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A Dog Safety Seat in Cars

We had a group of four people applying design thinking process, user study techniques and multiple design skills to identify the real problem and design a product for social and business needs. We spent 4 monthes (Sept.- Dec. 2019) doing this project starting from identifying problems, designing and prototyping to finally coming up with a business plan.

We took turns as team leader. My main contributions were the idea generation, user research and prototyping.



Key words:

Product design, User study, 3D modeling, Prototyping. 

Design Process


An unrestrained pet can act as a projectile, which could present a harmful or possibly fatal risk to the driver or other occupants of the car, the test highlighted.

“Our tests showed that an unrestrained pet sitting on the back seat of a car can hit the dashboard with enough force to cause serious injury, even at a collision speed below 20 km/h (~12.4 mph).”


An unrestrained dog in a vehicle may divert the driver’s attention, be in danger of experiencing severe injury in an accident, and potentially cause injury to the human occupants.


We conducted four surveys to understand and analyze user's opinions and perference. Based on the survey results, we came up with attributes and characteristics. This matrix acted as a guideline for us to design the product.

The foremost observation that can be drawn from this mapping matrix is that the choice of materials is the driving characteristic of the design. This supports our prior assertion that the driving objective of the product design is the use of strong, lightweight, and cost-effective materials.

Personal Profile:

  • Amy, 67 y/o, female, married with kids and gradkids.

  • Retired accountant after 40 yrs. of work.

  • Got her first dog after retirement to keep her company.

  • Takes her dog wherever she goes, especially on scenic drives.


  • Retiree who enjoys relaxing and playing with her grandkids


  • Lives comfortably off of a fixed income retirement plan

Personal Profile:

  • Jack, 18 y/o, male, single.

  • Recent high school graduate

  • Loves all pets, but especially dogs.

  • Works as a dog-sitter in his local community.

  • Drives to pick up dogs from their owners and take them to the park.


  • Summer worker trying to make money before going to college.


  • Comes from a lower middle-class family.

  • Has 3 younger siblings.




  • $ 25.00


  • Comfortable for dogs


  • Not safe

  • No restriction on dogs' movements


  • $ 36.00


  • Comfortable for dogs

  • Limits dogs' movements


  • Not safe

  • Only for small dogs


  • $ 599.00 + $ 75.00


  • Safe


  • Closed space

  • Dogs cannot see outside views

  • Uncomfortable for dogs

  • High price


  • $ 105.00


  • Safe (fully restricted)


  • Extra uncomfortable

  • High price

As we compared products in the market, we find that these products usually can only accomplish one functionality from secure and comfortability. The price also varies greatly among different products. That is to say, no product in the market is affordable as well as safe and comfortable for dogs. Results from our survey show that 85% of people prefer to place their dogs in the seat (front and rear) instead of in the trunk. As a result, we aim to create a product that is both comfortable and safe for dogs to sit in the seat. We set the price of the product below, which will be affordable for most of the customers. As a result, our product can attract customers from its price and functionalities, and occupy the market.





Through surveys and market researches, we decide to focus our design on three main objectives to fill the gap in the market. We aim to achieve both safety and comfortability. The price should also be afforable as customer care much about it. 


The alpha prototype is aimed to demonstrate what is the basic desgin concept and how it is supposed to work. This prototype is executed using rapid prototyping materials and techniques, in order to get user feedback on the conceptm as well as to identify downstream challenges and areas of improvement.

by Yuheng Xie
Concept Generation

After generating and comparing with multiple concepts, we arrived at the fianl alpha concept sketch (on the left).


For the safety function, we tried to combine the function of seat belt with our product to ensure safety for dogs. The dog harness has an adjustable strap loop on the back so that the car’s seat belt can pass through and fasten the dog to the car. The adjustable-length strap allows for some user flexibility to give the dog more or less freedom of motion.

In order to achieve comfot and reduce price, we would use a dense foam material as the core of the seat and a waterproof, industrial fabric as the top-layer upholstery, granting both softness and durability.

The product was designed around the “all in one” concept to ensure convenience of use. When not needed, the dog restraint system can be folded to the size of a small suitcase and be stored in the trunk.


We spent 6 hours total making our alpha prototype to represent our final concept as accurately as possible given our limited resources at this stage. To do so, we found and used dense foam, nylon straps with buckles, felt, hook-and-loop fasteners, linen stitching, nylon fabric, waterproof plastic tarps, etc.

We successfully tested the harness design on an actual dog. However, the seat part required redesign because it was unconveinent for carrying even after being folded. 


Based on the alpha prototype, we are able to improve our design of the dog safe seat. This is a complete prototype aiming at demonstrating the desgin concept that can be realized into an actual product.

Design Modification

On the sear mat part, a strip pattern was designed on the mat in order to roll up the parts and easily to take. This structure enabled the users to conveniently carry  and store it. 


The webbing and buckle connection was designed for both connecting to the car seat and attaching user’s shoulder for carry.

by Yuheng Xie
by Ying Cai

On the harness part, we modified the connection structure in order to improve the firmness and comfortability.


Two metal rings were designed on both front and back side. The front side ring is for connecting the seat mat. And the back side ring is for connecting dog leash occasionally.


The buckles on upper and lower webbing are fixed to one end of waterproof jacket in order to make the dog feel more comfortable while using the harness in the car(preventing strangling dog's neck from behind).

Manufacturing Process

To manufacture the prototype, we used nylon webbing, ripstop waterproof fabric, dense upholstery foam, plastic buckles, metal D-rings, and metal lobster clasps, all held together with a combination of black and white sewing thread. The product is mainly mannufactured by using sewing machines.


After manufacturing the prototype, we tested it on Ying Cai's dog. Here is the video of the application.

Further Improvement

Human perspective:

  • Conducting more tests on actual users and gathering their feedback of the product on functionality, usability and using experience.

Dog perspective:

  • Improving the design on ergonomics of dog; modifying dimensions of the product in order to satisfy different dog sizes.


Team members: (left to right)

Yinh Cai,  Zenon Lewyckyj,  Feiqi Gu,  Yuheng Xie

Besides designing and manufacturing the prototype, we also conducted engineering analysis and came up with a business plan. If you are interested, please download the following document for our report and presentation.

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