Doggone it
in my Model 3

Mark D Larsen

Where to, Your Royal Highness?
(Click to enlarge)

An essential accessory in our family is a car seat... for our four-legged, furry little girl Petisa (‘Tisa). We had installed both a seat and then a seat cover for her in our LEAF, and really liked them. However, after several years the fabric in her seat was starting to wear thin, so I decided to just order another set of all the components that would better match the dark interior of our Model 3. Here is what the setup entails:

NOTE: You can click on any of the following photos to enlarge them.

This is the protective seat cover. The Model 3 Owner’s Manual explicitly states on page 22: “Do not use seat covers in Model 3. Doing so could restrict deployment of the seat-mounted side air bags if a collision occurs.” Nonetheless, I suppose we will just have to break that rule, for otherwise ‘Tisa’s claws getting in and out of the car would probably do some serious damage to the synthetic “vegan” leather upholstery. Since the cover isn’t tightly secured down, and just drapes over the rear seat, perhaps it wouldn’t really restrict the airbags anyway...?

Here you can see how it loosely drapes over the rear seat, and that the sides leave room for the seat belts —and hopefully the airbags. It has two small straps that attach behind the headrests. There is also a wider, longer strap that extends behind the rear seat to snap together in the trunk area, but rather than tighten and attach the ends together, I leave them loose because of that air bag concern. There’s also a “safety belt” that attaches to a child seat anchor on the rear lid, and the other end to your pet’s harness. Do not attach it to a collar, as it could choke your dog!

Door covers that match the seat cover are available as a separate item. I think the manufacturer should just include them as a complete package, because claws that could damage a seat’s upholstery could also scratch the material on the windowsills. Here is the pair that I ordered for the Model 3. They have convenient mesh pockets in the bottom section.

This is how they hang over the inner door, secured with plastic inserts pushed down behind the glass. I actually put the soft half of some velcro strips on the plastic inserts to make them even snugger. Otherwise, lowering and then raising the window could pull them out, something that could happen every time with a Model 3 when you open and close the doors. You can see that I always carry ‘Tisa’s leash in one of the pockets.

When in the car seat, dogs can still reach a paw far enough forward to touch the top of the driver’s seat and headrest. This didn’t concern us with the LEAF, since the upholstery was fabric, but the synthetic leather merits better protection. I decided to order a “kick shield” for the back of the seat that was very simple, inexpensive, no-frills, since there was no need for the typical pockets to carry kids’ toys, games, and coloring books that are included on most protective shields.

As for the headrest, I also bought a set of 4 protective caps that are supposedly one-size-fits-all, i.e., they won’t fit any headrest precisely, and most certainly don’t on the Model 3. I only use one of them on the driver’s headrest and keep the rest for spares. I can say this much: because I gather and tuck it in more in the back, it doesn't look quite as bad in the front.

Here you can see the headrest cap and the kick shield installed from the rear seat. I flipped the latter backwards, as I don’t like its logo on the front side standing out so brightly against the black material. At least now the driver’s seat won’t get scratched and marked up when ‘Tisa starts begging for attention.

Last but not least, is the car seat itself, which is secured in the rear with a seat belt cinched up over the back cutout area.

In this photo looking in the opposite rear door you can see how the entire set up looks. Obviously, if we give a ride to a third occupant, the passenger will to have to sit on the bothersome cover, but at least it has slots to allow access to the seat belt latches underneath. And if we decide to leave ‘Tisa and home and fill the car with occupants, it is fairly easy and quick to unsnap the straps and remove the cover entirely.

This is how the setup looks from the front passenger seat, which isn’t too bad, all things considered. You might notice that I’ve also tucked a black hand towel behind the cover and between the headrests, because often ‘Tisa will put her paws up there to look out the back window. At the top of the page you can see her happily strapped into her seat, ready to take a ride. Just like with kids, we find that dogs are much happier if they can see out the window when taking a roadtrip.

And finally, in this short video clip, you can see how ‘Tisa knows how to jump in the Model 3, then onto the rear seat, and finally into her seat, ready to be strapped in. Ah... the things we do to accommodate our springing offspring!