WARNING: Dogs Can Fall Out Of Car Windows… Even When They’re Rolled Up!

destin-black-lab-car-ride.jpgIt happened to me. With a 60 lb. Black Lab at 7 months of age.

And the car was moving!

Lately, I’ve been seeing so many people riding around with their dogs in the car.

Some have the windows completely down.

Others have the windows partially rolled up, hoping to keep their dog from jumping out.

I’m here to tell you: a dog can fall out of a window that is half-way or even most of the way rolled up!

Here’s my story…

 

Initial Thoughts

I would guess that the risk of this happening is probably directly proportionate to a dog’s overall weight and size.

As I said, ours was a relatively large dog with a lot of body mass.

He had been on several car rides before. He was always well-mannered in the car, and sat still most of the time — with his nose out the window and ears flapping in the wind.

This is an example of how far the windows were rolled down on this particular day:

car-windows-were-rolled-up-this-high.jpg

Every Dog Has His Day

two-dogs-in-jeep-grand-cherokee.jpgOn this day, I had both Destin (the unfortunate victim) and Jersey (the white dog) in the back seat of our Jeep Grand Cherokee. Both rear windows were one-third of the way rolled down. It was a sunny Autumn afternoon.

I was stopped at a light, about to make a lefthand turn onto a 4-lane highway. (I was in the leftmost of 2 left turn lanes.) Dogs were fine.

When the light turned green, I accelerated slightly and began to pick up speed on the highway when I heard a light “click clunk”. (My stomach turns every time I relive this in my mind.)

I looked back, and noticed I only had one dog in the back seat. Not two. A quick glance at the road behind me in my rearview mirror showed nothing unusual. (Since I was in the midst of a turn, things were disproportionate.)

Completely flabbergasted as to how one of my dogs could’ve vanished out of thin air, I immediately veered to the righthand shoulder of the road. I was so panic-stricken and not thinking clearly, I’m very lucky that I didn’t hit another driver (…there had been several drivers behind me also turning left from 2 turn lanes onto this 4-lane highway).

When I jumped out of the car and looked back to the intersection where I turned (about 40 feet back), I noticed my Black Lab just sitting there looking confused as to why I’d left him in such strange surroundings, and why all these cars were honking at him. Thankfully, another driver behind me must’ve seen him fall out. She stopped and stood beside him while holding onto his collar — which is probably the only thing that kept other cars from hitting him.

What they say about a person gaining incredible strength in times of emergency is so true. I thanked the lady for stopping, then scooped up my 60 lb dog with shaking arms and tons of adrenaline rushing through my body. Somehow I carried him across 2 lanes of traffic, walked 40 feet back to my car with the dog in my arms, and placed him on the ground next to the car — fully expecting him to be whimpering and hurt.

Nope. He was wagging his tail and nosing the car door, as if to say, “Can I just get back in the car please?!”

destin-moments-after-he-fell-out-the-car-window.jpg I quickly examined him in the backseat of the car, and found all of his limbs working normally. He didn’t flinch when I poked, prodded, and bent every joint in his legs. And there was no blood to be found anywhere.

He immediately propped his nose back out the window and was ready to continue his car ride. The only strange thing I noticed at this point was the wind guard above his window had been broken by the weight of his body falling out the window.

I, of course, was still shaking in my skin and could not believe what had just happened! It still baffled me as to how he got out of the car… I didn’t think a dog (especially one this big) could get out of a window that was rolled up so high.

For the return trip home, the dogs didn’t have the joy of sticking their noses out the car window. Until I could think clearly and rationalize the situation thoroughly, there were no more car rides with the windows partially down at all.

 

How Can A Dog Fall Out Of A Car Window?

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how such a large dog could have squeezed through such a small opening. And I’d never heard of other dogs falling out of car windows — not when they were mostly rolled up!

The fact of the matter is… I probably didn’t have the window rolled up high enough for such a large sized dog. And, when a dog is accustomed to leaning on the car door & window all the time whenever he’s in the vehicle, then he’s going to keep doing it — even when you’re going around curves.

So I guess it was just this strange series of events (the degree of the turn, the acceleration of the speed, and the weight of his body) which sent our dog tumbling out the car window. And who knows?… Maybe something caught his attention, causing him to lean extra hard or stick his head out farther than usual this time.

It doesn’t really matter, because what happened happened.

 

The Safety Precautions We Now Take

self-portrait-lynnette-and-destin.jpgThe only thing that eases my mind about what happened on this day is this: I learned a very valuable lesson. The end result could have been much different, had it happened on another day and with the vehicle moving much faster.

Without a doubt, I was acting irresponsibly and putting my dog’s life at risk each time we took him for a ride in the car. I simply didn’t know better at the time.

A few days later, I went out and purchased doggie seatbelts for both dogs, and we always make sure that they are tethered to the seatbelts in our vehicles at all times now. (What I’m calling a doggie seatbelt is actually a seatbelt extender of sorts — it clicks into your vehicle’s seatbelt, and then clips onto your dog’s collar.)

A few weeks later, I took it a step farther, and purchased a dog harness for each dog, because I felt that with the right dynamics in place, a dog could still be thrown from the vehicle under certain circumstances. The chances are probably slim, but it could happen (especially with larger dogs), and I didn’t want to take any chances.

dogs-in-the-car-with-chin-rest.jpgSo now we connect the doggie seatbelt to each dog’s harness, instead of to their collars. (We use 2 doggie seatbelts and 2 dog harnesses.)

And we even bought them a doggie chin rest to rest their heads on while we’re driving. The best part: With the harness and seatbelt in place, we are now able to roll the window down to a level that is more enjoyable for the dogs. Now, they can remain seated, with their noses out the window!

Here are the 10 things we take along every time our dog goes on a car ride.

 

Happily Ever After

scrape-mark-on-dogs-groin.jpgDestin appeared to be happy and healthy after this whole unfortunate incident. But I figured giving him a bath would enable me to find any smaller nicks, cuts, or scratches. The only one thing I found was this small scrape near on his belly/groin area.

After his bath, I added some Neosporin and the scratch was gone in a matter of days.

jersey-and-destin-after-a-bath.jpg
Destin showed no lasting effects from this traumatic event. I, on the other hand, have been impacted for life. I cringe whenever I see people driving around with their dogs in the car and the windows rolled down. And even worse: when I see a dog roaming around in the back of a truck bed!

I’m a huge advocate of doggie seatbelts now. And our new dog, Tenor, has never once been in the car without being buckled in using a dog harness. Tenor is actually our Jeep dog!

jersey-and-destin-lounging-around.jpg destin-and-jersey-lounging-around.jpg

Do not overlook the fact that your dog could possibly fall out, or jump out, or be catapulted like a missile during a sudden stop or car accident. Here’s the story of another dog owner who advocates the use of dog seat belts and a list of the most dog-friendly vehicles.

 

UPDATE:  Our story appeared in the New York Times on 10/30/08. (That’s Tenor on the right, riding in the back of my Jeep.)

lynnette-walczak-tenor-dog-new-york-times.jpg

 

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • KK

    I have an 8-yr. old beagle (from a breeder) and about a 1-yr. old beagle (she was rescued from the pound). The older beagle was used to riding in a car, but the puppy never rode with the window down until we were on our way out of state. We were going about 25mph to 30mph and all of a sudden she just jumped from a dodge 1500 truck’s window. A car was coming our way at the same time and it just happened to be my step dad. it was a good thing he was slowing down to say bye to us or he would have hit the puppy in mid air. She bit her lip in 2 places, had a scab right under her nose and 1 inch by 1/2 inch piece of skin and fur missing from right under her eye. She stopped as soon as my step dad called her and i picked her up and put her back in the truck. she was shaking really bad and she won’t even get near a car’s window even if it’s rolled up. my older beagle just was staring at her like she’s an idiot. the older one still loves the window rolled down.

  • kaydogsmom

    I travel 70 miles a day with my dog (she works with me) I have a seat belt for her. My gentleman friend has a 1 1/4 year old husky, full of energy, and no seat belt. He was taking her to the park and she was so excited she leaned out the window and fell out while the car was going around 35 miles per hour. He ran her over. The vet said she was lucky to be alive. This was traumatic for my friend and the dog. Amazingly her injuries were survivable…head injuries and stitches on 3 of her 4 limbs.

  • Kaci

    Thank you for your article. My dog fell out the window, in almost the exact same manner. Luckily, he only got a small raspberry on his nose, but I was so upset! I wish I had read this earlier and could’ve prevented this accident in the first place. I am telling all my friends to be careful and will be looking into buying a seatbelt for him ASAP. Thanks!

  • Kelly

    Something similar happened with my dog– I’ve got a 60 pd. lab mix who is very high strung. I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pickup truck with the dog in my lap, leashed, with the window only 1/3 of the way down. We were going about 40mph and he LEAPED out of my lap, right out the window, trying to get to a big puddle on the side of the road. It all happened in a split second and I instinctually held on to his leash which caused him to go UNDER the truck and be run over by the right rear wheel. His pelvis was broken in several places. After 24 hrs of crying, a titanium plate, 2 bolts and $6000 later he’s almost as good as new (3 months after the fact) but he is never riding in the car again. Keep those windows up!!!

  • Johnny P

    I just lost my black lab puppy, Olive, yesterday. I usually engage the child lock on the window but forgot and she must have rolled down the window with her paw and when I looked back she was just….GONE. I have no idea where, in the 15 minute drive, she got out and I have covered the road up and down for hours on end. Tons of flyers, calls to vets, etc but still no luck. I am devastated and heartbroken. Hard lesson to learn. Glad your Destin was a lucky one!!!

    • Theo

      I lost my dog to that way too.

  • whew

    my 3 month old puppy fell out of the car yesterday when we were going 35 on a very busy rode thank God she was allright. right after she fell out (she barked when it happened) i saw her chasing a car that was turning she thankfully folowed the car to a tree lawn on a side street ware we found her.

  • Rain

    Why oh why do you smart people need to have the back window rolled down at all, when there’s a dog, an unpredictable animal, in the back of the car? Just roll down yours, in the front, for Christ’s sake! I can’t imagine what would have happened if there was a baby in the back of your cars. You are just irresponsible and looking for excuses. Your poor pets are short lived with people like you!

    The cynicism of “After 24 hrs of crying, a titanium plate, 2 bolts and $6000 later he’s
    almost as good as new (3 months after the fact) but he is never riding
    in the car again” makes me sick to the stomach. It’s your own fault you put your pets through so much suffering.

    You shouldn’t be allowed to have them and special care should be given to you in case you ever had children (who are extremely unpredictable also!).

    • Kelly

      Rain, obviously you didn’t read my comment carefully. The dog was not in the backseat with the window open. That’s ridiculous. The only way I could have taken more precaution is to not have the window (or any windows for that matter) cracked at all, which is exactly what people need to do if they have their dogs in their cars– not “just roll down yours, in the front”, like you said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ken.Lidkey Ken Liedtke

    2 days ago I saw a Schnauzer dog fly out of the window of an SUV as it made a right hand turn. Even if the windows are up most of the way, pets should be in a secured harness or carrier. They or the back of your head can get seriously injured if you must stop suddenly to avoid an accident or to not hit a dog that just fell out of the vehicle of some other irresponsible idiot. Ohio Road and Plano Parkway, Plano, Texas. Just remember: GoPro and similar video cameras are very common these days your stupidity and your pet’s death may be on youtube! I almost followed this SUV to post the person’s address.

  • Jennifer Gill

    my 80lb American Staffordshire Terrier lost his balance when I had to suddenly switch lanes. He tumbled out of the window…thank GOD I was coming up to a stoplight. I had always put a leash on him when he rode w/ me because I was afraid I could get a ticket if he wasn’t on a leash, plus I thought it would somehow help if he ever was falling out the window. However, I was way too confident in letting him hang out the car window. I was told by his original owner that he’s been doing it since he was a puppy, and that I don’t need to slow down more than usual when I turn because the dog shifts his weight accordingly. I finally believed that & became more comfortable after numerous car rides where he did just that (adjusted his weight with each turn). And yet it still happened…I guess they call it an unexpected turn for a reason…if the dog doesn’t have time to predict what’s happening & adjust accordingly, it will lose its balance.
    Well, when it happened, thank GOD (again) that I wasn’t holding the leash & never tried to grab it because I realized that would have DEFINITELY done more harm than good. He had a small scrape (just like the dog in the article), and no other injuries to be found. However, I was quite devastated & have never felt so guilty in my life. After all, we had gone through hoops to get this dog in to a rescue when his original owner couldn’t keep him…we paid several hundred dollars for that. Then, we had to get rid of our other dog because he attacked our cat & a neighbors dog, and then we decided to adopt the dog that we have now back from the rescue group (yet ANOTHER several hundred dollars.) It was worth every penny and we’d do it again in a heartbeat…he’s the most well-behaved, easy going, & calm dog I’ve ever seen. He’s full of personality and extremely cute…he literally stops traffic (not when he’s tumbling out of the window, but when he’s just sitting by the window & people see him, they’ll take pics of him & talk to him.) He’s absolutely irreplacable & I would never forgive myself if something had happened to him…and my family would have disowned me. I was also extremely embarrased that I was surrounded by traffic very close to my house when it happened…very likely that somebody who knew me saw what happened. Even if they didn’t know me, it was still humiliating! But forget what other people thought or saw, I can’t stress enough how bad I felt for putting my precious baby in such great danger (and how extremely lucky and grateful I was that the outcome wasn’t much worse.).