Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog!

Driving a convertible. The bipeds were bit by that bug on our trips to Florida. They loved it. Dad liked the sense of freedom and Mom kept leaning back to let the sun kiss her face.  Sometimes her hands would fly up in the air and she’d squeal in delight, making Dad laugh.  No one cared that their hair was getting messed up. Oh, the wind, the sun … the freedom!

“When I’m behind the wheel
Horses of gas and steel
The highway is my home
In fiberglass and chrome
Fantasy car, top down
Let’s take a ride you can’t forget
Come on pretty puppy, ride with me…”

Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog

Our “All American” Rental! – and Dad LOL!

We also noticed that when you’re driving a convertible, you start to look at the world in a different way. You don’t just look around you; you also look up. Mom noticed things such as how some trees reached across the road to hold hands, creating perfect boulevards and providing shade.  Large birds soared above and Mom’s hands instinctively rushed to protect me from birds of prey.

Protect. Me.

Ah yes. Safety. How safe is it to drive a convertible with a little dog like me? Or with any dog for that matter?

#1 – Not Contained

The first thing to consider in a convertible is that your canine is no longer contained within the car. At home, I always ride in my booster seat in the back seat of the car. When we’re on the road travelling outside of North America, my carrier often does double duty and serves as my booster seat. I am totally secured into the vehicle. I can’t jump out. I can’t escape. Should we stop at a red light, I will not suddenly bound out of the car and pursue a squirrel.

If you are traveling with a canine, make sure you have him or her properly restrained or harnessed into the car. There are many solutions out there. Find one that works well for your dog. Keep your dog’s size and strength in mind. And never, never, assume your dog will not jump out of the car. Also make sure your pet is microchipped and has a collar should they indeed get away.

Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog

The only ride I didn’t use a carrier or booster seat or harness … the limo.

#2 – The Wind

As nice as all that wind was for the bipeds, I personally found it to be a bit much. Once again, the solution came in the form of my carrier. Mom secured the mesh cover over top, creating a breathable barrier between the wind and me. I nuzzled down and let the now less aggressive wind caress my back.

Too much wind may not be as much of an issue for large dogs. I often see them with their tongues flapping in the wind, eyes shut in delight, a string of drool trailing behind. (shiver) However, don’t forget the basic rule that allowing any canine to ride with his or her head out the window, stuck into the wind, is just not a good idea.

Dust, dirt, rocks and anything else on the road can scratch or puncture your dog’s eyes and earflaps can swell and become tender, if not damaged. When earflaps repeatedly beat against a dog’s skull, blood pools in the earflaps, causing pain and scarring. This can lead to lifelong ear problems. I have one buddy who’s bipeds tie his long ears up with a scrunchy for his 5 minute a day “treat” of putting his head out the window of the car on his way home from the dog park.

Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog

I got my OWN convertible!!

No matter how tiny or big your pet, do what you can to ensure your dog isn’t blown away. In addition to something like my carrier, consider raising the side windows. In most convertible cars, that pushes the wind over the car instead of into it. Also, as you slow down, you reduce the strength of the wind. Savor the trip and enjoy the drive leisurely.

#3 – The Eyes

Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog

My friend Savannah and biped Kathryn in their convertible… note: Doggles AND harnessed in for safety!

Our vet told us that summer brings her all sorts of eye injuries. We already said it, but it’s worth saying again: people open the window to let their canine enjoy the wind without realizing that any of the debris scattered on the road will be kicked up by the cars in front and by the front tires of your own vehicle.

Just take a look at your windshield – see those nicks and dead bugs? – or at the front of your car – the chipped paint and minor dents? Think about that damage to your dog’s eyes.

In a convertible, give your dog the advantage by moving him or her towards the center of the back seat. Don’t forget to restrain your pet so he or she is not launched into the front window during an emergency stop! Still, although reduced, the threat of eye damage persists, so consider Doggles. They are a great solution for protecting canine eyes when the top – or windows – are down. If Doggles are not an option (Like my friend Scooter says – they are not a good option for long hours on the road due to too much pressure around the eyes. He would know, he’s riding a motorcycle across the USA with his biped!) then once again, consider a proper carrier that can double as a booster seat.

#4 – The Sun

When the top comes off, the sun comes in. Be aware that your dog will get warmer a lot faster than you will. With the wind, we don’t often feel the sun and heat, but they are there. Mom tells me that many a biped has suffered the pain of sunburn as a result of not realizing how strong the sun was while driving with the top down. That lovely breeze can lead you astray and lull you into a false sense of comfort.

Make sure you provide your dog with some shade with either a carrier, moving them to a shady spot in the car or bringing the top up from time to time. Mom found that placing me at her feet was a great solution if not the safest in an accident. When I was at risk of overheating, she would turn on the cool air to blow gently at her feet and that would cool me off.

Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog

Even without a carrier – the coolest spot is often at Mom’s feet! (Me at 7 months in Florida)

Wind and sun will also dehydrate a canine quickly. Provide and plan for lots of water breaks. And lastly, consider a sun guard for your pet especially if he or she has fair skin or you’re anticipating a long drive.

#5 – Allergies

A ride in the car with the top down can be particularly irritating for a dog (or biped) with allergies. All that pollen and dust flying into your dog’s face could cause an allergic reaction. If your dog has allergies, keep this in mind, and as always, be sure you are equipped with what your dog would need for relief from an allergic reaction.

***

Given these risks, bipeds must wonder why we dogs enjoy a convertible ride as much as we do?

Well, we canines have such a keen sense of smell that being able to put our noses or entire heads into the breeze blowing past a car is like a natural high.  We can catch so many different smells and stories passing through the air, and because the car is moving fast, these smells are changing at a dizzying speed. We dogs see the world through scent.  So for us, having the top – or windows – down to enjoy a strong outside breeze is like watching some beautiful scenery pass by.

So go ahead, let your dog enjoy your open window or convertible. Just be safe! And follow our Top 5 Safety Tips for driving a convertible with a dog!

“In my car
I’m captain of my destiny
In my car
Pretty pup, come cruise with me

Come for a drive
And we’ll arrive
Feelin’ alive…”

(With thanks to the Beach Boys for their song, “In My Car.” And with apologies for my adaptations!)

 

Note: Originally published January 2013. Updated, edited and revised.

 

70 Comments on “Top 5 Safety Tips for Driving a Convertible With a Dog!

  1. Ah Monte! Wonderful advice! Great photos! I really liked the lyrics! Thanks for the valuable advice dear friends! I can not wait when you come to us to ride in our car! :)

  2. Great post! So much good information for folks with rag top cars!! Thanks!!

  3. Wow, Must be so nice do drive a convertible, I never did, actually. Love to always open the window in our car, my hubby don’t understand why i like it more than conditioner, maybe i am a dog and need to smell, LOL! Advices are great, Monte, thank you, xxx!!!!

  4. Good advice! Up until now we have only taken short trips with Savannah in the convertible. i.e. afternoon drives in the Ottawa area and a 5 hour trip to Toronto. This summer we are hoping to take a l trip across country and down the west coast to the Napa valley. There is no back seat in the Alpha although there is an area behind the seats–do you have any recommendations for ensuring she remains cool beyond running the ac..Savannah is 14 lbs so sitting at my feet would not be comfortable or safe for her.

    As always Monty, your advice is very useful.

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  6. Doggles! Such a great tip and a special treats for folks that can take their dogs on a ride in a convertible. Anytime I see a dog riding with the top down I get a huge smile on my face. I just posted about Booster seats as I had no idea what a GREAT option that was outside of crates. Love the pics!

  7. Ahhh driving in a convertible truly sounds like a dream!! I’m so glad you shared these safety tips with us! I’m such a safety freak, I’m definitely pinning this one! Especially #4 is something I think a lot of owners tend to forget! Thank you for this great blog post! :)

  8. Some great tips. I will make sure to share this with some friends who have dogs and convertibles. I think a lot of people forget about the impact of the sun and in Australia this is particularly important!

  9. My Zeus would have been the total convertible-loving-dog! He loved to stick his head out of the sunroof in my SUV whenever he got the chance!

  10. I’m very conscious of dog safety in the car, but not having owned a convertible, I never thought about the unique challenges it would present. Thanks for the great tips and advice.

  11. These are great tips, but ones I’ve never thought of, being that I don’t have a convertible. But great tips, nonetheless!

  12. There’s a lot to know about driving in a convertible. I never really gave it much thought since I don’t have one. Great tips!

  13. So I really believe that these are some great tips, only one problem though…I can’t KNOW that they are great tips unless you let me borrow that convertible to test them out with each of my 4 canines :)

    • LOL …. this was an upgrade on a trip! we had rented a small economy car. They were out when we arrived and SURPRISE! it was a blast. Our own car is not.

  14. Great article! Loved your picture with your very own convertible :-)

    • the little Fiat? Yeah … found that in Florence in a kids store. I SO WANTED TO TAKE IT HOME!! but sadly the bipeds said no.

    • it’s illegal to have a pup in the back of a pick-up here in Canada. So many get killed every year. Mostly from injuries incurred from an emergency break. But certainly a “farm hand” dog would be more use to it all.

  15. Great tips for convertible riding! We have never rode in one before but these tips may come in handy one day!

  16. Great post! I would never have thought of this but it’s definitely important for convertible driving dog owners to know!

  17. Haha, the glasses are adorable! But great info! I never thought about it, but that’s because any convertible in our climate is useless, it ALWAYS rains and if it’s not raining, it’s too cold, haha!

    • we have the same issue I mean we have 6 months of winter! but on vacation we suddenly got upgraded and … well we learned fast!

  18. I’m not a huge fan of convertibles and would definitely worry about Ruby traveling with us in one for all the reasons you mentioned. Have to say I never thought of the allergy issue, but you are absolutely right. All that pollen blowing around – feel like I might sneeze just thinking about it.

    • we love them. Use them at the beach to keep sand out of the eyes, on the scooters we rent when we travel … even biking … very useful.

  19. Great post! I love seeing pets enjoy the wind in their fur when they’re on the open road, but I have witnessed some pups that are not properly secured or some of the other safety issues you listed hadn’t been attended to, which made me nervous. Thanks for sharing this so, hopefully more folks will be mindful of these pieces if they decide to travel with their dogs in convertibles.

  20. This is such important advice. You really hit on all the potential perils of dogs being an open car. Fortunately, neither of my dogs like to stick their heads out the window!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  21. Love your photo at 7 months in Florida. So cute, so adorable. Without carrier, at first, sound dangerous, but choose a proper harness is a must. Avoid any unpredictable situation on the road. Xoxo

    • well — unpredictable events is pretty much what road trips are! :) but we try!

  22. Let’s face it, convertibles can be fun but not very safe for our furbabies and yes! Harsh winters can be very trying!

  23. My GSD just got to recently experience riding in a motorcycle side-car in Seattle! The pictures crack me up of her doggy goggles and helmet! She did great! And when we would stop to see the sights she kept going right back to the side-car! I think she really enjoyed the whole experience!

    This is a great blog! I love seeing the world with my pup, and look forward to seeing more posts of others doing the same!

    Cheers!

  24. Cristo, thanks for all the advice on traveling in a convertible. We will be taking our dog (a 30 pound rescue) on vacation with us for the first time in a convertible this spring. I never even thought about the sun factor, so thanks – I’d hate for my Soldier to get a sunburn!

    • That would suck! and please call me Monte!
      Keep Soldier hydrated too! And if you can get the doggles… well I think they can really help keep his eyes safe.

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