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Detroit Free Press Auto Critic Mark Phelan reports safety tips on how to travel with your pets over the holidays. Mark employs the help of Michigan Humane Society’s Ryan McTigue.
Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press

Just like American drivers, American dogs love the new generation of car-like SUVs, according to the editorial team at shopping website Autotrader.

My experience supports that theory. To travel well with a dog, you have to think like a dog: Where can I stretch out? When can I have a drink of water? Can we stop and go for a walk?

Autotrader recommends five new vehicles, and a couple of carryover models:

• 2017 BMW X5
• 2018 Chevrolet Equinox
• 2017 Honda Fit
• 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
• 2017 Nissan Rogue
• 2018 Subaru Crosstrek
• 2018 Volvo XC60

All of them offer plenty of space for dogs and their gear. Most also have wide doors or hatches for easy entry and exit.  

“The key is to start with a good vehicle,” Autotrader executive editor Brian Moody said. “Then, look for brands that support dog owners” with accessories like fitted seat covers, steps or ramps for entry and exit, even built-in crates.

“Manufacturer support for pet-friendly features makes a difference. Just like with performance accessories, you can get aftermarket dog gear, but going to the manufacturer always works better.”

Volvo and Subaru both offer an array of accessories for pets. Subaru has built whole advertising campaigns around the idea that its vehicles are dog friendly.

The Chrysler Pacifica also has a wide range of dog accessories, for canines who, like their humans, appreciate the room and practicality of a good minivan.

Nissan got lots of attention with the “Rogue Dogue,” a one-off SUV it made for the New York auto show. It featured built-in water and food dishes, a ramp to the cargo area, custom dog bed and even a 360-degree “hoop and hose” dog shower with a 10-gallon water tank. Nissan isn’t likely to build the Dogue, but Moody says some of its features will be available for production vehicles. 

Big dogs needn’t equal big vehicles, though. “You’d be surprised how large a dog can get in and out of a Honda Fit” because of the subcompact’s low ride height and wide-opening doors and hatch, Moody said.

All those vehicles provide space for a…