Safety Tips for Dogs & Open Car Windows

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Dogs and open car windows seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. But why do dogs stick their heads out of car windows, anyway? And as much as they love doing it, should you let them? Here's what you should know as a pet parent.

Why Do Dogs Stick Their Heads Out of Car Windows?

Black and white dog with tongue out is buckled into car backset with dog harness.

The Smells

The primary reason dogs love hanging out of car windows has to do with their sense of smell. Mental Floss points out that a large dog has over 225 million olfactory receptors, compared to some 5 million in the human nose. Smelling is the main way dogs are able to sense the world around them. As air rushes by while you drive down the highway, it carries and intensifies scents that tell your pooch where they are and where they're going.

Sensory Stimulation

Dogs likely enjoy the full combination of smells, sights, sounds and feelings that they experience when they hang their heads out of car windows, says The Dodo. Just as people crave sensory stimulation, dogs get a thrill out of all of the different sensations that sticking their heads out of windows brings: The wind and sun on their fur, the sounds of air and cars whooshing by, other people and pets in their cars, there's so much to experience!

Why Dogs and Open Car Windows Shouldn't Mix

As much as your dog might love it, the fact is that it's not safe to let your dog stick their head out of your car window. Pet Health Network points out the potential for serious and even fatal injury should something like a rock or insect strike your dog at high speed. If an object hits your dog's eye, it could injure their cornea and cause permanent blindness. Foreign objects can also end up in a dog's nose or ears, causing breathing or hearing problems. What's more, Trips With Pets adds that your dog's ears flapping in the wind and against their head can cause their ears to swell and, over time, could cause lasting damage.

But even if you're just driving around the neighborhood at a low speed, it's still not safe to let your dog hang their head out of the car window. There's a chance they could fall or jump out. And, if your dog isn't safely secured, they're far more likely to get injured if you get into an accident or if you have to brake suddenly.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe While Driving

The safest way to drive with your dog is to secure them in a crate in the backseat. If this isn't possible, buckle them into a doggy car seat or a seat belt harness made for dogs. If you drive an SUV or a minivan, use a pet barrier to keep them secured in the back. Never allow your dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, where they're not contained at all.

Keeping your dog secured when you drive with them is the safest choice for everyone. They won't run the risk of getting injured by a flying object, and they're less likely to distract you while you're driving. Plus, your pooch will still enjoy the ride — keeping a car window cracked will still allow plenty of smells in for them to enjoy.

Keep your pooch buckled up on car rides so that they can savor sights, smells and sounds for years to come and enjoy all the fun that awaits them.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.

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