Automotive Features Explained

Dogs in Cars: The Do’s and Don’ts


Everyone, Meet Eddy.

Eddy is your dog.

Eddy enjoys Snausages®, playing dead and when you scratch that soft spot underneath his ear… Well oh baby, he likes that too.

Eddy doesn’t always like to sit still though. He also doesn’t like to go the bathroom outside.

He much prefers using your bedroom as his own personal toilet.

Oh, and Eddy also likes to eat your shoes.

Imagine if your best friend came over one day and decided to take a crap on your new bed spread.

That’s right. A giant, steaming pile of brown poop now rests on the monogrammed, 800-thread-count sheets you just bought last week.

That’s probably the last time you’re inviting that guy over again.

Would you forgive your girlfriend if she stole your shoes and ate half of them?

Just sat down, knife and fork in hand, and devoured your favorite pair of $200 Nike’s?

dog wool slipper in mouth
This is Eddy. Did we mention he likes bacon? He also thinks your slippers are delicious.

It’s ironic, really.

If our friends drooled on our laps, pissed on our carpets and spent the better part of their days napping on our kitchen floors, we’d probably reconsider the friendship.

Who needs a buddy that grooms himself in public, then tries to lick your face after, anyways?

But when our furry friends do these kinds of things, they’re easily forgiven.

Sure, the bar for acceptable social behavior is set a lot lower for our canine companions than it is for our bipedal buddies. But there’s more to it than just that. (Hopefully you enjoyed these cleverly constructed alliterations).

They’re our “forever friends.” They never doubt their love for us and perhaps that’s why we let so many of their indiscretions go. Their affection is unquestioned, sometimes unjustified but always unwavering.

When it comes down to it, they really are our best friends. It’s why we do everything we can as owners to keep them safe. We make sure their fed, groomed and protected in dangerous situations. And believe it or not, one of those danger zones is your car.

Cruising Buddies

Jack Russells
This is Eddy and the boys back in 2012. Vegas never saw them coming. 

Whether it’s to the park, vet or just for an afternoon cruise, your dog’s going to spend some time in your car.

Some pooches are going to love being on the road. Wind in their ears, tongue flapping wildly in the breeze… It’s doggy heaven.

But just like people, no two dogs are alike. Some will hate the car. They’ll shiver nervously in the back, wining for hours on end. They might even try to sit on your lap while you drive.

With a furry passenger, comes a flurry of situations and possible questions.

Some common ones include:

  • How do you keep my pet stationary while the cars in drive?
  • Where can I buy a harness or safety crate?
  • How long can I leave my dog in the car when I’m running errands?
  • What do I do if my dog gets car sick?
  • Can my dog sit in the passenger seat?

We’ve got the answers. Here are some general rules you should follow the next time you take your pup out for a spin. It’ll keep the nervous ones calm, the excited ones (like Eddy) still and all of them safe.

1. Eddy Belongs in the Back

Your dog should never be allowed to ride in the front seat, even if they like it. If you have to make a sudden stop, you could send your beloved co-polite through the windshield.  Airbag deployment is also a major risk, should you get into an accident. If one is deployed and your pet is sitting in the front, they’re at risk for serious injury.

The safest place for your dog is in the back seat.

2. Make Sure Eddy’s Secure

Crates or pet carriers are always a great option. If your pup gets stressed out in the car, the crate can be a relaxing, safe haven to help keep him calm.  Also, remember to secure it so it doesn’t fly forward or flip over in case you’re in an accident.

If your vehicle doesn’t have room for a crate, get a dog seat belt. These can double as harness’s and are easy to find at any pet supply store or online.

Finally, if you don’t have room for a crate and you don’t want to use a seat belt, you can always install a pet barrier. It will help keep your canine companion in the back seat.

If you live in Edmonton or a surrounding area, we recommend checking out the Homes Alive Pet Center (13340 St. Albert Trail NW, Edmonton). They have several options in store, as well as online. This includes crates, leashes and pet barriers for different breeds and sizes of dogs.


Related: Best Vehicles for Car Seats. This list includes some great, spacious vehicles for hauling around car seats. Some of them work well with dog crates as well.

super funny face dog lying on back on green grass looking crazy
Eddy during Spring Break last year. Suns out, guns out. 

3. Keep Eddy Relaxed and Full

If your pooch is stressed, reassure him. If your dog is behaving, give him some validation! With just a couple of words, you can help relax and encourage almost any animal.

Also, bring a dish of water. Dogs often get thirsty during car rides, especially the ones that like to hang their head outside the window like they’re the star of their own parade. Imagine wind blowing into your wide-open mouth at 60 km’s an hour? You’d probably want to guzzle some water after too.

*Disclaimer: Letting your dog stick his head out the window while the vehicles in motion isn’t a good idea. They might get a fly to the eyeball, or even worst, hit their head on something far more solid. They may love it, but it isn’t safe.

4. Eddy Loves to Walk

Sometimes taking your dog out for a stroll before a car ride is a great idea. It tires them out and can help keep them stationary while in the vehicle. If you know it’s going to be a long ride, make sure they’ve taken care of business before they hop in, if you know what we mean….

If your dog gets motion sickness (which is more common than you’d think) a little ginger goes a long way. It’s natural and you only need to use a tiny amount. It’ll definitely help settle an upset stomach.

Homes Alive Pet Center also has some great medicinal options if ginger isn’t your thing.

Jack Russell Terrier travels in car wearing harness attached to seat belt
This photo was taken when Eddy spent his Freshman year abroad. He studied the finer things in life, like black and white photography and french croissants.

5. Practice Makes for a Perfect Eddy

If your dog hasn’t been in a car before, take him on a couple of short trips before tackling a long one. As well, make sure those short trips are to somewhere pleasant, like the dog park. If their first car ride is to the vet, they may associate driving with negative experiences.

For longer trips, make sure you get out every two hours or so. That way you can both stretch your legs.

6. Don’t Leave Eddy Alone in the Car

You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but every year you hear a story about someone who left their furry friend in the car with the window’s rolled up. During the middle of a heat wave.

This subject is no stranger to controversy. Some people believe that it’s OK to leave your dog in the vehicle for a few minutes, if the cars left running. Others would argue that you should never leave your dog unattended, even if it’s only for “five minutes.”

Here are the facts: According to Nicole Gallant, president elect of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), pets can get heatstroke much faster than a child can, simply because they can’t cool themselves off by sweating.

Dogs only have sweat glands on their paws. When they pant a lot, their trying to cool off. Panting doesn’t help when the vehicle is full of hot hair though.

K9 Rescue says that for every 10 minutes your vehicles’ outside in the sun, the temperature inside can rise anywhere from 10 to 15°C. So if your car (and your canine) are sitting in 24°C weather, after 10 minutes, it’s roughly 37°C inside.

The best advice? Don’t run errands with your pet in the car: If you’re taking your dog to the dog park, but you also need groceries, make two separate trips.

dog driving a steering wheel in a racing car
A young, innocent Eddy passes his drivers test. He’s on his way to steal your girl.

The relationship’s we form with our pets are made up of the simplest kinds of interaction. We’re the hand that feeds, the keeper of the great outdoors. Hell, if our dogs could be self-resilient, they probably would. The lack of opposable thumbs makes it kind of difficult though.

Regardless, they love us unconditionally. And we love them in return. That’s why we do everything we can to take care of them. To feed them, groom them, and most importantly, to protect them. Whenever and where-ever they are. That includes the car.

Even if they’re like Eddy and like to poop on the bed.


Sources: Paw-Rescue, The Globe and Mail