We use our vehicles for many things, often looking to them as an extension of our lifestyle and sometimes even a member of the family. Some people buy vehicles because they’re sporty, others because they’re rugged, and still others because they are good family haulers or get great fuel economy. Some of us, though, have a certain four-legged friend in mind when we purchase a vehicle.
For a vehicle to be considered dog-friendly, it needs several things. First, it should be large enough to accommodate most common breeds, whether it’s the smallest Chihuahua or the largest Saint Bernard. The vehicle should also be able to carry our canine friend safely and with plenty of room so that tails and tongues aren’t shoved into the front seat to distract us. Most will have enough room in the cargo area for a kennel, some will have wide doors to let Rover in and out easily, and most will be low enough that no one’s paws will get hurt jumping in and out once we’ve arrived.
All dogs are not created equal, of course, so we’ll split our choices into three groups according to canine lifestyle choices.
Some dogs love to swim, some enjoy hunting, some just like going outside and seeing the world. All outdoorsy dogs like to go places and do things, though, and many of those places might be beyond the pavement and out in nature. For the outdoorsy type, here are the best vehicles for their humans to own.
Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler
Any of the Jeep brand vehicles are probably a good fit for a dog. Popular choices are the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. For those who love the outdoors and take their dogs along with them, it’s hard to see a Jeep as the wrong choice.
The Cherokee is a midsize crossover with good off-road capability and plenty of interior room for family, friends and canines. The Grand Cherokee is even larger and adds an air of refinement along with a little more ground clearance. The Wrangler, of course, is the iconic Jeep that can go anywhere, with or without a top, and is suitable for extreme explorers and their humans.
Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
As far as small pickup trucks go, there are no choices as off-road or adventure-ready as the Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. Coming standard with a large cab or crew cab (four-door) configuration, the Frontier has plenty of space for your furry friend. The rear bed and optional integrated tailgate extender are a wise choice, allowing you to bring plenty of supplies and an overnight crate for camping. The built-in roof rack just adds to this, of course, so maybe you can bring a tent for yourself as well.
Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
A full-size truck, the half-ton Ram 1500 is a great choice on its own, but the Outdoorsman model with the EcoDiesel engine, makes the 1500 fuel efficient and capable. With plenty of room in the cab and a big bed to fill with gear, the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman is a great “get there, do that” machine. The Ram Box storage system makes it even sweeter.
Subaru XV Crosstrek or Forester
Nothing says “lets go outside and play” like a Subaru. The relatively new XV Crosstrek is proving itself to be a popular choice, thanks to its right-sized nature and capable ruggedness. The XV Crosstrek has more ground clearance than the Impreza, but isn’t as big as the Subaru Outback. A hybrid option adds to the XV Crosstrek’s appeal.
The Subaru Forester is the long-lived and well-loved Subaru SUV, of course, with plenty of capability and a lot of interior space. It’s also very ergonomic both as a daily-use vehicle and a weekend getaway machine. Dogs will love the head room, big cargo area and roomy back seat.
Refined, Upscale Bowsers
Blue ribbon holders, certificates of lineage and regular trips to the salon. These are things that appeal to more than just British royalty. Some canines prefer the good life and live it to the fullest. Exclusive dog parks, high-rent fire hydrants and food spooned into porcelain are the expectation. For dogs like this, the delivery chariot must be as refined and well-bred as they are.
Lexus RX 450h
Here we’re talking luxury for luxury’s sake. The beautiful Lexus RX 450h is made to be refined, capable and efficient. The hybrid powertrain means fewer stops at the gas station and more time on the road. The plush, roomy interior has a large cargo area, an excellent back seat and more than enough room to stretch. Although capable on beach sand and dirt roads, the RX 450h doesn’t sit so high that mon chéri must look undignified getting in and out of the car.
For the truly upscale canine, it’s hard to say no to a Porsche. The Macan is a nicely sized crossover that has plenty of space and looks good. It also retains that signature Porsche driving experience. The understated beauty of this SUV will not eclipse the poodle exiting for the daily stop at the groomers either.
The Volvo XC60 is a small, capable crossover with an upscale look, a beautiful interior and a back seat that has enough space to stretch out and be comfortable. There is a luxurious ride, a built-in kennel option for the rear cargo area and a panoramic sunroof option for cloud watching and stargazing.
Pack Cars for Family Dogs
Sometimes, it’s all about family. Dogs roam in packs and today, those pack mates might include other dogs, some humans, and perhaps the occasional cat. For the family-focused dog, a vehicle must have plenty of room and comfort to get everyone there safely. A third row is a must-have extra and a lot of cargo space is a given.
Chrysler Town & Country
The best-selling minivan on the market, the Chrysler Town & Country offers comfort, style and aplomb. This “Cadillac of minivans” can accommodate even large packs of humans and families of dogs.
For those who want the size and space a minivan offers, but need the ability to traverse snow, dirt roads, and other obstacles where all-wheel drive and a little ground clearance are a good thing, there’s the big Ford Flex. This crossover has a huge third row, plenty of cargo room and a big, wide interior that allows both dogs and humans to really stretch out and get comfy.
If a minivan with its capabilities is a necessity, but fuel economy and price tag are a concern, the Mazda5 delivers. This “right-sized” minivan has a small third row, plenty of cargo room and that signature Mazda “Zoom-Zoom.” Sliding doors and a sleek look add to the appeal, and the Mazda5 has plenty of space for a dog and his friends.
There you have it, friends. The best choices for dogs on the move. Any car can, of course, become the ultimate canine driving machine, but the vehicles we’ve listed are inherently good at it as-is. Enjoy the ride and remember, sticking your head out the window is addictive, so do it in moderation.