Archive for March, 2012

Other Resources

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Four Paw Drive has a very specific goal: provide information that is rarely found on standard vehicle review sites for dog owners, hobbyists, and professionals.

With limited resources and time, it’s just not feasible for us to be all things to all people, so we do not attempt to provide readers with information that can be found on other review sites. 

For more information on how a vehicle drives, safety ratings, and basic specs and vehicle comparisons, there are a number of sites you might find useful in addition to manufacturer websites.  Here at Four Paw Drive, we use the following: – comprehensive information on all vehicles, comparison tools, even a search of local inventory. – the online version of Kelley Blue Book – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing results – road tests conducted by Motortrend

Have you found other useful sites? Feel free to share them on our facebook page at!

Several people have asked for more guidance on formatting guest vehicle reviews for this blog, so here’s a simple template for you to follow.  Completed reviews can be emailed to Four Paw Drive at 4pdriveblog (at) (remove spaces, use the real @ sign).
Vehicle Make, Model, Year
[side picture]
Brief summary of your experience with the vehicle – this may include what you use it for, how long you’ve had it, average gas mileage, repair history/durability, etc.
What are your favorite features?
What, if anything, do you dislike about this vehicle?
Dimensions of the rear cargo area, with all seats in place, rear row removed, and all rows removed.  Please include:

  • width between wheel wells at floor level
  • width at the widest point and narrowest point (and where that is)
  • depth at the widest point and narrowest point (and where that is)
  • height at tallest and lowest (and where it is)
  • size of the hatch opening
  • any other dimensions you think might be helpful

[interior photos of cargo area, at least one taken from the rear looking forward]

Our first guest review (and great pictures!) comes from Leah Petesch in Iowa. Leah has several dobes, a corgi, and a Mexican street dog, volunteers with Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus, and runs the A Prairie Dobe Companion blog (!


I’ve had my HHR for roughly three years, putting over 60,000 miles on it for dog-related activities.  It’s ideal for 1-2 people with 1-2 large dogs.

The HHR is an excellent option if you’re looking for an economical, domestic vehicle. I recommend the 2LT, as the more basic models are a bit underpowered. A 1-2 year old, low-mileage 2LT usually can be found for $11,000-$14,000. It gets an average of 28-32mpg, but I’ve seen it sit at 34-36mpg on long stretches of highway. (mpg seen with super unleaded, since we lucky Iowans get ethanol fuel subsidies!) It’s a small SUV that handles like a car. My only complaint is that the blind spots are in weird places, and take some getting used-to!

I usually keep the backseat folded down, to accommodate a 36″ wire crate and an equivalent-sized plastic crate. The rear seats fold FLAT – which automatically makes it more functional than its larger ‘brother’ – the Chevrolet Equinox. (I drove an Equinox for a week after I hit a deer with the HHR… let me tell you, it was awful.  I was only able to fit one crate in the darn thing due to the rear seats not folding flat.)

The HHR’s hatch opening is too small for an assembled 36″ wire crate to be slid in, so the crate has to be folded out after it is placed in the cargo area. A soft crate can easily be slid in and popped up after you’ve got the wire crate in – I can set up a soft crate in the empty space in a matter of seconds.  A plastic crate is more difficult, but it can be done – just slide the bottom section in first, then slide the top section through the front passenger door, up over the front-seat headrests, and onto the bottom crate section. Trust me… DO NOT put in a plastic crate as your 2nd crate unless you don’t plan on removing it very often!

The HHR has several convenient cargo tie-downs built into the frame, so securing crates is quick and easy.  The interior surfaces are plastic, so clean-up is a breeze.

I have done several long trips with 2 adults and 2 large dogs. My advice for packing is to pack several small bags – they are easier to stuff into the nooks and crannies of available space.  (Yes, it’ll look like a clown car – get used to it.)  Above the crates there is enough room to slide an additional 42″ broken-down soft crate. In the back, there is a 12″D x 39″W x 29″H open pocket of space. On the side (behind the crate in front) there is a 11″D x 29″W x 29″H open pocket of space. Of course, there are also roomy rear footwells to shove extra gear, as well as the deep rear window-wells in back.

All in all, the Chevrolet HHR is a great “starter” dog-hauler.

View from the rear hatch, with a 36″ wire crate w/side door and a 36″ soft crate

Convenient tie-downs

View of the “empty pocket of space” near the hatch, and the deep window-wells

View from a back door, of the 36″ soft crate

View from a back door, of a 400 vari-kennel (equivalent)

Rover, the intrepid Impreza, is nearing 200,000 miles and when I realized this I decided to see how many of those miles included a dog. Boy was I surprised to learn that I travel *at least* 15,000 miles annually with a dog in the car!

I know that other dog people like myself travel even more miles each year with one or more dogs tagging along, and of course the more miles you travel, the more chances for an accident.  So, you’ve done your homework and secured your dogs just in case, but what happens if *you* are incapacitated in a wreck? What happens to your dogs?

It’s a question we often hate to think about, but it’s an important one.  In addition to keeping a card with *my* ICE information in my wallet and glovebox and an entry for the same on my phone, I ran across a brilliant idea a few years back: packets attached to each dog’s kennel with this important information included.

Here’s what mine include:

  • Copies of each dog’s vaccine records (rabies, distemper/parvo, and bordetella if applicable)
  • A letter from me authorizing vet care or boarding as needed and detailing what situations euthanasia is acceptable. This letter also includes two emergency contacts who are authorized to act on my behalf for my pets.
  • A short description of each dog
  • A list of basic care instructions should the dogs need to be boarded

The packet is assembled in a nylon “pencil case” and attached to each kennel where it is visible to anyone looking in the car.  I also have duplicates of each dog’s information in my glovebox with my ICE information, enclosed in a labelled envelope.

If anything changes (contacts, phone numbers, different care needs, new vaccines, etc.) I go through all 4 packets plus my “master packet” in the glovebox to make sure everything is still up to date.

I’m happy to send people a template of the letter and forms I include; feel free to email the blog at with the subject “ICE packet templates”.

This is the current Four Paw Drive vehicle! I’ve had our “Rover” for over 10 years and it’s served me well, but our canine family has simply outgrown its capacity.

The Impreza is a very versatile car, providing room for 5 humans and a few dogs in the cargo area or room for two humans and two medium-sized dogs crated with the back seat folded flat!  The Impreza, like all Subarus, comes with AWD standard and it’s helped me out of many a muddy field or through snow drifts that larger vehicles balked at.  In general my mpg has hovered between 28-30mpg consistently, using regular 87 octane gasoline.

I now regularly keep the rear seat folded with the base removed to allow me to fit two 36″ wire crates fully assembled behind the front seats. The rear hatch does not accommodate them fully assembled outside the vehicle, so I put the crates in flat and pop them up inside – it’s a very snug fit and the rear crate needs to have a side door, but it works, and both crates can be accessed easily while still allowing for a significant amount of additional storage.

Pictures of other crate arrangements are below.

Two crates, 36″ wire on folded back seat, 32″ mesh in the remaining cargo space.

Two crates, 36″ plastic on folded back seat, 32″ mesh perpendicular in the cargo area to allow for more storage access.

Two crates, 36″ wire on the back seat, 30″ wire in the cargo area.

Welcome to Four Paw Drive!

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Four Paw Drive grew out of my own search for the perfect dog vehicle. Numerous web searches returned no current websites that reviewed cars from a serious dog hobbyist’s perspective.  There were a few “dog car” sites, yes, but I needed information on rear cargo area dimensions, the ease of fitting side by side crates behind the second row of seats, the presence of a independently opening rear hatch window, tie down locations, etc., not how many dogs would fit loose behind the last seat!

As I struggled to find a resource, I found that I was not alone – other people with multiple dogs who travel thousands of miles per year, trial in various venues, or those whose businesses include transporting other peoples’ animals were running into the same challenges.

Enter Four Paw Drive! This blog aims to be a clearinghouse for the detailed information active dog owners and animal professionals need but can’t find anywhere else. If I miss a detail you want to see, ask! If you think your vehicle is the perfect dogmobile, let me know and you could see your review on the front page!  Stay tuned for reviews of vehicle small and large, pet transport options and considerations, and much more as Four Paw Drive grows!