Most dogs tend to absolutely love car rides. The classic image of a big dog waving its face in the wind as it sticks its head out the car window is something just about everyone connects with pet adventures.
So, why is this the case? Why do dogs like car rides so much? Is it something they learn as they grow or something they are just born with?
Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions. You’ll also learn ways to make your dogs like car rides even more and ways to keep your pet safe during a car ride.
Why Do Dogs Like Car Rides?
Dogs go crazy for car rides because many of the elements present in an average car ride are wonderful for them. These include activities they are genetically predisposed to enjoy and those they grow to love over time.
For one, a car ride is not just a car ride. It is a moment when they get to travel outside the house with you rather than stay at home. As pack animals, dogs don’t want to be separated from you. This is why around 20% of dogs deal with separation anxiety. It is part of their genetic makeup to want to go with you, which means when you go into the car, they want to be there, too.
In addition, dogs are wired for exploration. Their noses have anywhere between 200 million and 1 billion sensors that are made for snooping out odor molecules; humans, on the other hand, only have around 5 million. Simply being in the car gives them access to tons of new smells, and then going somewhere after that gives them access to even more.
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In addition, car rides often end up associated with something positive. You may be taking them to the park, where they have an opportunity to run around and play, or to visit a friend or relative, where they may get even more attention and love from others. If this happens enough, your dog may start to learn that these car rides often come with a reward of some kind. So, they start to associate any ride with these rewards, which makes them excited for any ride.
Instinct to Run
Finally, car rides trigger a dog’s instinct to run. The motion of the car and the sight of the world flying by all make your dog feel like they are moving incredibly fast.
Getting Your Dog to Like Car Rides
While dogs are generally inclined to like car rides, this isn’t always the case. Some dogs hate going into the car and will refuse to do so. If this is the case for your dog, you may want to find a way to train them out of this behavior and teach them to like car rides. Luckily, this is entirely possible.
You can start by making the drive as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Make them comfortable by setting them up in a luxurious car bed. You may even want to position them in a way that allows them to see out the window, which will trigger their sense of exploration and wonder. In addition, avoid things that could upset your pet. Don’t use harsh cleaning supplies or other chemicals, as these strong scents could make your pet uncomfortable. If you have to use something for pet odors in your car, choose something that contains natural ingredients instead.
Then, start going on short rides to start things out. You may want to just go around the block or somewhere within your own neighborhood. Make sure these rides include treats, as this will connect the ride with a positive experience in their mind.
As your pet gets used to being in the car, you can go further. However, for a while, try to keep all of your trips to somewhere your pet enjoys. Taking them to the vet or somewhere they hate will connect unpleasant places with car rides. As they are still learning to like car rides, make sure the majority of these rides are to fun places.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe on a Car Ride
Whether you are going with your pet on a fun ride or are just trying to get them from point A to point B, it is important to keep them safe. With 39,508 fatal car accidents taking place in the US in a single year, a car ride always has the potential to be dangerous. This is even more true when it comes to your four-legged friend, as they are often less protected, and their bodies are less resilient. To prevent something from going wrong, you need to remember a few key considerations.
Beware of Windows
For one, watch out for windows. Letting your dog stick their head out the window seems like a fun idea, but it can be dangerous. Your dog can jump out and be injured, especially if you are moving at fast speeds. If you have a sunroof, make sure this is closed as well.
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In addition, you need to ensure that your dog does not become a distraction. You may love having them around you, but if they jump into your lap or do something to pull your arm, it could cause an accident and injure both you and them.
Secure Your Pet
To keep your dog safe on a car ride, keep the windows closed and keep your pet in a safe place. You may want to put them in a carrier so they can’t run around in the car. If this isn’t an option, throw a car cover over the back seat and let them set up shop there. You can use a pet seat belt or otherwise secure them, which will prevent them from becoming a distraction or interrupting your driving. You may not like this separation on the car ride, but it is safer for everyone.
Understand Dogs and Their Love for Car Rides
At some point in their life, your dog will likely have to go on a car ride. Whether they love their rides or hate them, you need to be prepared for how your pet will react and how you will react to them. Understanding what makes dogs love car rides and how you can treat them on car rides is a big part of this.
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