Ears blown back, jowls flapping, eyes closed to slits of ecstasy... for many dogs, a trip in the car is pure joy, and if they get to hang their head out the window while the car moves, it's the closest they can get to heaven while still on earth. Since not all humans enjoy the sensation of a windstorm in the face, you might wonder why Fido loves it so much. Though only dogs know why for certain, there are theories to explain this common doggy practice.
Though we can't know for sure, most dogs look like they're having fun hanging their head out the car window. The simple excitement of being out of the house and traveling somewhere with their owner might be fun enough. Or perhaps the thrill of fast movement, someone else driving and wind whipping in their face is similar to the thrill a human feels when riding a roller coaster.
Just like humans, dogs like to see where they're going and check out interesting sights along the way. The typical pet spends most of his day at home, often locked inside the house while his owners are at work. A trip in the car is an exciting opportunity to break the monotony. Many dogs aren't tall enough to see out the car windows without standing up on their hind legs, and once they are up against the window, hanging their head out gives an even better view of everything along the road. Fido might especially enjoy seeing and barking at other dogs.
The most common reason animal experts give for the canine thrill of windsurfing out the car window is all the exciting smells outside. Fido's nose is amazingly powerful. It's estimated that a dog's sense of smell is between ten thousand and one hundred thousand times better than a person’s, and his brain devotes 40 percent more power to analyzing smells than your own. With his head hanging out the car window, Fido can savor an incredible range of odors. His sensitive nose gives him information about his surroundings, other dogs or animals in the area, food aromas and stinky things that dogs enjoy smelling. For Fido, poking his head out the car window might be the canine equivalent of your reading the local newspaper to keep up with events in your town.
Though Fido might love to sniff in the wind of the open road, it's not entirely safe. With his head hanging out the window, his eyes become dry and are exposed to any debris, dust or pebbles carried by the wind. Flapping ears are at risk for inflammation, damage from pebbles or the wind itself or infection. If your dog leans too far, he might fall out the window with disastrous results. For safety, keep Fido fully contained inside the car. You can crack the window open for him, but don't let him hang his head outside. Many dog experts recommend keeping Fido in a crate or wearing a canine seatbelt while riding in the car.
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images