The dangers of dogs leaning of a car window when the car is moving

Hey, look. Over there, a dog’s hanging its head out of a moving car window.

We’ve all seen this at some point, and even non-dog lovers will confirm that dogs like sticking their heads out of moving car windows. I was on my way home from my evening jog when I started hearing a dog bark. I usually go for my run after work, and it’s usually dark by the time I’ve finished my park workout.

As I began to approach a set of traffic lights on my jogging route home, the barking got louder, but I still couldn’t see a dog. A few seconds passed, and then I saw a green Volkswagen Golf drive towards me, it’s at this point that I noticed a dog’s head hanging out of the window of the moving car. Note that the time of day was late evening and it was dark outside.

poodle leaning out of a car window

This is not the first time I’ve seen a dog with its head hanging out of a moving car window, but this is the first time that I’d actually paid attention and paused to consider that what I was witnessing was in some way not right. Especially because driving visibility at night is more impaired than during the daytime.

My thought at the time was that the person responsible for the dog was taking a big risk by permitting the dog to hang its head out of their car window at night. However, I honestly don’t think the risks of the poor visibility had crossed the driver’s train of thought. Mind you, the dog appeared to be having a great time, because from the brief glimpse I got of the dog, it appeared to be lapping up the wind whizzing past his face and the buffet of smells rushing through the receptors of his nose.

The dog was probably experiencing something close to a dog equivalent of an adrenaline rush. At least that’s what I have concluded in my attempt to try and understand this type of canine behavior.

Small dog with head out of moving car window

Dogs of all shapes and sizes across all breeds seem to enjoy the experience of sticking their heads out of a car window. But why is that? As I mentioned above, it may be like an adrenaline rush.

Try to imagine a human who likes to ride motorbikes or someone who enjoys extreme sports. Humans have also coined the phrase “speed freak” or “adrenaline junkie.” My opinion is that dogs experience a comparable state when they hang lean out of the window of a moving car.

The dogs head out of car window and human comparison

smiling woman hanging head out of car window

I speak for myself, but I know many people can relate to enjoying the sensation of being in the passenger or back seat of a car on a hot summer day, with the car windows wound down. The wind is rushing past your face to cool you down and gives you a sensation of soothing relief against the backdrop of the penetrating summer heat. It’s possible that dogs gain a comparable degree of satisfaction from their head out of a moving car window antics.

According to Professor Chris Daniels, a zoologist from the University of South Australia, the enhanced sense that dogs possess plays a big role in why dogs stick their heads out of car windows. He goes on to say in his comment on that,

“Their head is jam-packed full of sensors, so when they stick their head out the window, they’ve got this great pressure of air moving at great speed over them, and it’s a sensory overload.”

I’m no professor, but I should state that Professor Daniels’s comment is similar to my opinion about the comparable human adrenaline rush experience that, hypothetically speaking, gets the dog’s blood pumping. Professor Daniels also expresses that the behavior of a dog hanging out of the car window is not an essential need for the dog, but the experience is simply something that a dog will do because it enjoys it. Because it just feels good. Professor Daniels goes further to add that some dogs have even become addicted to the sensation.

“They’ll get into the car and demand the window comes down, so they can get this fix of great sensory overload.”

I’m I hearing correctly, can a dog become an adrenaline junkie? Can this be so? Does this mean the dog will need rehab at some point if he becomes hooked on the buzz of hanging its head out of a moving car window? Excuse my sarcasm, but seriously, I find it hard to grasp the idea of a dog hooked on adrenaline?

Dog hanging its head out of a car window

Different sources of information present different justifications as to why a dog likes to stick its head out of a car window, but a general consensus across all opinions is that it is largely a sensory stimulant, essentially because dogs have high sense receptors in every part of their head (ears, nose, mouth, face), you will notice that some dogs even like to open their mouth.

With that being said, and as fun as the topic may seem, a dog head out of a car window is a dangerous practice, and a dog owner should seriously consider safe ways to transport their canine, like with the use of a portable crate, or a dog seat belt.

What are the risks associated with a leaning out of a car window when the car is moving? 

Dog with a neck Cone

To appreciate the risk that is associated with this practice, it may be useful to point out what could happen in a worst-case scenario. Dog parents and soon to be dog carers pay close attention.

The dogs head out of car window practice is dangerous for dogs because there are objects that could strike the dog in the face. points out some of these dangers by mentioning risks like loose debris puncturing or scratching your dog’s eye. Consider that sometimes pebbles can chip the paintwork on your car or even damage your windscreen. There is a possibility these pieces of flying debris could strike your dog in the face. Apart from this, the possibility of falling out of the car is also very real, as you will see from some of the videos listed further down in this post under the heading “A reason to protect your dog’s safety while driving”

There is a saying that goes, prevention is better than cure, so I will relay a story that my dad shared with me about an accident he had.

One day I asked my dad about a scar he had on his arm. He explained that when he was in his early twenties, he was driving his mum’s car, and he decided to dangle his hand out of the window to posture for some females. It wasn’t long before his arm struck a pole that he didn’t see. I won’t give you the displeasure of explaining the gruesome outcome, but you can imagine that it wasn’t pleasant. To summarize, he had to drive himself to hospital with one arm intact and the other arm loosely flailing.

Now, in the context of a dog head out of a moving car window, I would suspect that a dog parent will attempt to be careful and cautious by probably not winding the window down fully; however, this does not guarantee the probability of an accident not happening. So please be safe and take precautions.

The danger of a dog leaning out of the open window of a moving car is real.

Dog in neck brace laying on the pavement next to a red car

I’ve learned about the vital reasons why dogs should not be allowed to hang out of moving cars by watching some videos on YouTube. Some dogs have jumped, and some dogs have even fallen out of the window. So, yep, it may be a sensory rush of adrenaline for Rex and Rover, but Rex and Rover’s life and health are being placed at risk by this behavior. Let’s be responsible, folks.

A reason to protect your dog’s safety while driving

Below are a collection of videos that show worst-case scenario situations of what can happen when a dog parent is not attentive to their dog being in the car while they are driving and with their dogs head out of the car window. I hope all the dogs in the clips ended up safe and healthy, but the outcomes of the videos depict the real dangers of allowing a dog to hang its head out of a car window when being transported.

And another reason  why should avoid your dog leaning out of car window

And another one

I hope you get the point.  I seriously hope that the videos allow you to fully grasp the lesson that I’m trying to convey. Some of the videos presented above may have been slightly shocking to watch. If you were unpleasantly shocked, then please accept my apologies.

I think that the shock factor will create awareness that causes people who care for dogs to prioritize a dog’s safety when transporting it. Dogs love to be driven in cars, and the assurance of having a seatbelt harness for your dog will make the driving experience enjoyable for both the dog and human.

So what are some of the options for transporting a dog in a car?

dog with harneess holding car steering wheel

Dog crates are the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about safe ways to transport a dog in a car. However, dog crates have been proven to be less effective in the event of high impact collisions. The high impact test in the video below provides evidence to support the downside of transporting with crates. But be advised that a crate is better than nothing. The other alternative is car seat belts for dogs or a harness. The video clip below shows a dog car seat belt and harness in action.

Dog seat belts and dog car harnesses and what they can do to improve the safety of transporting your dog in a car

two poodles in the rea of a car wearing dog car harness

The majority of dog car harnesses available on the market complement your car’s existing seat belt configuration. Harnesses work by combining the functionality of a human seatbelt with the ability to restrain sporadic dog movement. Note that a high-quality quality seatbelt harness should be used irrespective of the size of your dog.

Below is another example of a  car seat belt that has been designed for dogs. The process to fix the seat belt to the car seems straight forward enough, and almost brings back memories of my children when they were babies, and I had to fix their car seats into the car. In this case, the key thing that needs to be retained is that to safely transport a dog from destination A to B, a dog car seat belt does a very good job to facilitate this goal.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Some practical solutions to a problem that some dog owners probably didn’t know existed. I genuinely think that some dog owners aren’t aware of the risks associated with not securing their dogs when transporting the dog in a car. It’s either this or these owners don’t want to acknowledge the associated risks with a dog leaning out of a car window whilst the car is moving. It may look cute, the human may feel the dog is being given a treat, and the dog may be getting a dog equivalent of an adrenaline rush, but whichever way you look at it, it is extremely dangerous.

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