2023 Honda CR-V: Will It Dog?

If you ask me, the current CR-V design is the best the model’s ever had. It’s been out for a couple of years now and while it’s not particularly compact like its predecessors, the Honda CR-V is a compelling runabout vehicle. We found it a pretty darn decent dog taxi, too.

The CR-V’s look was new for 2023 and there are currently six trims to pick from, ranging from about $30,000 to $40,000 to start. Seat materials and safety features are the biggest differences inside, but the main price-driving features are under the skin. You can choose between a VTEC turbo four-cylinder engine or a more powerful and efficient hybrid powertrain. Then from there, you can go front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, depending on whether you’d rather focus on fuel economy or traction. 

We tested a range-topping 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring Hybrid AWD, which rang up at about $42,000 with destination and handling fees. But most of the takeaways from this dog-friendliness review will apply to all 2023-to-present CR-Vs.

Today’s Test Dogs

Fluffy family—assemble. Andrew P. Collins

Our CR-V test was conducted by Bramble and her brothers Indi and Silas, Australian Shepard/Golden Retriever mutts. Bramble’s about 45 pounds and the boys are more like 65.

Climbing In and Out

The very first thing I noticed about the new CR-V is how wide the rear doors open up. It almost seems like they become completely perpendicular to the car’s body, which is not as common as you might think. Safe to say, it’s helpful for allowing animals into the back seat.

That said, the seats are pretty high off the ground, and the footwell is on the tighter side. That means getting a larger, less-than-athletic animal up in there might take a little stepstool or a strong back on your part.

The hatch seems slightly easier to hop into and out of if you’re inclined to put pups behind the back seat.

Interior Materials

Honda’s high-trim leather is pretty nice these days; it feels robust. While we always use a seat cover, I think you’d have pretty good resistance to claw scratches here. The colored stitching gives it a little whiff of personality, too.

The plastics are also among the better offerings—a lot of surfaces have a bit of rubberization feeling to them which leads me to believe they’ll last a few years without deforming.

All the controls on the center console are way forward, far away from where paws might get to. I liked the traditional shift lever and generally obvious button placement, too. But be careful what kind of beverages you put in the cupholders with a dog in the back. They’re close enough to the elbow area that an intrepid snout might come slurping.

Window Access and Air Flow

The new CR-V’s rear window doesn’t retract completely into the door—I can’t quite decide if that’s a good or bad thing. It does add a slight barrier to an animal that might try and hop out while the windows are down, but it will also prevent shorter dogs from being able to get some fresh sniffs at low speed.

Otherwise, airflow to the back comes from just two little vents in the center console. Adequate for maintaining a temperature, and if you only have one dog, these vents would probably be able to cool them fairly quickly after a hot summer walk. I don’t know if they’d be up to the task of keeping multiple dogs from panting, though.

Driving With the Dog

Bramble settled into the backseat of the CR-V very nicely. She’s tall enough to get her nose into the wind even without a completely retractable window, so a dog in the 40-pound neighborhood should be able to do that too. There’s certainly room in the cargo area for an animal, but it’s easier to keep an eye on them and lock ‘em into a proper harness when they’re on the seat.

When left behind in the car, Bramble immediately tried climbing into the cockpit. I found her standing with her front paws on the center console when I ran into the gas station to grab a drink—this is why you’ve got to be careful of what goes in those cup holders!

The rear bench seat does not have deep butt buckets, but there are small cavities on the left and right passenger sides. Not enough to bolster an animal through turns, but that doesn’t matter all that much since there’s no real reason to whip a CR-V around on purpose. 

Pack Hauling — Multiple Dogs On Board

The CR-V initially felt very crowded with three dogs across the back seat. However, once they settled down I could see hauling as many as five without a major issue. The thing is, dogs are like human kid siblings … the rowdiness comes in waves as little tiffs start, and they begin escalating their torment to each other. In the case of our animals, the dogs are literally siblings … as soon as they calm down, somebody (usually my princess Bramble) will bite somebody’s head just to re-stoke chaos.

Sometimes the whole pack has to come. Andrew P. Collins

All this to say, when a vehicle is this skinny and the dogs are physically touching each other at all times, it takes a while for the quiet periods to last a long time.

I think the optimal full pack would be three medium-sized dogs like we have here—two on the bench and one in the way back, so they could lie down without spilling on top of each other. But if you really had to, you could pack five grown Golden Retriever-sized animals in here. Just prepare to have fluff pop out of the vents every time you turn them on forever.

Carrying Kennels

I foolishly failed to get a photo of our kennel in the CR-V, but you can fit a medium-sized one in the back with one of the seats folded down. Unfortunately, the cargo area is a little too short to comfortably swallow a kennel and keep the second row in use. If you have a large kennel in this thing, you’ll only have room for one passenger behind the first row.

Honda CR-V Dog-Friendliness Verdict

The CR-V is a solid dogmobile. For the back door’s wide swing and tough-feeling interior materials alone, I think most people with one 40 to 90-pound pooch will get by fine. On the negative side, it is a bit of a big jump from the ground to the back seat, and the rear seat fans might not cool off a super-fluffy animal.

Andrew P. Collins

So while I wouldn’t call the CR-V exceptionally dog-optimized, it’s reasonably dog-friendly. 

2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring Hybrid AWD Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (as tested)$42,150 ($42,543)
Seating Capacity (people)5
Seating Capacity (dogs)3 decent-sized ones
EPA Fuel Economy40 mpg city | 34 highway | 37 combined
Cargo Volume39.3 cubic feet behind second row | 76.5 cubic feet behind first row
Quick TakeNice looking family vehicle with wide-opening rear doors. Good fuel economy to cargo capacity ratio.
Will It Dog Score7/10

Other Family Cars Tested by Dogs, for Dogs


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