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Can Dogs Ride in the Front Seat? Vet-Reviewed Safety Considerations

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog inside the car

Can Dogs Ride in the Front Seat? Vet-Reviewed Safety Considerations


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While we love taking our dogs along on our adventures, whether it’s to go on a long hike or to lounge on the beach, we usually let them hop in the car without a second thought. However, allowing your dog to sit in the front seat is extremely dangerous. Your dog is at risk if you allow them to ride in the front seat, so you should not ever allow this. Where is the best place for them to sit then? Keep reading.

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Something to Consider: Distracting Driving Statistics

Whether you like it or not, we want to point out that having a dog in the front seat while you’re driving puts not only your dog’s life at risk, but it puts yours at risk as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,522 lives lost in 2021 due to distracted driving.1 They also presented a sobering figure: The 5 seconds an individual takes to view or answer a text is like driving at 55 mph an entire football field with your eyes closed. That’s 360 feet or nearly a tenth of a mile. Accidents happen in mere seconds, and this same thought process applies to having your dog riding shotgun with you as well.

woman fixing dog harness in the car
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Safety Considerations

Many people may let their pups ride in the front seat with them because it seems natural to have your best friend beside you. Undoubtedly, many individuals are talking with their pets as they drive. However, it’s just as dangerous for you as it is for your dog. Your dog is at risk of being injured if the airbag in your car goes off, as this device is designed to protect adult humans.

One safety consideration is to use a dog seat belt, which attaches to your pet’s harness and has a loop for the car’s seat belt. However, not all of these are created equal, and some can still cause your dog to fly off the seat.

The inescapable truth is that your dog is a distraction. If they jump on the floor or get dangerously close to falling while sticking their head out the window, they keep you from keeping your eyes on the road. Only six states have laws prohibiting unrestrained pets.2 Six other states tried to pass legislation but failed. A police officer may not pull you over for violating these laws. However, you’re likely to get a citation if you get in a wreck. That can add to your costs and liability, which can affect your insurance costs. Insurers may even have clauses spelling out the conditions of coverage, which may include pets.

Understanding the priority of public safety is imperative with this issue. It’s not a matter of disliking pets; it’s about protecting everyone on the road. Distracted driving, whether from eating a sandwich, texting your friend, or reassuring your pup, is dangerous for everyone involved. Responsible pet ownership means recognizing these risks.

The Safest Ways to Travel With Your Dog

brown dog sitting on car trunk with dog cage open
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Traveling with your dog always brings an element of distraction, no matter how your pup experiences the ride. A carrier seems the logical choice, which can reduce many distractions that can take your eyes off the road. At least you don’t have to worry about your pooch squeezing underneath the seat if they’re scared. They may bark or whimper, but they won’t get in your face to get your attention.

However, the safest way to travel with your dog is by using a dog crate made from a strong material like aluminum. Crates should be placed on the floor of the back seat, not on the back seat itself, or in the trunk area. Keep in mind that the crate should be big enough for your dog to sit, stand, and turn around comfortably, which could prove tricky for people with big dogs or little cars.

We fully understand that crating your dog and putting them in your car is not always possible. However, you will need some form of restraint for several reasons. The first is that an unrestrained dog can be a distraction, the second is that in the event of a crash your dog can become a projectile and get injured, as well as injuring others. Another thing that can happen is that they jump out the window if something captures their attention.

When traveling with your dog, follow these tips:
  • Ensure your dog has an ID collar and is microchipped
  • Lock your windows and child-lock your doors
  • Never allow a dog to ride in the bed of a pickup truck
  • Never leave your dog unattended in a car, regardless of the weather
  • Do not allow your dog in the front seat if you can help it—only the back seat
  • Use a harness and seat belt attachment to restrain your dog if not a carrier
  • Bring supplies for the comfort of your dog including water, leash for toilet breaks, and toys

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Final Thoughts

We can’t fault anyone who wants to travel with their dogs. It’s easier to make rides pleasant experiences even if you’re going to the vet. Nonetheless, letting your dog sit in the front seat is as dangerous for them as it is for you. We understand that there are various circumstances that could make traveling with your dog in the safest way possible a challenge, but you need to incorporate as many safety measures as you can.

Featured Image Credit: Christine Bird, Shutterstock

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