We have two dogs and a young son. We often travel with large amounts of luggage visiting dog shows and family around the country. We bought a used Fiat Scudo ‘Combi’ van which is essentially the same as the Peugeot Expert and the Citroen Dispatch. There are two rows of three seats and a large ‘boot’. We needed to make the car dog friendly with the following requirements:
• a tailgate guard allowing us to open the back doors open, but keep the car secure;
• a dog guard behind the rear seats to keep the dogs out of the passenger area; and
• a removable divider to create separate areas for dogs and luggage.
Having looked at various guards in other peoples’ cars we shortlisted Athag, manufacturers of the Guardsman dog crates and guards.
After an initial telephone conversation and quote for the work I drove the van to Athag’s premises near Atherstone to discuss our requirements. They made the basic frame whilst I was on site. There were various factors I hadn’t considered and Athag’s experienced staff knew all the pitfalls. They quickly came up with a design and also suggested some extra features. These included two ‘escape’ hatches (easily removable panels); one to be placed at floor level in the divider to allow the dogs to travel between the two halves of the boot, and the other to be placed at high level behind the back seats. This would allow me to carry long objects such as ladders inside the van without having to remove the guards.
The dog guards took about four weeks to produce. Athag's staff have a demonstraited a thorough understanding of our needs and requirements, they are without doubt extremely experienced and skilled. I returned to Athag to have the completed guards fitted. Athag can also arrange delivery if required.
The guards are fitted without any drilling or damage to the vehicle. Rubber backed metal feet are tightened into position then locked into place. The end result is a very stable and strong ‘structure’. On the drive home the guards were silent, no rattling and no creaking.
The quality of fittings is very high. The guards themselves are coated in a tough black finish, which is very stylish. There is a choice of coatings; the toughest is a zinc coating (silver in colour). For aesthetic reasons we chose the black finish. The doors are lockable either with padlocks or optional fitted key operated locks. We chose to use our own padlocks.
Three months on our guards are functioning perfectly. We have made several long journeys requiring the car to be fully loaded with dogs and luggage. There has been no movement in the position of the guards and they are still solid and silent.
We have stopped at motorway services with a fully loaded car and been able to leave the dogs in a safe and comfortable environment. We can access the luggage without risking letting the dogs out and vice versa. Everything is safe and secure.
I did catch the guards with the sharp end of some copper pipe, but this easily touched up with a dab of black paint. They have suffered no damage through normal day to day use.
The design offers us a lot of flexibility without having to remove the bulk of the structure. In our old car we regularly had to remove all the guards and store them in the house. This was a long job and the guards were bulky and difficult to store.
If we are going away we put the dogs in one half and the luggage in the other. Once at our destination we unpack and remove the hatch, which is small enough to store behind the front seats, and the dogs have the full space. Our dogs are lurchers and two fit comfortably in one half of the back. There is only room for one deerhound per side; this is a limitation of the car, not the guards.
We paid £620.52 for the guards. Spending the money has meant our car is the perfect vehicle for our needs, without compromise. We simply factored the cost of the guards into the cost of buying the car. If I needed to ‘convert’ another vehicle I would buy them again in an instant.
We always secure the rear doors of the van using a Ventlock device. This allows you to lock the doors open.
This review is independent. We paid for our guards and had no obligation to purchase from Athag. Other manufactures produce guards and cages. I have included a list of useful resources below below.
Athag produce custom made dog guards and cages. They are also listed in the deerhound directory.
Ventlock manufacture a device for locking your doors open.
Barjo and Lintran also produce dog guards and cages.