While some dogs love car journeys and others hate them, there is one almost universal truth regarding dogs and car trips. Unless your dog is so scared that they are cowering under the seat, they will more than likely make it their mission to get as close to an open window as possible, sticking their nose and even their whole head out of it if at all possible!
This canine behaviour is so common and pervasive that often, dog owners do not really give it any thought, other than to ensure that their dogs cannot actually climb out of the window, or get their heads far enough out that they might be in danger. But for your dog, the moving car and open window are almost literally hypnotic, and there is a lot going on in your dog’s mind and senses while they do this!
Read on to learn more about why dogs love sticking their noses (or whole heads!) out of a moving car window.
Most of us are somewhat unhappy or may even feel car sick if we cannot see what is going on when in the car, and for some of us, we feel most comfortable when facing the direction of travel. Dogs too are of course inquisitive, fun-loving animals who want to see what is going on around them, and this means getting up close to a window. From your dog’s height sitting or lying down, they will only be able to see a small portion of what is happening at the top level of the windows within their line of sight, which may well consist of sky, the occasional tree and not much else!
Many dogs want to see everything that is passing them by, and so will get up close to whatever window they are within reach of, and do what they can to look out.
Fresh air of course also has a lot of appeal for dogs, and it doesn’t come much fresher than the open window of an otherwise closed up car! Fresh air is refreshing and invigorating for your dog, and the sensation of the wind rushing past them can provide an appealing stimulus to them as well. Free access to fresh air when in the car can also potentially help to counteract car sickness, and so if your dog is prone to sickness in the car, getting their nose out of the window and experiencing fresh air and plenty of oxygen to breathe deeply may help to counteract potential car sickness in the dog.
The dog’s most developed sense is of course their sense of smell, and dogs can smell things with a degree of sensitivity thousands of times better than people can, and can distinguish between thousands of different smells that we are not even able to pick up. Dogs can also smell things from a much greater distance away than we can, meaning that dogs rely upon their sense of smell more than any other individual sense, and are much more sensitive to the presence of interesting and unusual smells.
When you are moving along in the car at any speed, the car will of course be passing through many different environments, filled with different dogs, people, buildings, wildlife and everything else. When you take into account the speed of the car, the different smells that all of these things give off will come and go quickly, resulting in a bombardment of the olfactory senses of the dog that they will find incredibly interesting and appealing, and almost impossible to leave alone!
A dog sticking his nose or head out of the window is likely to be in almost a semi-trance, taking in all of the scents that are passing them by, often too fast for them to fully process. The effect is almost like catnip for cats!
Seeing, hearing and especially smelling everything passing them by in total makes for an awesome spell of entertainment for the dog, and something that they will usually very much enjoy if they are comfortable in general in the car. They might bark at or give off signals to dogs passed walking along, spot fun-looking parks and other sources of entertainment, and generally have a lot of fun getting involved in the whole journey.
It is important to keep your dog safe when in a moving car, and they should be restrained in one place either in a suitable crate or carrier, or in a dog-safe car harness. It is fine to let your dog get their nose out of a window and keep a window near to them open, but it can be risky to let them get their whole head out of the window, as they might hit an obstacle or begin to try to climb out. Keep your dog within the profile of the car, do not let them get too far out of the window, and make sure that they are properly restrained. Enjoy your journey!