Let's face it: Dogs like the feel of wind in the car

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Charlie is not about to let a bunch of experts, well-intentioned though they may be, deny him his greatest pleasure: riding in a car with his head out the window.

It's such a beloved activity for the 10-year-old shih tzu-schnauzer mix who lives in Vadnais Heights, Minn., that he's learned how to use the electronic buttons to open the car windows.

"He figured it out right away," said Anne Nelson, the human who drives the car while Charlie partakes of the fresh air. "He's learned how to do it in every car we've owned."

The sources of Charlie's potential angst are safety experts who warn that his window habit is dangerous. They point out that a dog with its head out a window of a moving car is exposed to dirt, rocks, bugs and other flying detritus. Plus, the wind can give them earaches, to say nothing of the fact that taking a sharp turn could cause the dog to fall out the window.

While the advice holds merit from a human perspective, dogs don't seem to agree. Riding down the street, jowls flapping in the wind, seems to put most dogs in a state of pure, euphoric glee. It certainly works that way for Charlie.

"It's his favorite thing," Nelson said. "If I lock the windows (so they can't be operated by the push button), he paws at it frantically until I let him put it down."

Researchers aren't sure exactly why dogs are so hooked on hanging out windows, but the best bet is that it has something to do with the all-you-can-smell smorgasbord of scents rushing at them. Plus it's something cats aren't good at.

Despite the safety experts' advice, Nelson concedes that she's not likely to deny Charlie his windy treat. But she does find it necessary to limit it sometimes.

"It gets annoying in the winter," she conceded. "We have a deal: I give him a little fix, and then I close the window. As soon as I do that, he puts his face down by the air vent. He just loves having the air in his face."