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Joyful Rides: Making the Car Safer for Dogs

Here are ways to make your vehicle dog-friendly that will help protect your furry friend so you both can enjoy the ride


For many dogs, there’s nothing better than getting to go for a ride with you in the car. Whether they know it as “ride,” or “going bye-bye,” many pups will start wagging those tails when they know they’ll be on the road. 

Cars are fun, but they can also be dangerous. Here are ways to make your vehicle dog-friendly that will help protect your furry friend so you both can enjoy the ride. 

  • Always secure your dog: Whether it’s using a car harness, doggie car seat or crash-tested carrier, make sure your pup is safe. Dogs are like anyone else in your car — if you stop suddenly or have even a fender bender accident, your dog can be thrown and injured. You also don’t want your pooch climbing on you and distracting you from keeping your eyes on the road. Some states and local jurisdictions mandate how dogs must travel in a vehicle, so make sure you know the law. 
  • Turn off power windows: If your dog is in a doggie car seat or in a harness and can still reach the power window buttons, turn them off. While it’s fun for your pup to lean out the window and feel the breeze on her face, it’s also dangerous. She could be hit by tree limbs or flying debris, possibly causing serious injury. 
  • Get seat covers: After a romp at the beach or a picnic in the park, your dog might be a little wet, sandy, or muddy. Protect your seats by getting a form-fitting moisture-resistant seat cover for them. 
  • Add to your emergency kit: When you create the emergency kit for your car, make sure you always have an extra water bowl and water for your dog. Take along additional towels and blankets and an extra leash too. 
  • Get a dog ramp or stairs: If your large pooch is getting older and can no longer jump into the car, get him a dog ramp. He’ll love you for it. Dog ramps and stairs may come as fold-up pieces that fit in the back of your car or SUV. Some of them are stable enough so they don’t have to attach to your vehicle, but some steps attach to a rear trailer hitch. Others attach to the bottom of your passenger entry or tailgate. 
  • Install sunshades: Dogs can get hot in the car even when the air-conditioning is on, so putting a child sunshade on windows can also help your pet feel more comfortable during rides. 
  • Remove anything chewable: Giving dogs treats on long rides can help keep them occupied, but be sure to also remove anything in your car that they shouldn’t chew, especially on long trips. 
  • Never leave your dog: It’s never OK to leave your pet in an unattended car, especially in the heat — even if it’s left running with the air on. If your air or car has mechanical issues, your car will turn into an oven in a matter of just a few minutes. 
  • Take frequent breaks: Just like humans, our dogs need to stretch their legs and make potty stops. Offer your dog water during breaks. 
  • Don’t feed your dog too much beforehand: If your dog’s stomach is too full, she may become car sick on long rides. Plan ahead — if you know your dog gets car sick, speak to your veterinarian about a prescription or over-the-counter medicine that may help.