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Home > Dogs > Why Do Dogs Like Car Rides? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Safety Tips

Why Do Dogs Like Car Rides? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Safety Tips

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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When the weather gets warmer, dogs sticking their heads out of cars becomes a more frequent sight to see. Not all dogs enjoy car rides, but it seems like the ones that do absolutely love it.

While we don’t have a straight answer as to why dogs love car rides so much, we can speculate several reasons based on scientific research and evidence on dog behavior and biology. Here are five possible reasons why dogs like car rides.

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The 5 Reasons Why Dogs Like Car Rides

1. Dogs Anticipate an Adventure

Many dogs are able to associate car rides with getting to a desirable destination. Therefore, dogs that only go in cars when they’re due for vet visits or grooming appointments may not particularly enjoy car rides because of a negative association.

However, many dog owners will take their dogs in their cars to get them to fun places, such as the dog park or a friend’s house. This habit can train dogs to get excited whenever they get in the car because they know the ride will probably lead them to a fun place.

maltese dog sitting in the car
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

2. Car Rides Stimulate the Senses

While many humans rely heavily on sight, dogs have powerful noses that they use to gather information about the world around them. Therefore, they’re much more interested than we are in sniffing out different objects and areas.

A car ride can awaken and stimulate a dog’s sense of smell because of the speed of the car moving from place to place. This could be the reason why they like to stick their head out of cars. The breeze may be nice, but the drive could be satisfying their need to sniff. Also, each time the car stops at a stoplight, a dog is able to enjoy a fresh scene filled with new scents.

3. Dogs Like the Change of Scenery

Most dogs are naturally curious and love when their cognition is challenged and stimulated. A car ride can satisfy a dog’s curious nature because it includes a fresh set of sights, scents, and sounds.

Car rides can help dogs alleviate and exercise feelings of boredom as they take in and process new information. They can be a great way to keep dogs entertained and stimulated, which can reduce the frequency and severity of challenging behaviors.

dog on a car seat cover at the back
Image Credit: Amazon

4. Dogs Enjoy Being With Their Families

Dogs are companion animals, so many will love any excuse to spend extra time with their loved ones. Oftentimes, all of your dog’s favorite people can end up piling in a car and going someplace together. While the destination may be unknown, a dog can just be happy to be included in the action.

Dogs that have a healthy and strong bond with their owners develop attachments to them. Both humans and dogs can cause each other to release oxytocin in their systems, which only strengthens their relationship. Therefore, spending time together on car rides can be a great bonding experience for dogs and their family members.

5. Cars Have Our Scents

A study published in 2015 showed that dogs can become happy from the mere scent of their owners. If you spend a good part of your day in your car, there’s a good chance that it can become a sort of a happy place for your dog because of your scent.

So, being in a car can be a great combo for your dog as it already has your scent, and it’s a place where they can spend more time with you.

Dog in yellow car
Image Credit: nicholas byrne, Unsplash


How to Make Car Rides Safe for Dogs

If you have a dog that gets excited about car rides, it’s important to practice safety so that your dog or any of your passengers aren’t at risk of getting injured. Here are some things you can do for your dog to keep them safe inside the car.

Lay Mats for Extra Grip

Some car seat materials, such as leather, can be slippery for dogs, and your dog’s claws can also damage them. You can try laying down mats or carpeting with a rubber bottom to prevent your dog from sliding around, especially if they’re placed in the backseat.

Get a Seat Belt

Your local pet stores or online pet supply stores often supply dog seat belts. These seat belts usually clip onto a harness so that your dog stays in place. Dog seat belts are especially helpful for smaller dog breeds that have a higher tendency to slip around while you’re making turns with your car. You can also get a booster seat that safely contains and cradles your dog.

Keep Window Up at Appropriate Height

While it may be cute to see a dog sticking their happy head out the car window, it’s important to keep your dog contained inside. You don’t have to keep windows completely shut while your dog’s in the car.

Just make sure that it’s cracked open just enough so that their muzzle can safely get through without getting stuck. A dog’s head shouldn’t be able to completely stick out the window. While they may not be able to jump out at this setting, it can potentially cause neck injuries if your car jolts forward. Your dog can also accidentally get hit by any flying debris.

dog standing on a car seat cover
Image Credit: Christine Bird, Shutterstock



It may be unclear as to why dogs like car rides so much, but it’s very clear that it can be a fun activity that dogs can participate in with their owners. So, just make sure to follow proper safety procedures while your dog’s in the car with you, and you’re sure to have many fun car rides while enjoying each other’s company.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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