It is a source of much merriment and mirth in our family when we take our dog for a car trip. My daughters are always amused at how keen our dog Benaud is to get his snout sticking out of the window.
The girls will often fight about who gets to hold him while he seeks to get his ears whipped about by the wind.
A dog’s desire to stick its head out of the window isn’t about feeling the wind rush about their ears, but is instead more connected to the olfactory overload they experience.
“A dog’s head is this incredible sensory apparatus,” Professor Chris Daniels, a zoologist from the University of South Australia, told the ABC recently.
“Their head is jam-packed full of sensors, so when they stick their head out the window, they’ve got this great pressure of air moving at great speed over them, and it’s a sensory overload.”
While human noses contain five million olfactory receptors, or ‘scent cells’, a large dog’s nose contains more than 225 million receptors.
As air moves over the olfactory membrane, odour molecules settle on the scent receptors and are recognised.
The more air there is flowing over the membrane, the more scents the dogs can detect.
Because dogs are choosing this behaviour out of a sense of fun and adventure, they can become addicted to the behaviour.
“They get used to it, they love it, they want to keep doing it, sometimes to the point where some dogs get anxious if you don’t wind down the window,” Professor Daniels said.
“They’ll get into the car and demand the window comes down, so they can get this fix of great sensory overload.”
Does your dog like to stick its head out of the window when you go for a drive? What is the funniest behaviour that your pet regularly engages in?