Search Menu

AKC is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you purchase a product through this article, we may receive a portion of the sale.

Most dog owners know that you can’t leave a pet in a hot car. Temperatures can rise to dangerous levels in just minutes, putting your dog at risk of heatstroke. But what if you open a window a little bit? Does that make it safe to leave your dog in the car?

The answer is simple. You should never leave a dog alone in the car, even with the windows cracked. In some states, it’s even illegal.

Open Windows Don’t Keep Dogs Safe

It doesn’t have to be super hot outside for your car to heat up. The inside of a vehicle parked in 70-degree Fahrenheit weather can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in just 20 minutes. On very hot days, temperatures inside parked cars can climb to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in less than one hour.

In Partnership with logo
Find Your Perfect Home white dog paw print
*Dog friendly rental filter applied to results

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), studies have shown that cracking a window changes these figures very little. A parked car with the windows cracked heats up at almost the exact same rate as a car with the windows rolled up, putting pets in serious danger.

Car Safety for Dogs

All dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, and every owner needs to be acutely aware of their dogs’ limits. Some brachycephalic individuals (dogs that have relatively broad, short skulls, such as Pugs and Bulldogs), may be more sensitive to high heat and humidity, so owners should pay close attention to their breathing. Also, even dogs accustomed to exercise may overheat easily when exercising on hot days.

If you know you’ll be on the road with your dog, make plans to travel with another adult who can remain in the vehicle with them while the air conditioner is running. This will keep them safe when it gets hot, and it will also reduce the risk of your dog jumping out of an open window at a rest stop or in a parking lot.

Golden Retriever in the backseat with a man driving.
PeopleImages/E+ via Getty Images

Hundreds of pets die from car-related heat stroke each year. The issue is so important that 31 states have various laws restricting people from leaving their pets unattended in vehicles. Some laws ban the practice outright, while others protect law enforcement officers and citizens if they break into cars to rescue pets.

Teaching your dog to exit the car properly is also critical to their safety. After you exit the car, you can walk around to the door closest to your dog and give them a clear command when it is time for them to come out. Teaching the “wait” command can give you more control.

Other Risks for Dogs Riding in Vehicles

The best way to keep your dog safe in a moving vehicle is to use a harness, carrier, or crate. Without proper restraint, dogs can climb into your lap and restrict your view of traffic, move near and block the brake or accelerator pedal, and be seriously injured by an airbag or thrown into the windshield in the event of an accident or sudden stop. You can also for equipment that has been crash-tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety.

Dogs who hang their heads out the open window are also at risk. Eye, ear, face, and mouth injuries from airborne objects or shrubs and branches can occur. Unrestrained dogs at open windows are in danger of falling out if there’s a collision or abrupt turn, and they may even decide to jump out if they see something they want to chase. A dog riding in the bed of a pickup truck is also at risk of being hit by airborne objects, falling from the truck, or jumping out.

So if you’re headed out to run errands that really don’t involve any fun activities for your dog, you might want to consider leaving them safely at home.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: How Long Can You Keep Your Dog Outside?
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Emergency First Aid for Dogs

Even the most responsible pet owner can't always protect their pet from a sudden accident or illness. Getting your pet immediate medical attention can be the difference between life and death. Download this e-book to learn more about what to do in an emergency situation.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download