Dear Tom and Ray:
My son has a 2006 Jeep that he uses to carry around tennis equipment and his dogs. His youngest dog, a 10-month-old, 60-pound male golden retriever, likes to sit in the front passenger seat. He is heavy enough to cause the seat-belt alarm to sound while the car is riding. Of course, this has become very annoying, to say the least! My son tries to get the dog to sit in the back, but he likes looking out the front window. Is there any way to disconnect the alarm so that the bell stops dinging constantly? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks. — Yvonne
Tom: Well, first, we'd like to congratulate the dog on having done such an excellent job of training your son. Most people would start by modifying the dog's behavior rather than modifying the electronics of their car. But clearly, this dog is very persuasive.
Ray: Your son should move the dog to the back seat, Yvonne. Not only because that will turn off the seat-belt warning, but because it's safer — for the dog and for your son.
Tom: Right. Your son carries tennis equipment. What if a tennis ball rolls out from under the driver's seat, and the dog jumps down into the foot well to get it? He could interfere with your son's use of the pedals, causing an accident. Or he could shift the car from drive to reverse along the way. Or he could block your son's view of the road by standing on his lap (a favorite dog trick).
Ray: Or, if there is an accident, the 60-pound dog could get thrown into your son, and depending on where he makes contact, the results could be very ugly.
Tom: Were you thinking of the neck?
Ray: I was thinking of the groin, actually, but having 60-pound dog go flying into your neck would be bad, too.
Tom: A number of companies make car restraints for dogs. They hook onto your existing seat belts. If your son is unable or unwilling to train the dog, the dog should be in the back seat, secured with one of those restraints. Or in a crate in the cargo area. He may not be able to stick his head out the front window from there, but he won't hit it on any "Yield" signs either.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)