h to be a dog.
Imagine never having to get up for work; lazing around in a sunny spot, or on the couch after the humans have left the home. The fun of seeing other dogs on a nice long walk, and getting to bark at them. And of course the endless diverting sport of the single-minded pursuit of the tossed stick or ball.
All of this pales, of course, to the dandiest dog endeavor of all: the car ride. Imagine the joy of the open window– the doggy body inside the vehicle while the doggy head sticks out, ears and fur ruffled by the breeze.
What exactly is it about sticking your head out the car window that makes it such a treat for canines?
Some dog experts say it’s less what is seen, and rather more what is smelled. If a human sticks their head out the window, they get a few whiffs of fumes, hot concrete, and possibly the restaurant up the block. But a dog doesn’t have to be a bloodhound to have a truly excellent sense of smell, and they are going to smell a whole lot more than you and me.
There are a lot of differences between dogs and people, but one big one is this: humans have smell (or olfactory) membranes that are about the size of a postage stamp, with about 5 million olfactory receptors. Dogs, on the other hand, have big noses for a reason: it’s where their handkerchief-sized olfactory membranes are, with some 225 million scent receptors.
Odors in the air move over the dog’s scent receptors. With more moving air, more scents to be detected. So at 35 miles per hour in a moving car, it’s like a doggy smellgasbord.
This is a big difference between human and dog behavior: your dog can’t wait to get head and nose outside the vehicle, while drivers have long looked for advances in glass engineering to protect drivers who remained inside the vehicle.
The oldest ‘horseless carriages’ began adding glass to protect drivers, but the problem was that at first the glass back then wasn’t all it was cracked up to be—especially when it really was actually cracked up during an accident. But in 1903, a French chemist named Edouard Benedictus happily kick-started the creation of shatter-resistant glass. It wasn’t on purpose; Benedictus accidentally dropped a glass flask filled with a dried collodion (a nitrocellulose mixture of alcohol and either used to coat photographs or in surgical applications) film. Glass so-coated would crack, but keep its shape. No sharp flying bits of glass, which everyone had to agree was a big improvement.
All this was terrific for the auto industry and humans in general.
Now your dog doesn’t really care about these safety improvements—once in the car, all he or she wants is to get that snout out. But thinking about safety should include your pets, and there are lots of reasons why—no matter what your dog thinks—you shouldn’t let them stick their head out the window.
When your dog’s head is out the window, dust, dirt, rocks—anything that can get kicked up along the road—can get into nose, eyes, and ears. Scratches and punctures are genuine risks, which increase with speed. But let’s say you really, really don’t want your dog to miss the out-of-window treat, and you train your pooch to wear glasses, like Snoopy did in Peanuts. There’s still a problem: doggy ear flaps– pinnae — can become tender and swollen from the wind. Or worse, actual trauma to the ear can occur and the scar tissues that ensues can create life-long problems for your canine companion.
And there’s the situation you mother always warned you about: sticking your head out the window can mean having it bashed by an outside object. Not to mention the fact that a dog may see something so, er, doggone exciting that the animal leaps from the moving vehicle. Broken bones, internal injuries, or death are a big price to pay for a Sunday drive.
Ultimately, the best place for your dog to ride is next to you, inside the car. You can both enjoy looking at the moving spectacle outside the vehicle window, and both of you can arrive at your destination healthy, happy, and secure.
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