Dog Facts

The Fascinating Science Behind Why Dogs Love Car Rides

by Alison Page

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Why does my dog love car rides? That’s a question asked by many pet parents whose furry friend just can’t wait to jump in the car and go on a road trip!

Dogs love car rides for several reasons. Riding in the car makes your dog feel he’s part of a pack going on an adventure. Being with you brings your furry friend comfort, and all the new sounds, sights, and smells your dog experiences as the car moves along the highway can give him a kind of natural “high.”

But do car rides make dogs sleepy? Are car rides good for dogs? And how do I know if my dog likes car rides?

Read this guide to learn how to know if your dog likes car rides and if car rides are good for dogs!

Why Does My Dog Love Car Rides?

There are several main reasons why your dog loves to go on car rides so much.

dog in a car

Pack Mentality

Dogs are natural pack animals. The pack has an Alpha (that’s you!), and it needs to run together. So, if you head out in your car, your dog naturally wants to follow you.

Your dog will defend your car whenever anyone walks past, just as your faithful furry friend would defend your home or backyard. One of my dogs was so determined to defend me he would go ballistic if anyone came close to the car, which was a tad embarrassing if I was judging at a dressage event and someone rode past!

So, being with you and your family in the car brings your dog comfort and security.


All dogs, large and small, have a natural taste for adventure, and they love nothing more than visiting new places and checking out new sights, sounds, and smells. A car ride is a sensory overload for your pup!

A car ride is an open-ended adventure that offers endless opportunities for fun and discovery.

What’s That Smell?!

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Dogs have a much better sense of smell than you do. In fact, your dog’s nose has up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared with our mere 6 million! In addition, the area of Fido’s brain that analyzes smells is around 40 times larger than ours. So, your furry friend’s snout can detect a single drop of liquid in the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

So, riding in your car with the window cracked slightly open enables the dog to access a whole gamut of scents they wouldn’t get at home, especially on rides through the open countryside.

Territory Expansion

Your dog’s usual patch is your home and backyard, so when you take your pet for a car ride, your pup instantly feels his territory expanding.

Dogs are descended from gray wolves. Wolves range for hundreds of miles in search of food, often following seasonal prey on grueling journeys, so your dog has an innate desire to do the same. So, you can imagine what a thrill it is for your furry friend to cover all those miles without taking even one step!

On the Hunt

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Dogs love the thrill of the chase and a good hunt.

When dogs hunt, that doesn’t mean stalking prey as a cat does. For a dog or a pack of dogs, hunting enables both predator and prey to feel each other’s presence and movement.

When wolves hunt, they combine their energy via “physical synchronization.” That enables the wolves to work together as a unit to take down prey that would normally be beyond them successfully.

The pack moves together, moving through turns and circles, much as you do in your car. A ride in your car enables your dog to access that feeling of physical synchronization since you are moving in the same direction, at the same speed, and in the same direction. Combined with a feeling of weightlessness, it gives your dog a natural, euphoric “high.”

As your car speeds along the road, your dog doesn’t understand that the objects he can see outside are not moving with you. Instead, your canine companion feels he is chasing them, triggering his natural sense and desire to hunt.


In this part of our guide, we answer some of your questions about dogs and cars.

Q: Why is my dog obsessed with car rides?

A: Dogs love car rides since a good road trip feeds their love of a good hunt and their innate sense of adventure.

Riding in the car makes your dog feel part of a pack, bringing him comfort and even a kind of “high.” In addition, your dog can take in new sounds, sights, and smells as the car moves along the highway.

Q: Is it good to take my dog on car rides?

A: All my dogs have loved to go on car rides with me! So, yes, I think it’s good for your dog to take car rides with you.

However, ensure your dog is not too hot and is well-hydrated before traveling in warm weather. In addition, your dog must travel in a travel crate for safety and to keep on the right side of the law.

Q: Are car rides mental stimulation for dogs?

A: Yes! Car rides can stimulate all your dog’s senses, providing him with plenty of mental exercise in the process.

Q: Are car rides enrichment for dogs?

A: I think taking road trips is a great way of adding enrichment for a senior pup whose days of enjoying long hikes are over, and young puppies can take in new sights, sounds, and smells while bonding with you.

Q: How do I know if my dog has car anxiety?

A: Not all dogs enjoy riding in your car or truck. Signs of car anxiety include shaking, whimpering, trying to hide in the footwell or under the crate bed, and barking.

Some dogs suffer badly from travel sickness and might even vomit in the car. However, your vet can prescribe a suitable antiemetic travel medication for your pet.

Q: How long should a dog ride in a car?

A: On average, your dog should spend no longer than seven hours per day riding in a car. You must give your dog a 15 to 30-minute break every two to four hours for a leg stretch and a potty break.

Q: Is it cruel to leave a dog in a car?

A: According to recent research, there’s no safe period for a dog to be left alone in a car, even on a cool day. Ideally, you should leave your dog at home, where he can access fresh water, shade, and shelter.

In addition, some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and abandoning your pet will stress and upset him.

Q: Do dogs get bored on long car rides?

A: Like kids, some dogs get bored on long car journeys. You can help to entertain your dog by providing him with chew toys and puzzle games to keep him amused, and don’t forget those all-important potty stops!

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our guide to why your dog loves to ride in your car so much? If you did, please share the article!

As pack animals, dogs love the feeling and natural high that riding together with you in a car gives them. A car journey is an adventure, a hunt, a feast for your dog’s senses, and a means of expanding his territory. What’s not to like?

Does your canine companion enjoy a road trip? Tell us about your travel companion in the comments box below!

2 thoughts on “The Fascinating Science Behind Why Dogs Love Car Rides”

  1. It also would be helpful if someone in your car could give
    the doggo a soothing massage because everyone
    knows how stiff you get in long car rides.

  2. This was a very well written article and it explains everything that I’ve been trying to communicate to some of my family members and Friends. Thank you for the time that you put into this and effort, it makes my life a lot easier since my mind races and I’m all over the place in pursuit of knowledge and sometimes can’t exactly recite where I got a specific piece of knowledge from but I know when something is core and when something is just speculation or an opinion. I’m done with my rant thank you for an index for me to refer to LOL


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