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Over 80% of dog owners drive with their dogs unrestrained in vehicles. What we don’t know is that dogs that are loose in cars are a major safety risk to themselves and you. A dog may jump out of the window or off the back of a truck. What’s more, a loose 60-pound canine can become a 2700-pound missile in a 35-mph crash.

Yet 83% of us don’t restrain our dogs safely! After all, we love sticking their heads out the car window, tongue wagging. But a fun trip can become a nightmare in the blink of an eye if your dog suddenly jumps out the car window.

Do dogs know not to jump out a car window?

Dogs do not instinctively know not to jump out a car window. Although their instinct definitely plays a role, it can go both ways. Usually, dogs in moving vehicles will instinctively stay put. But if they are hanging out of the window, they are still at risk of:

  • Falling out accidentally
  • Being thrown out in a collision or sudden turn
  • Or having a flying object injure them

Instinct is also not a guarantee that a dog won’t jump out of a moving vehicle if they have an incentive to jump. And the slower the car is going, or if the car has stopped, the more likely it is that an untrained dog will jump out.

Some dogs might feel frightened by what is outside and stay in the car, while others might feel frightened by being in the car and try to jump out. Your dog might also jump out if they see a cat or squirrel outside and their hunting instinct takes over. Breed differences and personality also play a role.

Will my dog jump out the back of a truck?

Your dog will likely jump out the back of a truck unless restrained. The reasons are very similar to why they would jump out the car window. There is also a bigger chance of them jumping out the back of a truck versus a car window because there is more space to do so.

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How to stop my dog jumping from a vehicle

The best way to stop a dog from jumping out the window is to use a CPS approved seat belt or crate. Using a non-CPS approved  dog seat belt, crate, or harness can be deadly in the event of an accident.

Naturally, keeping the windows rolled up and the children’s lock on the door can also help, but this isn’t always viable if it’s a hot day and the air conditioner isn’t working.

Another step is training your dog from a young age to stay in the car unless told otherwise. This definitely decreases the chances of a jump. However, dogs in cars are still a safety hazard. They can distract the driver or go through the windshield during an accident. Therefore, its worth the investment in a CPS-approved restraint. 

Remember, having your dog sit on your lap while you drive is not a safe way to keep them from jumping! This is very dangerous for you, your dog and your passengers. If you lose control of the car and your dog falls or jumps out the window, you will not be able to help your dog if you were hurt.

Steps to prevent a dog from jumping out the car:

  • Use a car safe harness or crate such as the products from Kurgo, Ruffwear, or Sleeppod, that clips into the seatbelt – they have some freedom to move around and it will pull them back when they try to jump.
  • A pet car seat can be useful, especially for smaller dogs.
  • Crates are very useful and work especially well on trucks. Just make sure the crate is secure and does not slide around.
  • Dogs can ride comfortably and safely in the back of certain cars like hatchbacks where the cargo cover is detachable.
  • If your dog sits in the back, use a cargo net – put it up between them and the window and if they sit on the backseat, put it across the window.
  • Use a dog barrier to keep your dog confined in the car.
  • Make sure the window is open just enough for your dog to stick out their nose if they are prone to jumping (this might be more difficult for flat-faced breeds like pugs or bulldogs, in which case the length of four fingers is a good size).
  • Remember that manual windows can be opened accidentally by your dog – a big cushion propped up against the door can prevent them from stepping on the window lever.
  • Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to stay in their place in the car. To teach your puppy place or mat training, you can read this article.
  • If you have an extremely anxious dog when it comes to car rides, speak to your vet to get the right calmative for your dog before going on a trip.
  • Make sure you have a first aid kit in your car. Keeping a few old towels in your car is also a good idea in case of an emergency.

What to do if my dog jumps out a car window

The first thing is to stop as quickly as you can and indicate to other drivers that you have an emergency. Pull off on the side of the road and put on your hazard lights.

If you have a yield sign in the back of your car, put it behind your car. This is a safety measure and gives you some leeway to have space around your car while you help your dog.

Get your dog off the road as quickly as possible.

A dog jumps out the car: how to assess the situation

Once you are safely away from the traffic, do a quick assessment to determine the severity of the situation:

1. Emergency – my dog immediately needs help from a vet.

2. Urgent and important – my dog will need to be checked by the vet but I can help in the meantime.

3. Important but not urgent – my dog seems fine but I will monitor them closely for the next couple of days to make sure they do not have hidden injuries.

Your dog is in an emergency life and death situation if:

  • They’re not breathing or moving.
  • There’s a lot of blood coming from a wound or their mouth/nose/ears.
  • They have a twisted or broken leg(s) or struggle to put weight on a limb.
  • Bones sticking out anywhere.
  • They are in severe pain (they whimper, cry, vomit, breathe heavily, or struggle to move).

Get them back in the car as carefully as possible and cover them with a blanket or towel. In case of bleeding, try to stop the blood by applying pressure. Stay calm and speak to them in a soothing manner. Drive directly to the vet or phone the emergency vet if it’s after hours.

It’s also urgent and important if:

  • Your dog can get up and walk but they are limping.
  • They look disorientated and seem drunk when walking.
  • They vomit or urinate.
  • They are on their feet but shaking.
  • They cannot seem to hear you.

Help your dog in the meantime by keeping them calm and offering them some water as soon as you can. Since your dog can move around, you might need to ask someone to come and assist you if you drive alone.

Your dog will be scared after the incident and if possible, having someone drive while you sit with them is a good idea.

It’s important but not urgent if:

  • Your dog has minor cuts and bruises which you can take care of at home.
  • Shows none of the signs mentioned above.
  • There are no changes in behavior or routine shortly after the incident.

Keep an eye on your dog for any sudden changes in physical appearance and/or behavior, in which case the vet will have to take a look. In this case, your dog will most likely be just fine.

They might be worse for wear after the incident and you will need to help them feel safe in the car again and regain their confidence. Have your dog sit with you in the car and give them treats, without driving anywhere a few times.

Final word

With a bit of preparation, you can avoid a potential disaster. On this note, remember to sow a good deed seed: if you see someone else’s dog jump out the car while you are on the road, try to assist if you can.

They might not even know their dog jumped out, and your quick reaction could just save their dog’s life! If you notice family or friends driving around with their dog without implementing some form of safety measure, educate them. They will thank you later.

Are you interested in this: Will My Dog Run Away Off-Leash? (Answered!)

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