As any dog owner will tell you, there are few things in life a dog loves more than sticking their head out of the window of a moving car. Most dogs love to go for a ride in the car (as long as that ride does not take them to the vet!) and gravitate to an open window in the moving car so they can stick their heads out and enjoy the breeze. Which really begs the question: why do dogs love doing this so much? Is it about feeling the breeze through their hair or is there another reason they enjoy sticking their heads out of a car window?
As it turns out, this behavior is not just about the breeze. In fact, it is about much more than the flow of air—it is about what the air can offer the dog. According to Robin Foster, Ph.D., who is a research professor of animal behavior at the University of Puget Sound, dogs stick their heads out of car windows to gather information. When a dog sticks their head outside the car, says Foster, they receive a tremendous amount of olfactory information about the world around them—in other words, they are getting a large amount of information through their noses.
When a dog sticks their heads into the breeze or wind caused by a moving car, says Robin Foster, the air is being forced into their noses and can intensify the odors in the air. Even if a dog cannot physically stick their heads outside of a window, they can still stiff at or near the window to gather information or intel on the world around them. Smell is very important to dogs and they can recognize places and driving routes using their high-powered noses alone.
So, the next time your dog gets excited when you near the dog park or local pet store while in the car, you’ll know why!