What Makes an Element Dog-Friendly?

Or you could be a dog nut. Now, the typical dog owner would be just as happy buying one of the many wagons or crossovers on the market that are available with optional dog gates to keep their four-legged friends in the cargo hold. That's most of us.

Others, well, they may have a dog who needs the serenity of the bolted-in, soft-sided dog kennel that comes in the Element's Dog Friendly Package. It's a very well-designed kennel with a deeply recessed water bowl (so it won't splash on the dog bed) and a built-in fan that keeps air circulating in the cargo area.

To my mind, this is the one stand-out feature of the package. My dog, Roxy — a 6-year-old Boxer — normally can't stand soft-sided kennels. She has a metal crate at home for when we're out, and she likes that just fine. When hopping into the Element, though, she seemed as comfortable in its soft-sided kennel as in her own. There is see-through mesh on the kennel, but its skeleton is more substantial.

There's a metal ramp that stows under the kennel for dogs who are unable to jump onto the lower tailgate. However, the dog won't be able to look out the windows from this vantage point once the tailgate is closed, as the crate sits below the windows. I really liked the Element's clamshell tailgate, too. The lower edge stuck out about 2 feet, which was the perfect distance for Roxy to jump up on and get into the kennel, but not so big I couldn't reach over it easily.

The second row gets a custom, removable seat cover that's water/dirt/drool/mud/fur-resistant and has little doggie logos on it. However, with the rear kennel bolted in, the rear seats can't fold to the side. This really hurts the potential utility of this vehicle; if you're planning to transport just yourself and your dog, or even one other passenger, an opened-up backseat area would be ideal for cargo, given the kennel will be taking up the traditional cargo area.

Dog owners with multiple dogs can buckle at least two more dogs into the rear seats using special dog harnesses — not part of this package, but readily available at pet stores — that attach to the seats.

Add dog-bone-adorned rubber floormats for both seating areas, and that completes the Dog Friendly Package. Does that seem worth $995?

I think it does, but only for potential buyers who fit into this overly dog-friendly niche.

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