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7 Things Your Dog Should Never Do in the Car

We love car travel with our dogs, whether it’s on vacation, a doggie day trip or just to the bank’s drive-through window. But safety has to take priority on every trip, no matter how short. Here’s a list of seven things your dog should never do in the car. How do you score on this list?

This is a topic we’re very opinionated about: what your dog should NEVER do in the car. Whether we’re out running around our hometown or traveling long distances with Barli and Tiki, we see many risky behaviors that put not only dog but driver (and passenger) lives at risk. Please take a few moments to read and share this important information.

Many of these tips require little or no investment other than a little time and thought, just as if you were buckling your child in a safety seat (or putting on your own seat belt). The laws are changing in a growing number of states on many of these topics but, regardless of whether your state legislates some of these important safety considerations, please take it on yourself to make sure you are transporting your dog the safest way possible!

7 things your dog should never do in a car

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Ride without being secured in the car.

We all buckle up our seat belts out of habit.

Please make securing your dog inside your car a habit as well. The ride will be safer not only for your dog but for you and your passengers as well because, in the case of a sudden stop or accident, your unsecured  dog becomes a projectile.

Whether you opt for a pet booster seat for your small dog, a secured crate, or, like us, harnesses and seat belts for your dog, please make sure your dog is secure and safe in your car.

Ride with his head out the window.

Yes, we know dogs like to have their heads out the window of a moving car. They love it, in fact. And children would probably like to ride on the hood of the car, too, but that’s just not up for discussion, right?

This is the same thing. As responsible pet parents, we have to just say no to this one.

An unsecured dog is at risk of falling out a moving vehicle. Even if your dog is secured, he’s at risk of getting an insect (or a rock!) embedded in his eye.

In college, I had an insect wing get embedded in my left eye while driving with the window down. The insect wing had to be cut out of my eyeball. It’s just not worth the risk to your dog’s health.

If you absolutely must let your dog poke his head out the window, please invest in a pair of Doggles and be sure your dog is wearing them and is secured in the car.

Ride in Your Lap.

I’m old enough to remember children riding in the front seat in their mother’s laps.

Now no one would think of letting children in their lap yet many people sit in the front seat–and even in the driver’s seat–with their dog in their lap.

It’s illegal to ride with a dog in your lap in several states with proposed legislation in other states–but you don’t have to rely on a law to do the right thing for both you and your dog. Please secure your dog in his own seat.

Sit in the Passenger Seat.

The weight of your dog in the passenger seat will signal to the corresponding air bag that it needs to deploy in the case of an accident, possibly injuring (or worse) your dog with its 200 mph force when it suddenly deploys.

If you put your small dog in the passenger seat, he needs to be up on a booster seat that doesn’t apply any weight to the seat itself.

Some cars have on-off switches for the passenger air bags as well.

In general, though, the back seat is the safest place for your dog!

Remain in the Car Unattended.

Please don’t leave your dog alone in the car.

It’s illegal to leave a dog in the car in some locations due to the number of dogs that die every year from extreme heat. It only takes minutes for the temperatures to rise to deadly levels in your car, even with cracked windows.

Even if you think it’s cool enough for your dog, please don’t take this chance,

Also, you’re leaving your dog open to the risk of theft, either of your dog or of your car. (Just think how many cars are stolen every year!) Plan your trips so that you can either take your dog with you or leave your dog safely at home.

Ride in the Bed of a Pickup.

Thankfully this is becoming illegal in more and more states but it’s not against the law everywhere. Just don’t do it…ever…

Stand on the Console Between Seats.

Dogs in the back seat (even secured dogs) can sometimes reach that console between the front seats, putting their front feet up there to ask for a pat. In doing so, though, they distract you from your driving.

Train your dog not to put his feet on that console or restrain him so that he can’t reach that area.

We know if your car is small and your dog is large, that’s not always possible, though. There is a product from Kurgo called Auto Grass that quickly secures around your console with plastic buckles and discourages your dog from putting those front feet up on the console (or from crawling up into the front seat, if unsecured).

Just a few minutes of pre-trip preparation can make your trip safe for both you AND your dog!

Melissa Gonzalez

Thursday 16th of July 2020

Help! I need to figure out how to secure our three dogs in the backseat of our F-350. Our 5 year old will also be in the back seat in his car seat. The truck will be towing a 5th wheel so the possibility of securing crates in the bed is not an option. Any suggestions would be great!


Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Please travel safely with your pets - very good article - p.s make sure cats are as secure!!

James Webb

Wednesday 20th of March 2019

Great article! I find this article relevant to one of the most common problems that we, pet parents encounter when traveling with dogs. For me, I like taking my dogs for a little trip to the beach and having them inside the car is truly challenging. I've been struggling with it for over a year, but, thanks to various blogs like this, I've learned a few techniques on how to travel with my best pals, particularly in keeping them from distracting me while driving. Hopefully, this post will help dog owners out there as well. Cheers!

Sandy Weinstein

Tuesday 19th of March 2019

my 2 girls sit in the passenger side, but they have seatbelts. my car automatically turns off the air bags. i have a hard time with the youngest because she likes to sit on the console. she likes to look out the window and see.

Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Thursday 21st of March 2019

That console is like a dog magnet! Is she small enough that you could get her a booster seat so she could see out better but still be safely buckled?

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