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Having your dog with you while camping can make it a fun experience for both of you. However, having your dog sleep next to you isn’t always possible in your tent or while camping in the open air. You might be afraid of a wild animal attacking your dog, the campsite may not allow dogs, or there could be another reason your dog can’t sleep alongside you.
A dog can sleep in a car overnight while camping. However, the temperature in the vehicle shouldn’t be too cold or too hot, and it should be well-ventilated. After a few hours of being exposed to too hot or cold temperatures, dogs can develop hypothermia or heat exhaustion.
This article will explain the conditions where it’s acceptable to allow your dog to sleep in the car overnight and the conditions where it’s not advised.
The Weather Conditions at the Campsite
The weather conditions at your campsite should be the most important factor affecting whether or not your dog can sleep in a car overnight. A temperature range between 50-80°F (10-26.67°C) is considered comfortable for dogs.
When dogs are exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for more than four hours, they risk developing hypothermia. This can cause a decrease in heart and breathing rate, neurological problems, organ damage, and, in severe cases, death.
Conversely, when dogs are exposed to temperatures above 80°F (26.67°C), they can become overheated or develop heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion may cause your dog to:
- Pant excessively
- Develop an elevated body temperature
- Have a rapid heart rate
- Become disoriented.
In extreme cases, dogs can lose consciousness or die.
The lower the temperature, the higher the risk is that your dog could develop hypothermia. The converse is also true for heat exhaustion.
It’s, therefore, best to check the weather conditions at the campsite before you leave. If the temperatures overnight will be within the 50 and 80°F (10 and 26.67°C) range, it’s likely safe for your dog to sleep in the car.
Look out for any potential storms during the night, as these could affect the temperature.
The noise from thunderstorms, wind storms, or heavy rain can be stressful for dogs, especially if they’re sleeping in a strange place.
A good way of determining if the car’s internal temperature is comfortable for your dog is to consider if you would feel comfortable sleeping there. If not, you should make another plan for a sleeping place for your dog.
Your Proximity to the Car
Sleeping in a car isn’t normal for most dogs. If your dog sleeps in the car overnight, they’ll need regular reassurance from you to avoid separation anxiety and prevent them from becoming distressed.
You need to sleep close enough to the car to hear if your dog is crying or barking so that you can attend to them if needed.
Dogs have a keen sense of smell, and if you’re sleeping close enough to the car, they’ll be able to smell you, which will reassure and calm them. Additionally, your dog will need a toilet break at least every four to six hours.
Therefore, the closer you sleep to the car, the better.
Check Your State Laws
It’s a criminal offense in most US states to leave an animal locked up under a dangerous condition.
In most states, it’s illegal for dogs to be exposed to dangerous conditions, including an environment with an extreme temperature. The car shouldn’t be too far away from you so that you can hear if your dog is in distress and you can take them for regular water or toilet breaks.
You should also ensure that the car is as comfortable as possible for your dog.
Although a well-ventilated car at a comfortable temperature may not be considered a dangerous condition, you could get into trouble if the weather suddenly becomes too hot or too cold at your camping location.
The majority of US states have this law, except for:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
Ensure That The Car Is Comfortable for Your Dog
If you’ve determined that the weather conditions will be comfortable enough for your dog to spend the night in the car, you’ll need to ensure that your vehicle is comfortable for the dog.
Good ventilation is vital. Like all mammals, dogs breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide during the respiration process.
In a poorly ventilated car, the space can soon become filled with carbon dioxide with not enough oxygen for your dog to inhale. This can cause hypoxemia, resulting in anemia and heart problems, irreversible if not treated promptly.
You should leave at least one car window half-open to ensure that the vehicle is well-ventilated. If you’re worried about your dog escaping through the open window, you can purchase a pet gate for the window.
I recommend the Zoie & Chloe Car and Truck Window Pet Gate, from Amazon.com, for your vehicle. It attaches to a truck or car window space, and it keeps your dog safe while getting enough ventilation while they’re sleeping.
To help your dog feel calm, comfortable, and warm, place their favorite blanket and toy in the car with them.
You might also want to put a GPS collar on your dog. Some GPS collars allow you to monitor your dog’s temperature, which is very important if your dog is sleeping in a car.
Finally, ensure that you give your dog plenty of clean water and feed them as you usually would.
It’s acceptable to allow your dog to sleep in the car overnight while camping if the temperature range in the vehicle is between 50 and 80°F (10 and 26.67°C).
It’s illegal in most states for dogs to be in a too hot or too cold environment.
However, you should remain close to the car to keep an eye on your dog and ensure that the vehicle is as comfortable as possible. The car should also be well-ventilated, and you should take your dog for regular toilet and water breaks.
Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:
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Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.
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