The 2010 Honda Element is a compact SUV that puts the emphasis on the "U," with an extremely utilitarian, functional interior. Dog owners, in particular, have found the Element to be an ideal vehicle, perhaps the perfect canine carrier.
Americans are dog crazy. We spend billions of dollars on our dogs, buying everything from food and toys to clothing and bedding. So it was only a matter of time before a clever auto manufacturer decided to catch the canine wave. Enter the Dog Friendly Honda Element.
The Dog Friendly Honda Element is a $995 package of options for a new 2010 Element when purchased from a Honda dealer. The package includes:
- Three Dog Friendly emblems
- Rear car kennel
- Kennel organizer
- Pet bed
- Stowable ramp
- Dog-pattern seat covers
- All-season “Dog-Bone” floor mats
- Spill-resistant water bowl
- Electric fan
- Tote bag
- Leash and collar in size small or large
- Paw Print dog tag
- Bag dispenser
The package was installed in the vehicle that I drove for my 2010 Honda Element Test Drive and Review. My dogs, Layla (a 44 lb Chow Mix) and Truman (a 60 lb Standard Poodle), agreed to help me test the package. They're happy to go for a ride any time, and are very tough critics when it comes to canine comfort.
I decided to begin our test with entry and exit to the rear car kennel. The soft-sided kennel takes up most of the luggage space behind the second row of seats in the Element, mounting on raised legs. The kennel clips in to the Element's cargo D-rings, keeping it securely mounted. I found the clipping and unclipping a little awkward, a small problem that could easily be remedied with a trip to the outdoors store for some quick disconnects.
A quick word on kennels: even though Honda can't say it, I will. Transporting your dog in a kennel is safer for you, and safer for your dog. Your dog will be less of a distraction while you drive, and won't get in the way of the safe operation of your SUV. In the event of an accident, a secured kennel may keep your dog from becoming a projectile, potentially harming you and itself in the process. A kennel will keep your dog from escaping from the vehicle when you open the door or tailgate. If you don't use a kennel, you should at least use a pet barrier, which will keep your pet confined to the back seat or cargo compartment. A dog wandering around the SUV is cute, but is totally unprotected and a hazard in every way.
An impressive telescoping aluminum ramp stows underneath the raised kennel. In just a second, I was able to slide the ramp open to its full length, and lean it against the open tailgate at a comfortable angle. The ramp is about 18" wide, and almost 6' long when extended. The ramp's walking surface is coated with a textured non-skid material.
Truman has never learned how to make an easy entrance into an SUV, demanding to be lifted in no matter how low the tailgate. He immediately grasped the concept of the ramp, and easily pranced up and in to the rear-mounted kennel and back down without a problem. Even though he's tall, he went right into the kennel, turned around a few times, then settled down. A few turns around the block, and Truman was perfectly content.
Despite her short stature, Layla loves to make a spectacular entrance, jumping onto the tailgate of any SUV. She balked at using the ramp, preferring to leap instead. Adding a hop to her leap, she landed squarely inside the kennel, ready for a ride. We rode around for a few minutes, and then returned home for an evaluation.
The kennel was perfectly-sized for Layla, but a little tight for Truman. Even though my dogs get along well, I wouldn't want to crowd them both in there together for more than a five-minute ride. Your dog's fit may vary.
I'm pretty sure that I could train Layla to use the ramp with a little more patience and coaxing (and some treats). As she ages (she's 6 now), I may need to control her acrobatic tendencies. I was thrilled that Truman acclimated to the ramp so easily. The ramp was light, easy to use, and much easier than hauling a 60 lb dog up over the tailgate.
We went for some rides together without the kennel installed. Layla and Truman both fit comfortably in the luggage area, behind the second row of seats. They were a little disappointed that they couldn't see out of the windows, which were a little too high. But I was glad that the dogs didn't obscure my view out of the back when they stood up, like they did in some other, more wagon-like crossovers.
Both dogs appreciated the Dog Friendly Package's electric fan, which operated quietly from the right rear corner of the cargo compartment. A little bit of air movement seemed to keep the dogs more comfortable on a warm day. The fan shuts off automatically with the ignition -- it's not intended as ventilation to keep the Element cool when the vehicle is not operating. I never leave my dogs in an SUV unattended, not even for a minute. I'd advise you not to, either.
The dogs didn't care too much about the all season "Dog Bone" floor mats or the dog-pattern seat covers, but I thought they were cool and subtly designed. Along with the three "Dog Friendly" emblems on the outside of the Element, they complete a package that says "Smart, Cool Dog Owner" without screaming "Crazy Dog Person" -- it's a very fine line, I know.
Layla and Truman both voted "yes" on the Dog Friendly Package for the 2010 Honda Element, but it's not their money. If I were buying a new Element, I would definitely add the Dog Friendly Package to the financed amount, and then make sure that I used it all the time, taking my dogs for rides all over town.