Why a Dog Sticks His Head Out The Window

Dog in the car, enjoying the wind in his hair.Driving down the road, you glance at another car going by and the bright jacket of a service dog catches your eye. A fuzzy head is hanging out the rear window, snout turned into the free-flowing breeze, fur blowing fiercely as the car speeds off.

While many thoughts might race through your head, you can’t help but notice that this wind-blown canine looks happy and content. It’s amusing to watch the dog’s face; he appears to be in a state of pure bliss. I wonder why. What is that dog thinking? Does he wish he were cruising in a convertible, checking out the bitches? Is he trying to air out a stale-smelling car? Is he trying to alert passersby that he feels trapped in a moving vehicle and is begging to get out?

Of course, you could speculate all day long, imposing human emotion as to your four-pawed friend’s intent. The truth of why the dog looks so happy with his head protruding into the free-blowing air outside probably has a lot to do with his nose and that avid sense of smell bestowed upon our canine friends. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is so precise that they are riven by their olfactory skills much as humans explore with vision.

Inside the nose of both humans and dogs are bony plates called turbinates that allow air to pass over a scent-detecting membrane. In humans, this membrane is the size of a quarter at best. However, depending on the size of the dog, he or she has olfactory membranes as large as the size of a dinner napkin with more than 125 and up to 300 million receptors. When air breezes across these membranes, molecules containing smells are picked up by the dog’s scent receptors. The more air, the more odor-recognizing potential. Most likely your four-pawed friend wishes some of those delicious smells came in the form of food on a plate.


Danger – Danger

There are obvious dangers to take to heart if you’re considering rolling down the window for your dog. Blissful or not, it is dangerous to let a dog hang his or her face out a car’s window.  In addition to all those delicious smells, comes the reality that the wind can also carry dangerous debris.  Numerous dogs have been seriously injured this way. And, sadly, some dogs have become so excited and intense, they’ve actually fallen out of the car’s window and been killed.

If you have a service dog, one of the strict rules from an accredited service dog organization, is that you may not let your dog hang his or her head out of the window of a moving car.  Indeed, if this was reported, in all likelihood, the organization would take the dog back. No appeals. No excuses. You’ve lost your dog. After all the training you went through, your dog will be retrained and given to someone else.

But, in case you despair in not letting your pampered pooch enjoy this “wind in your face” experience, try this: Take a deep breath and blow directly into your dog’s face and watch his or her reaction.  Get the camera ready to catch that look of . . . disgust. Not so blissful now, eh poochie-poo?




With thanks to Tere J. Scott.

We'd love to get your comments and feedback on this topic and post. To add your comments, scroll to the bottom of the page and "Leave a Reply" (type your thoughts into the text box).


6 Responses to Why a Dog Sticks His Head Out The Window

  1. Mary E. Trimble March 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    When I see a dog with his head hanging out the window, I’ve had those very thoughts. It would seem that those smells would be coming too fast. Guess not–they do love it. We’ve never let our dogs on the car seats–they ride in the back.

  2. Dirk March 2, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi Patricia,

    When you blow in the doggie face and he gives you that disgusting look maybe it’s time to see the dentist about a breath problem of the owner.

  3. Norman W Wilson March 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

    Excellent article. I have often worried about dogs with their heads out a moving car’s window. Insects get in their eyes, throat, and yes, they do fall out. Thanks for reminding people about that danger.

  4. Bill Thorn March 3, 2016 at 4:42 am #

    Very good advice. Except for running into insects, I love to hang my head out of the moving car window too for all the same reasons!! And if you want to blow a breath at me, please direct it to my ear (either one is OK) rather than my nose. Then, I would follow you anywhere!!

  5. Suzanne Wilson March 4, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Lots of good information. Dogs do appear blissful with their heads out the window but as you
    point out it can be dangerous.

  6. Kathleen Kaska March 8, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    I just realized my comment didn’t post. Great information, Patricia. Sometimes I see dogs hanging halfway out the window and I want to stop the driver and ask if he really cares about his dog.

Leave a Reply