Picture these scenarios. You are driving with your dog in your car and you have the windows rolled down when suddenly, he jumps out. Or, you have your windows open in your house that is several floors up. Your dog, who until then was lying calmly on the floor, unexpectedly gets up and lunges for the open window. This is downright scary, yet stories about dogs jumping out of windows in the home and in moving cars are quite common as they have to do with triggers in the environment. All dogs, regardless of setting, respond to the same triggers. For instance, a dog that experiences fear will flee. A dog that sees a rabbit, chases after the rabbit, and so on. These triggers and their consequences are discussed in further detail below.
The Root of the Behavior
Among the four Fs of a dog’s response to fear, fight, or flight is the most talked about. When dogs are in a state of fear, their first response is to flee. Loud noises can be considered as frightening, triggering the flight response. Veterinarian Dr. Eric Barchas notes that certain sounds like the crackling of fireworks, cause fear in dogs and they respond by jumping out of open windows. He observes that instances of dogs jumping out of windows tend to intensify during celebrations because of the loud noises and in the summer when most windows are likely to be open. Another trigger that motivates this behavior arises out of dogs’ need to hunt. Most dogs can’t resist the temptation to run after small animals on the streets such as birds, squirrels, and cats. Dogs will also jump after other dogs on the street, to pick a fight. This can also happen when travelling and your dog sees animals or other dogs by the roadside.
Further, dogs have a keen sense of smell and they will chase after any scent that piques their interest. A study conducted by the university of Oslo found that when hunting, dogs hold their heads up high in the wind to sniff out game. Due to the placement of their inhale and exhale pathways, dogs can continuously pick smells even when exhaling. This tendency presents even in domestic dogs hence prior to your dog jumping out of the window, you may notice a change in posture such as a raised head or elevated snout. The study also determined that this sensitivity to smells is even more heightened during motion such as when in a moving car. Dr. Kelly Moffat, a veterinary behaviorist says that so many smells that bombard dogs during such cases can be overwhelming. Your dog, when in such a situation, will stick his head out of the window and is likely to jump.
Lastly, when playing fetch with your dog, he will always jump after the object to catch it. Assuming your windows are open and the object somehow flies out the window, your dog will jump after it because he is so focused on the object and is unaware of the danger posed by the open window. It is also worth noting that separation anxiety may cause your dog to jump out of the window after you leave.
Encouraging the Behavior
You should not under any circumstance encourage your dog to jump out of windows because unlike cats that land on their feet, your dog is likely to make an impact with another part of his body. But even if he lands on his feet, at greater heights, he may break his legs on impact. Moreover, your dog is also likely to suffer from skin lacerations or to have significant portions of his fur and skin shaved off. Dogs that jump out of moving vehicles are especially vulnerable to this type of injury or worse, getting struck by other vehicles or being dragged under your own car. In the same vein, if there is a fence that separates your residence from the street, your dog could land on it and get impaled. Other injuries include broken ribs, trauma to the pelvic area, and a severed spine. If your dog suffers trauma to the spine, he may live out the rest of his days in pain or worse, in paralysis.
Great caution should be exercised even if your house is on ground level because when your dog bolts on his own, he could get lost or get hit by a car. In addition, there are legal ramifications to watch out for especially with aggressive canines that are likely to bite people or other dogs.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The only way to keep your dog safe is to deny him opportunities to jump out of windows. You can do this by one, keeping the windows in your house closed. Two, if you are travelling with your dog, roll up your windows or keep him in a crate. Three, don’t leave your dog unsupervised especially if he has separation anxiety. When leaving the house, keep him in a crate. Four, during festivals that involve fireworks and processions, keep your dog company or keep him locked up in a room without a window.
Even if your dog doesn’t suffer any obvious injuries after jumping out of a window, you should not assume that he is okay. It is highly likely for him to suffer from internal trauma because of falling from a great height. The only way to rule out such injuries is by visiting his vet.
Your dog cannot fight his instincts nor can you erase triggers in his environment. It is thus likely that from time to time, he will lunge for the windows and if open, he will jump. It is up to you to give him a safe environment that allows him to be who he is without hurting himself. Failure to do so could result in serious injuries or worse, death.
By a Golden Retriever lover Maryanne Gaitho
Published: 03/15/2018, edited: 01/30/2020