Should your dog hang their head out the window of a vehicle? | PetFirst
Should your dog hang its head out the window?
Pet Care & Health

Should your dog hang their head out the window of a vehicle?

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
7 months ago

Does your dog enjoy hanging his head out the window when you go for a ride in the car? Many dogs do. Although this may look cute and your pup may enjoy it, it actually presents several potential dangers to your dog.

Should you allow your dog to hang his or her head out the window? Let’s break down why dogs do this, how it can be dangerous, and whether or not it’s a safe to allow your pet to do so.  

Why do dogs hang their heads out the window? 

According to Zoologist Chris Daniels, dogs enjoy sticking their head out the window because it helps them smell better6 .

Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than we do, and when they put their head out the car window, air washes over them at a high speed — creating a pleasurable sensory overload. Dogs enjoy smelling new scents, and sticking their head out of a car window makes it easier to take everything in.  

Potential dangers 

Fall Risk: The most obvious potential danger if your dog sticks his head out of the window is that he may fall out of the car. This is especially true for small dogs — the smaller your dog is, the more easily they’d be able to tumble through that space between the window and the top of the car. If your dog falls out of the car, he or she could be seriously injured or not survive.   

flying debris: Your dog may get injured by flying debris while sticking their head out of the window. There’s a reason our cars have windshields: to protect us from the dirt, dust, insects, rocks, and other objects that might be floating in the air. When you’re going 60 mph, even a small rock can do big damage. You don’t want your dog to get injured by whatever your car is kicking up. Your dog is also at risk of hitting an object that’s outside the car. And if you’re in a wreck, your dog might be crushed between two cars.  

Ear Damage: Yet another potentially dangerous outcome is that your dog’s ear tissue might become damaged. Your dog might look cute with his ears blowing in the wind. But repeated wind can actually cause damage to the flaps of your dog’s ears. Over time, the ears can become more and more damaged. 

Should you let your dog hang their head out the window? 

Your dog might enjoy hanging his head out the window to enjoy all of the smells and to get a better view of all the sights and sounds. However, as a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to keep your dog safe. And if your dog is hanging his head out of the window, that may put your pup in an dangerous situation. 

Can my dog sit in my lap in the car? 

It might seem like a good alternative to hold your dog in your lap while you drive. But this is not safe, either7 . It’s highly distracting for you as the driver to have a pet sitting on your lap.

In the case of a crash, your dog might be thrown out of the windshield or injured by the airbag deploying. A small dog might also cause an accident by jumping down to the floor where you’re trying to use the gas and brake pedals. 

Can my dog ride in the back of my truck? 

If you have a pickup truck, you might be tempted to let your dog ride in the bed of the truck. However, this is not a good idea, either.

Similarly to the dangers of sticking his head out the window, your dog might fall out, become injured by flying debris, or sustain ear damage from the wind. They could also suffer heat stroke and/or the metal truck bed could burn their paws.   

It’s not a good idea to let your dog ride in the back of a pickup truck. If that’s your only option, however, American Humane advises that you put your dog inside a crate and secure the crate to the walls of your truck bed8. 

How should my dog ride in the car? 

Traffic safety experts say that it’s not safe for your dog to move freely around your car. So if your dog shouldn’t hang its head out the window, sit in your lap, or move around the car while you drive, how should your dog ride in the car?  

The New York Times recommends using a travel harness to secure your dog in the backseat9. You could also purchase a travel carrier that straps into place, ensuring your dog won’t go flying in the case of an accident.   

When driving with your dog, it is important that you make sure they stay secured in the backseat. That way, they’ll be safe and you won’t be distracted. And if you’re worried that your dog is missing out on the full experience of taking a ride in the car, safely crack the windows very slightly so your dog can smell the fresh air from a safe distance.  

Taking safety precautions while driving with your dog in the car is an essential part of being a responsible pet owner. 

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 can help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget.

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.


1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC. 

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.   

6ABC News: Why do dogs stick their heads out car windows?: August 17 2018, Simon Royal 

7American Veterinary Medical Association: Pets in vehicles 

8American Humane: General safety rules, August 25 2016 

9New York Times: Dogs in cars, getting there safely, December 17 2019, Norman Mayersohn

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