The Root of the Behavior
Your dog might enjoy the car window for a few reasons. First of all, it lets him be part of everything outside, the breeze feels refreshing on his face, or he enjoys smelling everything outside. His nose is taking in an overwhelming number of smells. One or all of these are possibly enjoyable to your pal. When a dog is outside, he can smell other dogs, trees, and whatever else is in the environment. Being a part of that through the car window is a high-speed version of sniffing everything. Even if his nose is only pressed against the window, he is seeing things he usually does not like new people, buildings, pets, cars, and everything else that is different from his usual space. A breeze on a warm day can feel refreshing. On that first day of spring, you look forward to rolling down your window and sticking your hand out to feel the breeze and the wind on your face after a long winter feels terrific. Your dog might appreciate the same thing. As much as we look forward to a summer breeze, so does your pup.
One of the more scientific reasons your dog enjoys sticking his nose out the window is he experiences an enormous amount of smells. Dogs can detect smells better than humans. Humans have about six million olfactory receptors compared to a dog’s 300 million. As a dog breathes in, the amount of air taken in determines how many scents a dog picks up. So when the car window is down, his nose is being overtaken by air and as a result, tons of smells. Sticking his nose out the window to breath in this air at more than 35 miles per hour gives your dog a smorgasbord of scents that makes him thrilled to be cruising at your side.
Encouraging the Behavior
If your dog wants to stick his face out the window and you feel safe as the driver, it should be fine. He will enjoy the sights and smells of being outside, the breeze on his face, and he will associate the car with positive interactions. The positive associations with the car will make it easier to get him to the vet or take longer trips when you need.
Not all dogs like the window. The car might upset your dog more than make him happy. Puppies are more prone to not enjoying car rides. Their ears aren’t fully developed, so the sounds or wind might bother them, and they might also get motion sickness. A dislike of cars and car windows is possible with older dogs, too. The sounds of the road, like big-rig trucks, honking, revving engines, fire trucks, or broken mufflers, could be upsetting to your dog. Your dog might even fear the car because he’s an anxious pup or had a bad experience, like an accident. If that’s the case and you need to take your dog on a trip, take him to the vet or a trainer first to learn how to make your dog comfortable during your drive. Whatever you do, don’t force your dog to stick his face out the window, no matter how much you think he’d enjoy it. Let him do it on his own time.
Other Solutions and Considerations
You should always be cautious when riding with your dog in the car. It is safest to travel with a crate that can be secured. But many of us indulge our dog and let him call dibs on the front seat. If that’s the case, make sure the window is opened enough so your dog can get his nose or head out, but not his body. If you have a little dog, it might be best just to leave the window open a few inches and not let him stick his head out. If the window is that low, his whole body could take one jump or even bounce over a speed bump, and you’d have a flying dog. Make sure your door and window buttons are locked, so his paw doesn’t hit those buttons. If you’re headed for the highway, it might be a good idea to roll up the windows a bit. It’s unsafe for you to have limbs out the window at high speeds, and the same goes for your dog. When you slow down again, roll the window down again. If you’ve never taken your dog on a drive, take a two-legged passenger with you to help. Your dog could try to climb on you or go near your seat or climb into the back. That type of movement can be dangerous. It could distract you as a driver, but if you stop short, he could get hurt.
When the warmer weather comes around, get your four-legged friend into your sweet ride and roll down the window. You’ll have someone to drive around with, and he’ll be smelling everything around you. If you two really enjoy the rides and you want to solidify your status as driving pals, get matching jackets that say, “Ruff Riders” and you’ll be the coolest guys in town.