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Don't let your dog hang their head out the car window. Here's why

Our on-staff vet explains where dogs should sit in the car, too.

You’re probably no stranger to seeing a dog with their head hanging out the car window, ears flapping in the breeze and a wide smile across their face. Most curious dogs enjoy the experience.

We hate to spoil a good time, but driving with the windows down while your pup is in the car or letting them hang their heads out of the window can lead to scary and serious consequences. But that doesn’t mean the fun has to end completely. Our on-staff veterinarian shares some safe ways for your pup to enjoy the car.

Why do dogs stick their heads out the window? 

“Many dogs enjoy feeling the wind on their faces as the car moves, and they can explore all the smells in the air,” Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

Dogs are naturally curious animals, and sticking their head out of the window helps them to adapt better to the environment around them. But dogs don’t understand the dangers associated with the pastime, but as pet parents — it’s our responsibility to learn about them. 

What are the risks of letting your dog hang their head out of the car window? 

Injury is the biggest risk of driving with the window down when your pup is in the car. 

“If a dog decides to jump out of the window, they can severely injure themselves, depending on how fast the car is going, how far down they fall and what surface they hit,” Dr. Singler shares. “They will then be at risk of being hit by another car.”

And even if your dog doesn’t intentionally jump out of the car window, they’re also at risk of falling out. Outdoor elements, like things flying through the air, could also injure your pup if their head is out the window. 

Dogs can also obstruct your view when hanging out the window, leading to a greater chance of getting into an accident, too. 

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How can pet parents safely drive with their dogs?

Car safety starts with making sure your dog has a seat belt or rides in a carrier, the safest place for small crates being on the floor behind the passenger seat, Dr. Singler says. 

And just because it’s unsafe for dogs to hang their head out of the car doesn’t mean the window has to be completely closed. Instead, open it a crack or a little more, depending on your dog’s size, and then lock the windows. That way, your pup can enjoy the air and smells without opening the window themselves or jumping out.

Besides a seat belt or crate, if your pup has anxiety, they might benefit from having a blanket, bed or familiar toys around them while you’re driving to help them calm down. Anxious dogs might try to jump out of a car window or get out of their car seat, so your veterinarian might prescribe them anti-anxiety medication to take on the road. 

If the slightly-opened window is a no-go, Dr. Singler recommends letting your seat-belted pup sit in front of a vent to experience the glory of air conditioning. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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