Dog lovers know that many of man's furry best friends like going for car rides almost as much as walks, but recent research takes it a step further.
ABC's Good Morning America veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and syndicated columnist and PetConnection.com blogger Gina Spadafori recently pointed to studies that show consideration for the family dog often plays a large role in car-shopping decisions.
"Surveys show about half of all car-buyers consider the comfort of the family dog when buying a new car — and 65 percent take their pets on errands," explained Becker.
But is there a vehicle better than the most for taking along Fido? According to DogCars.com, it's the Honda Element, which the named as the DogCar of the Year for 2007, an award created by Becker and Spadafori.
"We're glad to see car-makers address the comfort and safety of our dogs on the road because people don't want to leave their pets — or should we say ‘four-legged family members' — behind," Becker continued. "More than a quarter even sometimes take their pets to work."
The Web site also awarded the Suzuki Forenza as the Best DogCars Value, and lauded cars-to-watch honors to the Scion xB, Volvo XC70, Dodge Grand Caravan and Buick Enclave.
Additionally, executives honored top DogCars in categories such as luxury, midsize and small SUVs, sports, truck, minivan and compact cars.
According to the site, some of the criteria used to generate "paw ratings" were the following:
—Easily removed or folding seats.
—Maximized space by using wide, square backs with minimal sloping.
—Door and window locks.
—All-wheel or four-wheel drive.
The site noted that the Element's "versatile cargo space, easy-clean flooring, crate-friendly rear design and optional all-wheel drive" make it ideal for dogs.
Other winners are as follows:
—Best Luxury SUV: Land Rover Range Rover.
—Best Midsized: SUV: Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90 (Tie).
—Best Small-Sized SUV: Mitsubishi Outlander.
—Best Sports DogCar: Mazda Speed3.
—Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-150.
—Best Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan.
—Best Hatchback: Honda Fit Sport.