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Golden Retriever sitting in a parked car with its head out the window.
Courtesy of emilyskeels / stock.adobe.com

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 heat stroke. 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 weather can reach 100 degrees in just 20 minutes. On very hot days, temperatures inside parked cars can climb to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in less than one hour.

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.

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Car Safety for Dogs

All dogs are susceptible to heat stroke. Heat intolerant brachycephalic breeds (dogs that have a relatively broad, short skull), such as Pugs and Bulldogs, however, could suffer negative effects sooner than other breeds. 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 him while the air conditioner is running. This will keep him safe, 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.

Hundreds of pets die from car-related heat stroke each year. The issue is so important that 28 states have 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 his safety. After you exit the car, you can walk around to the door closest to your dog and give him a clear command when it is time for him to come out. Teaching the “wait” command can give you more control.

Pug sitting on a suitcase next to a half-packed car.

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. Look for equipment that has been crash-tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety. 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.

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 him safely at home.

AKC Link Collar

As summer gets underway, the risk of heat stroke, both in and outside of cars, grows. Stay on top of high temperatures with the AKC Link collar. This smart collar sends you an alert when your dog is exposed to temperatures that are either too hot or too cold for him, helping you keep him safe, no matter where he is.

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