Saturday, May 29, 2010
By Linda Cole
Why does your dog look at you like, “Is that really necessary” when you blow in his face, yet loves hanging his head out a car window going 60 MPH down the road? But just because dogs like hanging their heads out car windows doesn't mean we should let them do it.
I had a dog, Kirby, who loved to ride in the car and I took him with me as often as I could. I wouldn't let him hang his head out the window when we were going down the highway, but didn't think he could get into trouble in town. My car had high seats in the front and I made him ride in the back seat with the back windows rolled up. So, I figured he was safe. As it turned out, I was wrong. One day as I went around a corner, Kirby was excited and leaned out my open window before I knew what he was doing. Thankfully, I was going slow and slammed on the brakes in time to avoid running over him. He was fine, but needless to say, I was shaken and from that moment on, I never roll car windows down all the way when I have a dog with me in the car.
Falling out of a moving vehicle isn't the only danger for dogs who hang their heads out car windows. A dog's eyes can become targets for bugs, small rocks, pieces of debris on the roadway and dust. Think about what a small rock can do to your windshield if it hits just right, even at a slow speed. How many little chips does your car grill have from all the tiny rocks that have hit it? Imagine what a rock could do to your dog's eye, not to mention what the vet bill could do for your wallet. And if your dog has allergies, the dust and pollen rushing into his face isn't going to help his condition.
Dogs who hang their heads out car windows are also at risk for ear infections from wind blown particles or just by the wind blowing their ears. As their ears flap in the wind, blood can pool in the soft tissue of their ear flaps. The constant flapping of the ears against their head can cause the ear flaps to swell which is painful. If a dog is allowed to hang his head out the car window a lot, scar tissue will form in the soft tissue of the ears. This can damage them permanently and give the dog lifelong ear problems.
Riding in a car for a dog is exciting, with all kinds of smells rushing through an open window. Think about it like this. Imagine all of the sights and smells you're surrounded with at the county fair. Popcorn, hot dogs, cotton candy, burgers, people laughing and having a good time, eating and going on rides. A county fair is full of new experiences and smells that stimulate us from head to toe. That's how a dog feels riding down the road in the car. Their senses are on overdrive as they sniff out and see all sorts of things that change as the car moves down the road. But as responsible pet owners, safety should come first, and letting dogs hang their heads out car windows isn't a good idea.
That's not saying your dog can't enjoy their ride in a car. The window only needs to be cracked to allow all the wonderful smells to enter the car and surround your dog. There's nothing wrong with open windows in the car, if your dog is buckled in like the rest of the family which will keep him from falling out the window and still allow him to sniff all the enticing smells. That way he has the best of both worlds without hanging his head out the car window, and you can concentrate on driving the car.
Letting a dog ride in the bed of a truck isn't a good idea either. The dog risks injury from falling out of the truck, has increased risk from flying debris and can burn the soft tissue on their paws by standing on the hot metal of the truck bed. Dogs have no idea what a vehicle's speed means and if they get the urge to jump, they will. If you want to take your dog with you in your truck, please read How to Transport Dogs Safely in Pickup Trucks.
Responsible parents don't let their children do things that could put them in danger. As responsible pet owners, we shouldn’t put our dog's safety and health in danger by letting them hang their heads out car windows.
Read more articles by Linda Cole