How long can my dog be in a hot car?

Use common sense if you leave your dog alone in a hot car

How long can my dog be in a hot car?

It’s not abusive to leave a dog in the car under the right circumstances.

Although newspapers and blogs seem to think some of us have never heard how lethal a hot car can be, it’s not news to dog owners that car temperatures can kill.

There are different statistics out there on how long it takes for a dog to die in a car. The majority say it takes 15 minutes when the car is parked in the sun on a 78-degree day or hotter.

The problem is, people believe what they hear, and 15 minutes is thrown around like a magic number.

Some dogs are OK being left in the car for 15 minutes. Others are not.

How long can my dog be in a hot car?

A dog can begin suffering within two minutes of being left in a hot car. After all, dogs have fur coats, and they can only sweat through their feet.

It doesn’t take long for certain breeds to become uncomfortable in the heat. A black, overweight pug is going to be a lot worse off than a healthy yellow lab.

It’s easy to lose track of time.

Plus, it’s easy to lose track of time. People forget.

Ten minutes at the mall can easily turn into a 35 minutes. Five minutes at the bank can easily turn into 20 minutes of waiting.

Those are the kinds of mistakes we make. We think we have 15 minutes. We think 15 minutes is enough time.

Know your dog’s heat tolerance.

Leave dog alone in car

I would never leave my mutt Ace alone in a hot car. He’s black, and he overheats easier than most dogs. But to say I should never leave my dog in the car is generalizing too much.

I used to live in North Dakota.

Fan to keep dogs coolThe average high temperature in Fargo is 55 degrees Fahrenheit or lower from October through April, according to

Even though my dog is black, he has short hair and he’s in good shape. I know my dog well and what is safe and what isn’t safe for him.

I have a feeling there are a lot of other dog owners out there just like me who are sick of being harassed for bringing their dogs along and leaving them in the car.

I trust a dog’s owner to know what’s best for her own dog. Someone even suggested to me this fan for keeping dogs cool in the car. Hey, it could help, right?

I’ll make decisions about my own dog, thank you.

I love to bring Ace along on errands. He spends a lot of time waiting for me in the back seat, especially during the fall and spring when it’s not too hot or too cold. To say I should never leave my dog in the car at all would be unfortunate.

Ace has waited for me while I go to dinner, while I shop or while I run other dogs.

When Ace is left home alone, I guarantee you he sleeps the entire time. But while he stays in the car, he is looking out at new surroundings and experiencing new things.

Two hours in the car is not going to kill my dog on a cool day.

Millions of dogs spend eight or more hours a day in a kennel. Two hours in the car is not going to kill my dog on a cool day.

How long can a dog be in a hot car? Black lab mix Ace lying down in the car on his dog bedMost dogs love car rides.

There’s this thing called common sense that people seem to be lacking on both sides of this issue.

Yes, a hot car will kill a dog (or toddler).

No matter what, there are going to be times when people make mistakes. But cars aren’t always hot, and most dogs love the car, even if that means waiting while their owners run a few errands.

I was visiting my Grandma in a small Minnesota town. My Grandma is not a dog person, but she did know her statistics on how hot cars can kill dogs.

No matter what, there are going to be times when people make mistakes.

She was concerned when I left Ace out in the car for 15 minutes when I got to her house (although she didn’t invite him inside). And later, she was concerned while Ace waited in the car for a half-hour while we went to lunch.

I knew very well that my dog would be fine. I also parked by a window so I could see him from my table in the restaurant. It was maybe 70 degrees with some wind and I had the windows down part way.

I’m an (overly) concerned dog owner, so I even went out to check on Ace during the middle of my lunch. My mutt was totally relaxed, not even panting and sitting in the sun (he had the option of shade).

“Oh, hi. Did you bring me some food?”

Yeah, my dog was really suffering.

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71 Readers Commented

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  1. Anonymous on August 16, 2012

    Never leave a dog in the car. Screw “it works for me.” Just don’t do it. Can’t handle a dog? Find another responsible owner who can.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 17, 2012

      So you are saying that instead of leaving my dog alone in a car for even a few seconds, I should instead find him a new home? Yikes.

    • Dane on July 12, 2013

      Never? So it’s ok the through common sense out the window, deny your dogs rides bc some idiots can’t think?

    • ladygm on July 26, 2015

      I leave my dogs in the car all the time. When I lived in VA they traveled with me to the store all the time. It was common in the country to see peoples dogs in the car while they were in the store. My dogs tolerate it well. I leave all the windows 1/3 or more down, give them water when I leave and when I come back. They sit in the heat all day in 90 and 100 degree weather while I am at work. My dogs are 7 and 5 years old. If the heat was going to kill them I am sure it would have done so my now. These sensational stories about dogs dying in the car are ridiculous. They never report the circumstances, maybe the dog was sick or very young, you don’t hear that, only about the cruelty of the owner for leaving the. I click the button on my car and my dogs run for the car to get in. I have to fight them off to get then not to jump in when I am going to work. People who write stupid stuff like this have no clue.
      Gloria Thompson (not anonymous)

  2. Matt Rullo on September 16, 2012

    I have a 4-year-old Jack Russell that would rather stay in the car when I leave instead of staying at home. He exercises regularly and I leave him in the car for an hour or two hours when it’s not too hot outside, say 60 to 75 degrees. I check on him every 20 to 30 minutes and Remi is happy chilling in the car however long because he loves being with his master no matter what! It all depends on knowing your dog, his heat tolerance and that should tell you how long they can stay in a car.

  3. Candice on June 7, 2013

    I’m pretty late to this conversation, but I’d like to put in my 2 cents! I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying, Lindsay. I’ve been taking care of my boyfriend’s sweet 10-year-old collie mix for almost a year now. Quincy has had severe separation anxiety her entire life – we’ve tried everything from the Thundershirt to kenneling, treat toys and calming chews, daily anti-anxiety medication – all to no avail. She cannot be left at home alone, inside or out, without destroying things, having accidents, or disturbing neighbors with her barking.

    She only recently became comfortable enough to stay at doggy daycare while I am at work or running errands for more than an hour or so. This was a huge deal for her!

    But if doggy daycare is closed or I just need to run somewhere quick, I take her with me. She loves being in the car! She is totally comfortable and calm, and happy to look out the window and nap in the backseat. I know her well – I know her limits. I have never put her in any danger by leaving her in the backseat of my SUV with all windows partially down, parked in the shade with a treat and a big bowl of water on a 75 degree day when I’m at the gym for an hour. She doesn’t bark, pant, or whine. She knows I’m coming back soon and would never leave her, and is perfectly content.

    People can get upset with me, but my dog is going to be just fine in the car for an hour or so. I would of course never leave her in more extreme temperatures, but I would rather have her safe and comfy in my car than leave her at home freaking out for an hour. She is very healthy for her age, gets daily 1-2 hour walks or runs, and is pampered like a queen. She just doesn’t like being alone, and the car is a comfortable space for her.

  4. Jana Rade on June 30, 2013

    Basically, we didn’t like leaving our guys alone anywhere. And on a hot day, I would stay in the truck with them, if we had to stop for something. And we did our best to pick early morning or late evening for traveling. For example, when going camping or to Jasmine’s ranch, we’d leave at 3 in the morning, to do our traveling while it was still cool.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 1, 2013

      Wow, how nice of you to get up that early for your dogs!

      • Jana Rade on July 1, 2013

        There was nothing I wouldn’t have done for Jasmine.

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 1, 2013

          Yes. She was so lucky to have you. So sorry for your loss.

  5. Marcia on July 1, 2013

    I don’t usually leave my dogs in the car…..but when I do, my husband or I actually stay with them, especially if it is even slightly warm. That way, if whatever business we are in starts taking longer than expected, we can get them out and comfortable. Honestly….my fear is someone stealing them. If I am in a building that I cannot see my vehicle, then I definitely won’t leave them. I know it might sound paranoid, but it seems to be happening more and more. Otherwise, using common sense it always good.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 1, 2013

      I don’t think anyone would steal or bother my dog, but you just never know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  6. amanda lewis on August 2, 2013

    Rather than say “he looks fine to me” or “I feel like he’s OK”, shouldn’t we consider some actual facts here? I have mixed emotions on the topic at hand, but I know for a fact that on a 70 degree dar, a parked car with the windows cracked becomes a 90 degree sauna in 10 minutes.
    That is a fact.

  7. Annie on March 14, 2016

    My dog loves running errands with me! The rule I’m using is that is I wouldn’t be able to stay in the car myself without sweating a tiny bit, I wouldn’t leave my dog there. I live in Texas and on Summer days, my dog loves to lay down outside when it’s 95 degrees (he asks for the door when he could stay inside in the AC) for him to stay in the car when it’s below 70 degrees, it’s nothing! Above that, I wouldn’t leave him there. Maybe some people wouldn’t do it, but it’s sure not dangerous for the dog to spend 30-40 minutes in those conditions. I got so upset at a man who came yelling at me for leaving my dog in the car when it was 65 degrees outside with all the windows open. He told me he would call the police if I don’t go back to my car right away. I got back to my car, my dog was napping and it was 75 degrees in the car with a cool breeze! My dog didn’t even drink the water I had left him!!! At the end of the day, there’s a big difference between the choices you make for your pet vs what’s dangerous. Just like with children! Some are okay leaving their kids walk to the park alone, some others won’t let them do it until they are teenagers and would call CPS on you!

  8. Kim Wisdom on June 13, 2016

    I too am sick of people overreacting when a dog, no matter the conditions, is left in the car and the owner is automatically accused of being an animal abuser. I do not take my dogs with me and leave them in the car in the middle of summer. But I do take them with me when the temp is anywhere from 50 to 70, leave them in the car with the windows down, water and shade available if they need it. I get the thing about closed windows and heat. How many people sit in the car on a 70 degree day with the windows open, water available, and die from heat stroke? It took so long for folks to finally get the idea that closed cars get hot on warm days (how many babies have died in closed cars on a hot day), but the pendulum has swung too far the other way to automatic abuse, no matter the steps the owner takes to keep their dogs safe.

  9. Frank on June 13, 2016

    We have a white miniature poodle. She’s upset if it’s too hot to take her when I run errands. She loves being in the car and especially guarding it 🙂

  10. Sandy Weinstein on June 15, 2016

    never leave a dog in a hot car. i even take a fan with me, b/c when the car is hot when you get in and it make take a few minutes for it to get cool, i have a battery operated fan. i also take a cool matt with me. you never know what is going to happen, your car may break down, so i always go prepared with cold water, cool mat, ice packs, fan, etc. that said i never leave my girls in a hot car. it is against the law in nc, however, the police are very, very slow to act or do anything. i have called them many a time when i have seen a hot in a hot car, left for over 20 minutes or more and they never responded. when i first got Evie i would take her everywhere. however, if it was hot, i would leave her at home.

  11. Mark j. Lopez on July 22, 2016

    “NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES” this statement alone is very disheartening and lacks overall compassion for your dog which you have the responsibility of maintaining the health and the everyday well being of if you are going to travel with your dog it should be a trip planned around your dog being in the car with you and out of the car with you if you have to make a stop where your dog has to be left in car then reconsidering the importance of that stop must be weighed against your dogs life so as for the mistake that so nonchalantly is acceptable at the cost of your companion is not a mistake but an ill hearted choice to place your dog in this position would you put a human friend in a position that could result in death I would hope not so why would you feel OK to place your dog in this situation