Riding in Canine Style

Let's go for a ride! ©24Paws

Honda has announced the new Element, outfitted with Dog FriendlyTM components, is slated to hit the showroom floor in Fall 2009. Attempting to capitalize on the needs and wants of the pet owner, the Dog FriendlyTM Element will feature the following:

  • A cushioned pet bed in the cargo area with an elevated platform
  • Pet restraint system for the cargo area and second row
  • A 12V DC rear ventilation fan
  • Seat covers for the second row that feature a dog pattern design that matches the pet bed
  • Rubber floor mats with a bone pattern
  • A spill-resistant water bowl
  • Exterior emblems (dog paw, etc…) that tell the world you are driving a Dog FriendlyTM Element

See photos

The Element has already gained a following of pet lovers thanks to their urethane-coated utility floor that can be wiped clean, rear removable seats that also fold flat, and side opening cargo doors, and low lift-in height.

This isn’t Honda’s first attempt to produce a car that will appeal to the pet-owning masses. In 2005, they rolled out a W.O.W. concept car that, while never intended for commercial sale, created a “wonderful openhearted wagon” for pets and their humans to while away the hours on the road together.

The W.O.W. had some really neat features. My favorite was the “removable, washable, rollout flooring.” Not only would this have been handy when Frosty was first becoming “car trained” and he went through bouts of car sickness, but for transporting rescue animals to and fro, this would be a dream. Looks like Honda built on this idea with their urethane floor.

Honda isn’t alone in the attempt to harness the purchasing power of the animal-lover. In 2007, Pup-Peroni® brand dog snacks offered a lucky human and their pooch the chance to win a Pup’D-Out 2008 Jeep Liberty. The highly talented gang over at Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) was tapped to help create the PUP’D OUT ride for the lucky winners. Maybe you know them best for their work on the “Pimp My Ride” television show.

The Pup-D-Out Jeep had the following features:

  • Dog ramp that lowers/retracts from back hatch for easy pup entry and exit from jeep
  • Water and food bowls
  • Dog bone wheel rims
  • Small vacuum installed in back to help with clean-up
  • Pull-up screens behind front seats and behind back seats to keep your furry friend safely in one part of the Jeep, when necessary

These were some great ideas-practical and fun all in one. I love the idea of the screens, and the dog bone rims? Sign me up!

Honda (and any other car companies who might be listening) here are some additional ideas you may want to consider:

The security key fob needs a temperature alert. Even if you leave your pet in the car with the air conditioning running, something can happen and the engine could stop, or the air quit and you’d never be the wiser until it is too late. Please put an internal temperature gauge in the car and readout on the key fob to alert the owner.

Along those lines, what about an intercom system? You could hear what is happening in the car as well as communicate with your pack. If you travel with your pet you will inevitably be leaving them alone at some point. Rest stop breaks, food runs, etc…. A little tool like this can certainly bring some peace of mind.

Air/hear vents extended to the rear of the car/cargo area. Many pets are riding in the very back of the wagons, SUV’s, and vans. This area rarely has air or heat vents, and can therefore create uncomfortable and even dangerous conditions for your pet. A few feet more of tubing can make all the difference.

Size and slope of seat cushions. When a pup curls up to snooze while traveling, it is important that they do not feel that they are falling off the seat. As a multi-pet household, we’ve traveled with two dogs in the backseat and they each curl up in their own seat space. Many vehicles now have shortened seat widths to accommodate more passengers. This gives the look of more space but is uncomfortable for people and pets. To overcome this we purchased a seat hammock. The hammock allows our boys to use the entire space, offering them full use of the entire seat space and the wasted space over the floorboard. An added benefit, the hammock covers the floorboard and allows us to put bags of groceries beneath it and the boys leave them alone.

Keep the retractable ramp. Our pack has endured three cruciate surgeries and the ramp has been extremely helpful. We’ve tried to travel with our ramp, but it is heavy and takes up too much room in the vehicle. While they (and our backs) could use it now in their senior plus years, it isn’t practical to take it on every car ride with the boys. Instead, our “portable” ramp stays put atop the outdoor steps to help them in and out of the house. The retractable ramp is a wonderful option!

Additionally, what about sunscreens, tinted windows, and pup-proof storage areas for food, treats, and other tasty morsels?

We’re thrilled to see car manufacturers beginning to implement new pet-friendly features and products into their designs. In 2002, when shopping for a new car, we received blank stares as we commented that the child restraints would work great for our pet seatbelts. When we measured cargo areas to determine if our husky would have enough room to travel comfortably we were told by the sales team that they’d never had someone look at a car for features that would accommodate their dogs.

The market for creating a pet-friendly vehicle is wide open. Car manufacturers can really stretch themselves with design and utility when creating a car for pets and the people who love them. We are happy to see a pet-friendly car go from a simple concept to a full-fledged showroom option. We can’t wait to see what new options and models will be created thanks to this creative push into the market.

What other options would you like to see in your dream pet ride?

Links to chew on:

I don’t know what the site says, but it looks like the Honda Dog Japan site is totally tailored to the pet owner. Check it out.

Toyota has a similar Japanese site with “Corolla Avenue, C Loves Dog”