Driving with your dog –
Driving with your dog can seem like a fun idea. – Your dog sticks his head out the window, gets fresh air and you get to bond.
There are a few reasons why dogs like to stick their heads out the window when you’re driving.
First, they’re excited about being in a car! All that fresh air, the wind blowing in their face… who wouldn’t be excited?
Second, dogs are natural hunters and love chasing after things. Your dog may see something outside that catches his attention and he wants to go after it. The thrill of the possibilities will excite him beyond reason;).
Third, dogs rely on smell more than vision when they’re exploring new environments. If he sees something interesting outside, he might want to sniff it!
Driving in your vehicle with his head out the window provides a jackpot of unique and continuous smells for your dog! However, there are some risks associated with this mobile buffet of smells.
The Risks – of your dog’s head-out-the-window habit
Whatever the reason behind your dog’s head-out-the-window habit, there are dangers associated with this behaviour, including:
1) Injury from flying debris or other vehicles coming too close. Another driver may pull up close behind your vehicle or pass you on the side where your dog is hanging out the window. All of a sudden your dog may lunge or bark at them. Many pedestrians will talk to a dog they see in a car, thus creating even more temptation for your dog to jump from the vehicle.
2) Injury to your unsecured dog if you swerve suddenly or hit something. Your dog could even jump out of or be thrown around in the car if there’s an accident or sudden stop! You’ll have no way to protect her and the consequences could be tragic.
3) Injury due to exposure to heat, cold and wind. If your dog gets too cold or too hot during your trip, there could be long-term health consequences for her later on.
4) Distracted driving. What happens if your dog has his head out the window and he distracts you with his barking or running from window to window? His behaviour could cause you to become distracted and potentially result in an accident! In addition, the risk of your dog being thrown from the vehicle during an accident is great and the consequences could be devastating.
5) Eye and ear infections. Flying insects and airborne particles can get stuck in your dog’s eyes, ears or nose when hanging her head out the car window. This can lead to serious injury or infections that may not be detectable for several days.
The Influence of a Moving Vehicle on Your Dog’s State of Mind
Dogs are natural predators. That means they are genetically wired to chase and catch things – this behaviour is referred to as ‘prey drive’. Have you ever been walking with your dog and suddenly a leaf blows by and she pounces on it! A blowing leaf or squirrel climbing a tree, or anything that your dog sees moving triggers prey drive. Imagine how much movement your dog sees when her head is hanging out the window of a moving car! Everything is moving!!!
Movement triggers your dog’s natural instinct to ‘chase’. Your dog becomes increasingly excited and feels the desire to ‘chase’ all that he sees moving outside the car. The frustration of not being able to ‘catch’ the prey is off the scale! With each passing car, bicycle, person, or animal, your dog thinks that he can catch it, or chase it away. After all, the car keeps moving so your dog thinks that he scores a victory each time that the ‘thing’ moves away. Because things keep ‘moving’ when your dog has his head out the window, his mind remains in an increasingly heightened state of arousal.
Are You Creating Chaos?
Reinforcing your dog’s barking and wild behaviour can happen when you yell at or throw things at him. Allowing your dog to hang his head out the window and bark every time he rides in the car with you, makes your dog think that this behaviour is acceptable. Yelling at your dog will not make him stop barking. He may bark even more because he thinks that you are joining in the fun’ by ‘barking’ with him. Consequently, he will give you more of that same behaviour each time you are in the car together!
Regardless of the length of your trip, the best way to road trip with your dog is to keep his or her head inside the vehicle where it belongs! Roll up the windows! Give your dog a bone or toy to chew on to keep him occupied. In addition, keep him safe and secure with a seat belt harness or in a crate. Drive safely and make sure he can’t get his head out the window. If you have more than one dog, consider putting them in crates or seat belts together to keep them safe during drives too! Keep your dog or dogs as safe as possible during road trips. Turn on the tunes, relax and enjoy your road trip together!
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Check out this short video to learn from the experience of one pet owner who allowed their dog to ride in their car with his head out the window.