogs

Dog owners are a big portion of new SUV buyers. About 45 million American households have at least one dog. The ability to conveniently and comfortably accommodate and transport their pet or pets plays a big role in which vehicle consumers buy. Automakers are increasingly looking for ways to attract new buyers and adding features that attract dog owners are one way to do just that.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) is out with a list of top vehicle picks for dog owners. A total of 11 vehicles were on the list, which was dominated by SUVs and crossovers. The list was divided into six different categories to help motorists best identify the vehicle that meets there needs, budget, and preferences.

The best SUVs for dogs on the list include the Volvo XC60 in the luxury class, Honda Element, Toyota Venza, Ford Escape Hybrid, Hyundai Santa Fe and Subaru Forester. Compact hatchbacks such as the Nissan Cube, Kia Soul, Mazda3, Mini Clubman, and BMW 3 Series wagons rounded out the list.

The Volvo XC60, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Ford Escape Hybrid have accessories that include rubber mats for the cargo area, a pet barrier that securely fastens, and tie down points for kennels and crates. The Toyota Venza adds waterproof rear seat covers and an adjustable harness/booster seat for pets.

The Subaru Forester has lower ground clearance than many other SUVs. The cargo area 27 inches above ground makes it easier for pet ingress and egress. Dog owners can also purchase special accessories such as a portable ramp to make entering and exiting easier for less agile dogs.

The Honda Element has really targeted dog owners. With its standard hose off interiors, which are easy to clean, the Element is targeted at buyers with an active, rugged lifestyle. It has had an edge with dog owners since it debuted for the 2003 model year. In 2010, Honda upped the ante by offering a “Dog Friendly Package” for all trim levels of the Element.

The Element’s “Dog Friendly Package” offers a metal and mesh kennel in the rear cargo area with a spill-proof water bowl and soft bed mat. Fitted covers for the rear seats with dog-bone prints and all-weather floor mats are also included in the package. Also included in the rear is a built-in electric fan, perfect to keep Fido cool and refreshed. The package also includes a portable ramp that stows underneath the kennel, a tote bag with a leash, dog tag, collar, and bag dispenser for doggie cleanup.

AAAs list is a good guide in choosing the best SUVs for dogs. Even if you are a dog owner and the SUV you purchased does not include special accessories designed for dogs, many of the items can be purchased online or from your local pet store.

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9 Responses

  1. DAN Says:

    One thing I don’t totally understand is why auto companies don’t offer a much larger choices for dog owners. As stated above there are over 45 million households that have at least one dog. To me offering a wide range of pet specific option packagesbis a real no brainer. Not just rubber cargo mats or pet guards. More things like rear a/c, solar power venting, side,rear and back window mesh window shades, pet seat belts.
    We traveled from Ny to Chicago with our giant breed dog. The average temp. was in the mid 90’s all the way out. Our Cadillac wagon had seperate rear a/c and it was great for us and the dog.
    Now we are looking for a new vehicle and it must have rear a/c

  2. jake Says:

    Amen, Dan. Rear a/c is a MUST. I get so annoyed with all these “pet friendly car” lists. I don’t need a cute doggie-bone themed rubber cargo mat, and unless my dog is 12 and has hip dysplasia I’m not worried about his “ingress”. But in-cabin temperature is a real and critical issue. Why doesn’t anyone writing these lists seem to get this?! Honda Element offers a 12V fan. Wow! A 12V fan!? Thanks, now my dog can suffer 5% less than he was before. We used to have a Subaru Outback wagon. We would crank the a/c to ensure the cargo area would be cool for our border collies. One sunny 80 degree day, as an experiment, I climbed in the back and had my wife shut the tailgate. I rode back there for 10 minutes, with the cabin a/c cranked on the dashboard. I received little to no relief. We thought our dogs were comfortable, when clearly it was often too hot for them; even with the windows down, on an 80 degree day it was too hot back there for ME. So, enough of these fluffy gimmicky dog-friendly lists; rear a/c is paramount!

  3. Barb Meredith Says:

    Another thing that I always look for in the back canine carrying area is for it to be level, without gaps that sometimes come when the 2nd row of seats is converted to open space. And I’d like to be able to use that second row space for the dogs, not humans (most of the time).
    I am just beginning my search for a dog friendly vehicle, but because of recent back problems, it cannot be as low as my current ’08 Outback. I have 3 dogs, of varying sizes, one of which is elderly and crippled, so a low opening would be helpful. The Outback has a nice flat area in back of the 2nd row of seats, but that’s as far as it goes. AC is the back is a good point, thanks.

  4. Lisa Says:

    I agree! Rubber mats and dog bones have nothing to do with it. I am looking for my dog’s safety and comfort. With a giant breed, I look for the following:
    1) rear a/c
    2) rear roll down windows
    3) a completely flat rear area without gaps between the front seats – I don’t even want rear seats
    4) a low height for my dog to get in and out. Even at 135 pounds jumping up and down is hard on him and he does not like ramps which take up precious interior space.
    5) tall enough interior so he can stand

  5. Neal Says:

    These reviews have really been helpful. I have two large dogs and am looking for something more dog friendly than my Subaru Outback. As others have pointed out, the gap between the front seats and the lowered second row seats is a real problem. As conscious as I am about my dogs staying cool, I never even thought about a car with rear AC until I read these reviews. But I do know that here in South Florida, it takes a long time for the back of the car to cool off. I usually let the car run with the AC going for a good five minutes before letting the dogs get inside.

  6. Chris Says:

    There are many things that you yourself can do to make your pet safer, and more comfortable during long trips in a vehicle. Many vehicle barriers have the option to have a fan that clips onto them and plugs into any 12v car adapter, and products are offered that are very compatible with these barriers. my dog has had no problems during a 21 hour drive, even sleeping in the back at night for 6 hours at a rest stop. Bringing a bed, a floor mat that will keep your car clean if they spill water and most dogs will be fine as long as you let them out every now and then. They also sell harnesses that can be used with a car seatbelt I own a VestHarness which I bought for $20 when working at a pet supply store in Colorado- it’s still in great condition and I have had it for almost 3 years.

  7. Deb Rudzik Says:

    We have the Otto Step pet step that is very pet/people friendly for dogs and owners alike. This step simply inserts into any trailer hitch receiver, is light weight and will help your dog in and especially out of the cargo area by decreasing the distance almost in half. For the older dogs this is a must but people do not realize the jump down for the young dogs is causing injury to their forming hips, especially during the first year of life.

    If anyone knows how we could contact the car companies or who to contact, this would be a great addition to anyone purchasing their vehicle with the family’s best friend in mind. When we got Otto, we had to get an SUV that was suitable for him, from there we designed this step and named it after him.

    This is not only for large breed dogs, we know have an English Bulldog who weighs at least 50 lbs and he uses this step faithfully. Not only does it protect him, but it protects my back as well.

    Please check this out, we are a MADE IN USA product and are very in tune to the health of our pets.

  8. Dawn Says:

    This is a big problem that my husband and I are encountering. Everything with a third row seat has a gap between the third and second row seats when folded flat. The gap is perfectly paw sized. This means if our dog is riding in the back, then their leg can easily get caught and broken. We have looked at luxury cars (finger pointing at you Audi Q5) and down to toyotas and others. We refuse to pay over 30K and in the case of the Audi, 50K and have to rig something to make the car safe. Any suggestions on vehicles without this gap?

    We may have to revisit the Lexus RX as that is the only one we’ve found that is folding flat and has a gap cover. By the way, we don’t want a third row for cargo space area available.

  9. lacy Says:

    I have an 2002 Honda Odyssey. I Never put rear seats in & have large air conditioned cargo area for my 2 dobermans. I think I’ll keep it after reading the reviews.

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