Choosing a new vehicle sometimes goes to the dogs

Occasionally, I consider the next car I might want.

The other day I test drove one and wondered: Maybe this is it?

Then I put my 90-pound dog in it.

Nope. Its rear bucket seats with cupholders wedged between them made it difficult for Chancey to lie down. He couldn't easily move around and had trouble entering and exiting. And the seat material would make removing dog fur about as much fun as a root canal.

My dog has paw when it comes to influencing my vehicle selection.

Apparently I'm not alone.

Honda offers a dog-friendly package on its Element crossover. Features include a stowable entry/exit ramp, a spill-resistant water bowl, electric fans, easy-to-clean seat material and a rear-car kennel.

Last year, Ford's Edge crossover won the pet-safe vehicle of the year award from Bark Buckle UP, a research team specializing in pet travel safety.

Jeremy Clarkson, host of the popular BBC TV show Top Gear, said about a quarter of British households have a dog. And a car that can't handle a dog, he says, "frankly, is useless."

In 2010, 39 percent of U.S. households owned at least one dog, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

In a recent Top Gear episode, Clarkson and his gang test drove three small cars with three big dogs: a Saint Bernard, an Irish wolfhound and a Great Dane.

The idea was to see how quickly a large-breed dog can enter the car, settle in comfortably and handle the ride. Under the rules, a driver is disqualified if any of the pups return looking sad.

The results are hilarious, and poignant. Take a look.

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