Why Do Dogs Love Car Rides?

If you have a dog, then chances are that he or she loves to ride in the car with you. No matter how big or small your errand, your four-legged friend yearns for the ability to stick its head out of the window and feel the wind in its face. Aside from being one with Mother Nature in a speeding car, why do dogs love car rides so much?

The science behind why dogs love car rides

A dog with sunglasses on hangs his head out a car window
A dog with sunglasses on hangs his head out a car window. | HELEN H. RICHARDSON

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The main reason that dogs love car rides is that they get an intense sensory experience when they hang their heads out of the window. According to Life with Dogs, “a human’s nose has up to 5 million olfactory receptors, but a dog’s nose can have up to 300 million.” Dr. Melissa Bain, a veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, told the publication, “I’m not sure if they’re getting high, per se. But they are getting a lot of input at higher speed.”

This “input” is essentially akin to the dopamine hit that we humans experience when we watch a good movie or go on a rollercoaster – if you’re into that sort of thing. However, the large blast of wind is only part of the reason that dogs love car rides. Another part of the process is that they simply like going to different places as well as hunting.

That’s right, some pet behaviorists suspect that riding in a car feels like hunting to a dog. The car’s forward motion makes the dog feel that he or she is part of a hunting experience, which can give them a euphoric feeling.

How long of a car ride is too long for a dog?

While some dogs can endure a longer car ride than others, some pet experts recommend that you stop every two hours to allow your canine buddy to stretch. Fido needs to stretch his legs just as much as you do.

How Stuff Works reports that your dog should always be strapped in by a seat belt when traveling by car. There are plenty of pet seats and crates on the market that can be secured with a seat belt for longer trips.

Also, be sure to keep the air cycling through the car during your road trip to keep your pet comfortable. Although it goes without saying, never leave your dog in a hot car when you take a rest break either.

How long can dogs hold their pee in a car?

Miniature Pinscher looks out car window
A miniature Pinscher looks out the car window. | Angelo Merendino/Corbis via Getty Images

It depends on the age of the dog, but as a general rule of thumb, dogs can hold their pee for anywhere from one (for a puppy) to eight hours (for an adult dog). Although it may be possible for your dog to hold its pee or even stave off eating for a while, it’s still recommended to take a break from driving every couple of hours to feed and/or relieve them.

After all, it’s not about the destination or the rest stops, it’s about the journey. And while your dog may love taking a walk at a much-needed rest area or park, they probably love riding in the car even more. And now we know why.

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