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Dogs in Cars: Why Your Dog Should Never Ride with its Head out the Window

October 05, 2020

This common practice is actually an incredibly dangerous behaviour to allow while travelling

There are so many things I love about dogs and “dog people”. Too many to list. On the other hand, I also have some pet peeves when it comes to the behaviours of dog owners. Allowing nails to overgrow, incorrect use of a retractable leash, and not picking up after their dogs, are just a few. Today I was reminded of one that is so common you probably see it every single day in nice weather: allowing a dog to ride with its head out of a car window.

I was stopped at an intersection and in the car next to me was a gorgeous red Chow Chow who had his head hanging out of the window. Chow Chows get a ton of attention whenever they go out in public, but to see one with his head out of the window, grinning and sniffing was a whole lot of cuteness for all the drivers nearby to take in. Some passengers even snapped photos of the handsome dog. And while seeing a beautiful dog always makes me smile, I wondered how few of the people who saw the dog on his ride understand how insanely dangerous allowing your dog to ride with his head out of the car window really is.

It’s no secret that dogs love to do it and there are many reasons why dogs love to stick their head out of a vehicle’s window. Apart from the breeze and how nice the wind feels on their face, it offers a buffet of all the smells that they love. Dogs smell about as much as we see and speeding through areas brings a kaleidoscope of scents through their nose telling them all sorts of stories. I would compare it to getting a month of gossip in a single car ride. Talk about spilling the tea!
Although your dog may thoroughly enjoy sticking his head out of the car window, allowing him to do so could be endangering his life.

  • Your dog could see something he wants to get to and jump out of the car window.
    • Dogs can squeeze through some tight spaces when they want to get somewhere and an opening in a car window is no different!
  • If you have to slam on the breaks your dog could experience whiplash, or worse.
  • They could easily step on the automatic window controls and either lower the window so that they can easily jump out or raise it and choke themselves.
  • A foreign object like a rock, dirt or other debris could hit them.
    • This could be especially painful if the object hits them in the eye or gets into their ear or nose. If you’ve ever gotten a chip in your windshield you will know how much wreckage a small item can do while travelling at a fast speed. Even a bug could cause serious damage.
  • The wind that causes your dog’s ears to flap can cause swelling, irritation and pain long after the ride is done.
  • If you are involved in an accidents, your dog could be seriously injured by another car sideswiping or running into you.

In case it isn’t obvious it is also a bad idea to allow your dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. All of the dangers mentioned above increase and since the bed of a pickup doesn’t offer any protection from debris it might even be worse. On top of that, a dog can easily jump out of pickup truck’s bed and that pickup's metal bed can reach dangerous temperatures on a hot day, which can definitely burn a dog’s paws. In many areas its also illegal.

Although there are many reasons why you should not allow your dog to stick his head out of the car window, the good news is that there is a very safe way to allow your dog to enjoy all the smells and the breeze. The safest way to travel with your dog in the car is to keep them in a crate. I can’t imagine any dog person arguing that point. Countless times I have seen my friends’ statuses on social media recounting a scary accident and being grateful their dog was in a crate, and as a result, was unharmed. If your do is travelling in a crate you can allow your dog to enjoy all the car ride smells by rolling down the windows. The smells aka “the doggy gossip” and the breeze will all be experienced, but without any risk. Of course, if it’s very hot out and/or you have a breed of dog that susceptible to overheating I would keep the air conditioning on and just crack the back windows a little bit.

Since getting a car usually equals adventure for a dog, it’s no wonder they get so excited when you call their name and jingle your keys. Make sure that you keep your dog safe at all times when in your vehicle so that you will be able to enjoy many more adventures together.

The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.

Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.

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Comments
Mary
I totally agree. I've been told by vet techs that many dogs who are allowed to do this end up with gravel in their mouths akin to shrapnel in their buccal cavity. It is an increasingly popular practice, possibly promulgated by y-tube videos of the flubbering lips of dogs allowed to do this for amusing videos. It is a really bad idea and is worse than most other transgressions "pet" owners do that are shunned by the average "other" pet owner.
10/26/2020 6:59:13 PM

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