Practicing Pet Safety with a DIY Car Hammock
by Emily Fazio in Car and Truck (January 24, 2013)
Pet safety’s a big thing for me, especially in the car. My Bernese Mountain Dog, Cody, travels mostly in the back of our Jeep where he can stand and move around easily, protected in part by a large metal gate that attaches behind the second row of seats in the car and divides him from us human passengers. The gate keeps us safe too, many pet owners don’t often consider how risky it is for everyone when a large dog is thrust forward during an accident.
My Dad’s all over the safety concern aspect, although our style dog gate wouldn’t fit into his Toyota Corolla, nor would a big dog crate, and his dog, a Golden Retriever, stubbornly refuses to wear a dog seatbelt. To remedy his problem and make everyone more safe, I offered to make a custom dog seat cover that acts more as backseat hammock for their dog, giving him a comfortable place to ride and making it so that he’s less likely to fall into the backseat foot area, or lunge into the dashboard should something terrible happen. Bonus factor: it’ll help keep the seats clean, I’m sure all you fur-baby lovin’ folks can appreciate that. I see hammocks like this sold in pet stores, and they’re regularly priced between $50-$150, but I knew I could make something effective myself with a limited budget. (Fact: this whole project cost <$30)
Read the whole tutorial to see how I created this DIY dog seat cover for my family. I started with 3 yards of heavy outdoor fabric that was sale priced at $5.49/yard. I especially like outdoor fabrics for pets, and used it for our DIY dog bed because it’s more likely to repel stains and withstand heavy wear. The print I chose satisfied a few conditions: it needed to be able to disguise mud, Golden Retriever fur, and not be overly feminine since it was going in a man’s car. Men don’t want always respond well to the magenta chevron fabric option, I’ve found.
In planning its execution, I decided on folding the 3 yards of fabric in half and sewing it into a sleeping bag-like form leaving on end open. We have plenty of old bath towels floating around our home, and I decided to use them to line and cushion the entire piece. I layered them in a way to create an almost completely even bed for the hammock. If you don’t have scrap towels around, consider buying a few new towels at the dollar store or Walmart where they are usually priced low. Alternatively, I’ve used thin memory foam mattresses as dog beds in the past. You can usually source $20 XL twin sized pieces and fold them to create a cushy pad.
Initially, it didn’t seem likely that three layers of towels would slide easily through our sewing machine, so I started by loosely hand stitching the layers together with orange embroidery thread. It wasn’t hard, but it took a long while and I wasn’t sure it would be strong enough. Eventually, my curiosity won over and I found myself testing the limits of my little Singer. Excitedly (there may have been fist pumping) the machine ate through the thick layers with ease.
I sewed across the car hammock horizontally in four places; the middle two seams were a little tight because there’s only so much room to bunch the excess fabric, but I made it work and it turned out really great.
I designed the unit to have four adjustable points of attachment using parachute buckles (4 at $2/each) and webbing bought by the yard (4 yards total, about $1/yard). By attaching two to each end, the padded piece would hook to the four car headrests making this safety and dog comfort device literally, a hammock.
I attached the webbing by sewing it in place to each end of the hammock, liberally spacing it as I went so that there was plenty of adjustment room (I didn’t have my Dad’s Corolla around for measurements while I planned this, so I based the spacing off of our Subaru Outback Sport). The finished piece with all clips in place looked like this, folded in half:
Installed, it was inviting and charming and sure to keep the dog safer and more comfortable. How have you customized your vehicles for your furry friends?