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The Ultimate Guide: Living in a Car with a Dog in 2024

As an experienced, and let’s be honest, slightly unconventional dog owner, I know firsthand the struggles of living in a car with a furry companion. It may not be the most conventional living situation, but sometimes life throws us unexpected challenges and we have to adapt in order to survive. And when it comes to caring for our four-legged friends, we are willing to do whatever it takes. That’s why I’m here to share my personal tips and tricks for successfully living in a car with a dog. So buckle up, grab some treats for your pup, and get ready to learn how to make this unique lifestyle work for both you and your beloved pet. Welcome to the world of Living in a Car with a Dog.

Living in a car with a dog.

Can I sleep with my dog in the car?

Yes, you can sleep with a dog in your vehicle when car camping. However you must not leave you dog unattended in a vehicle regardless of the outside ambient temperature. Not only could it be detrimental to your pets health, it is illegal (animal endangerment) to leave animals alone in vehicles without basic necessities.

Having a portable kennel or dog crate is the best way to have your dog secure, safe and sound when sleeping in your vehicle. If you dog is unfamiliar with travelling in a car it’s best to train them beforehand if possible to sleep in the kennel which creates a positive association. This association is beneficial to keep your dog calm and ensure a good nights sleep.

How to live with your dog in a car

Having your precious pet with you during your vehicle camping adventures can be extremely rewarding. But it is important to consider the needs of your pooch to ensure they are as safe and comfortable as possible. When setting up your vehicle camping set-up it is important to consider the following:

  • Adequate Ventilation
  • Access to Food & Water
  • Temperature/ climate control
  • Restraints & Bedding
  • Hygiene

Adequate Ventilation

A well ventilated vehicle camper set-up is beneficial for many reasons, regardless if you are travelling with your dog. Fresh, circulated air not only provides essential oxygen, but can assist with temperature control & reducing odors. Having a either a vent or fan with windows cracked is usually sufficient enough for most set-ups to assist with air flow.

living in a car with a dog

Food & Water

Food and water is critical to your pets survival, just as it is your own. With the limitation of space in your vehicle camping set-up, giving your dog access to food and water can be difficult when driving. Luckily now days there are plenty of portable options for pet food and water for when on the road. From collapsible food bowls to travel water bottles for dogs to make life on the road easier.

With the increase of vehicle dwellers travelling with pets there has been an increase in pet companies creating ‘travel bundles’ for dogs such as the ‘Original Doggy Bag“. They offer a road trip pack which is a great way to get started for all of your dogs basic travel needs.

The Original Doggy Bag. Treat your dog like family with the patented design that makes hitting the road with your best friend more fun! Featuring 2 large collapsible dog bowls with carabiners and 2 insulated dog food travel containers with leak-proof lining.

Temperature/ Climate Control

Maintaining a habitable temperature in your vehicle is important to consider when travelling with your 4 legged friend. With hot summer days it is important to consider the temperature inside of your car as this can rapidly increase and become deadly.

A lady adjusting the AC of a car.

Winter can be just as hard, with sub freezing temperatures making it uncomfortable for both you and your pet. We have covered some handy ways to keep your vehicle camper set up warm during these periods in this article here.

Restraints & Bedding

Unrestrained dogs can be a dangerous distraction when travelling in your vehicle. Having a comfortable restraint for your pooch is the best way to ensure both you and them are safe on those long road trips. Travel crates or dog car pens are perfect for both restraining and offering an extra level of comfort and security for your dog to sleep. We highly recommend this travel crate and this dog car pen, both of which are highly rated by fellow dwellers and light on your purse.


Hygiene is another key factor to consider when living with your dog in a car. With the small confined space of your vehicle camping setup, smells and mess can accumulate quickly if not managed.

Having a dedicated cloth or towel for cleaning muddy or dirty paws is a great way to help reduce the mess tracked into your living space. Washing with shampoo & brushing your dog regularly can also assist in reducing the amount of hair and scents left by your four legged friend.

Essentials for living with a dog in the car

If you plan on travelling or living with your dog in your vehicle for an extended period of time it is import to be prepared to meet your pets needs. Although we love our pets driving with your dog can become challenging at times, especially on those long road trips, so here are our essentials to ensure you are ready to hit the road with confidence.

Harness & Tether

Keeping your dog restrained while driving is important to keep you alert and not distracted from the road ahead. There are many different options of keeping your dog secure when driving from drive car harnesses to car restraints and dog car hammocks/ seats.

Portable Dog Water Bottle

Regardless whether you are travelling or not your dog needs access to clean drinking water. A ‘leaf style’ dog water bottle is a great way to keep your pet hydrated quickly and efficiently with little to no mess. These are inexpensive and a must have for those long road trips.

Dog travel beds

Dog travel beds are a great way to keep your dogs nice and comfy when both stationary overnights and whilst driving. These pair well with harnesses when travelling or to serve as a familiar and comfortable place to sleep when in the great out doors.

Portable dog food containers

Although this may seem like the most obvious on the list it is still important none the less. A good air tight, portable dog food container is critical when travelling with your pooch. Not only does it stop spills when you have to stop suddenly, an air tight container helps stop the smell of dog biscuits take center stage of the compact space of your vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you stop with your dog in the car?

As a rule of thumb, you should stop every 2 to 3 hours when travelling with your dog in the car. This allows them to stretch and use the bathroom to ensure they are comfortable for your journey. It is import to monitor your pets behavior in the car and stop if you notice they are in destress.

Can I leave my dog in the car?

Leaving your dog unattended in a car is never safe, and in many states, it is illegal. Despite the temperature outside, cars can heat up rapidly, reaching twice the external temperature due to their metal and glass composition that absorbs heat. Opening windows, parking in the shade, tinting windows, or leaving water in the car won’t provide sufficient relief. It is crucial to understand that in extreme emergencies only, you may leave your dog alone in a vehicle for a maximum of 5 minutes (avoid casual scenarios). However, please note that any abnormal weather conditions, whether hot or cold, significantly reduce this time frame. To ensure ventilation, it is advisable to leave a window cracked.

How long can I leave my dog in the car?

In emergency cases, a maximum of 5 minutes is permissible, but it is strongly advised NEVER to leave your car unattended. The consequences of leaving your dog inside an unattended car are unpredictable and can escalate exponentially with the outside weather conditions. Heatstroke, dehydration, and even brain damage have been reported in dogs left in unattended cars. Moreover, every year, tragic incidents occur where children and dogs lose their lives because negligent parents or dog owners left them in the car “just for a minute!” Let’s prioritize the safety and well-being of our loved ones and never take such risks.

What is a safe temp to leave dog in car?

While some advise 30-70°F as a safe temperature to leave dog in car, this range depends heavily on the breed of the dog, their age and their health conditions. However, we must stress that it is absolutely imperative to never, under any circumstances, leave your dog unattended in a car.

Can I drive with my dog unrestrained in the car?

No matter how well behaved your pet is, unrestrained dogs can be a dangerous distraction when travelling in a vehicle. Not only is it dangerous in some states and countries it can see you given a potential fine. In Australia it is illegal in most states to drive with a dog un restrained. If you are planning to travel with your dog unrestrained it is best to read up on your State laws/ regulations.


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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