I leave my dog in the car because she wants to be with me – what can I do?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra,

I am a regular reader of your articles and I thank you for all that I have learned from them. I am a special case to your heat wave article where it says to never ever leave your dog in a car… my dog, Kona (5 yrs, 65 pounds) is an Australian Shepherd mix. He is adorable and I love him so much. He is theeee best dog and has great manners and everyone loves him. I say “special case” because I CANNOT leave my dog home alone. He howls for hours on end and it drives my neighbor’s nuts. This is not a dog friendly world in the sense that I cannot bring my dog into the grocery store, bank, restaurant, etc. All my Kona wants is to be with either or both of myself and my husband. When we go places we MUST leave him in the car. It’s never for more than an hour and usually not as long as 20 minutes. We park in the shade – always, and leave him food and water. My car has a huge back hatch and I leave that open. He NEVER jumps out. Whenever we can take him in to where we are going we absolutely do. I am only trying to give him what he wants. When I leave him in the car he does not howl but knows I must come back to the car to go to the next place. When leaving him at home he feels like he’s missing out on things and personally I do not think a dog should be left home alone; especially not for a whole work day. We have tried EVERYTHING to have Kona be able to stay at home alone. We tried doing nothing, we tried giving him up to the pound but left with him as it was the stupidest idea ever, we tried a pet psychic who told us all about Kona’s past lives =o). We ended up with the shock collar (stupid, lasted one try and we hated it), and kennel training – which never held. I know there’s this new law stating it is illegal to leave your dog in the car. But what in the world am I to do? Luckily I work at my dad’s house selling timeshare resales and Kona gets to hang out in their beautiful back yard – though he still gets lonely out there and whines from time to time. At home we have a eucalyptus forest where Kona can run off his leash. We do not have a yard at home as we live in an apartment community. We want to move out of California soooo bad and give Kona a yard he so deserves. We are looking into Idaho. Do you have any suggestions for me in the meantime, living in a city with a big beautiful country dog who knows he’s a pack animal and just wants to be with his people?Thank you,

Grace Avilez


Hi – thanks for your email. You are right – that is a difficult situation! It sounds like you don’t want to leave your dog alone and he refuses to be left alone. I agree that dogs should not spend too much time alone but a little time is not a big deal. I appreciate how much you love your dog and in general it sounds like he has a great life.

Based on what you told me, you have two issues. First, your dog has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a behavioral problem exhibited by animals that are separated from their owners. The behavior exhibited can range from destructive tendencies, inappropriate urination or defecation, excessive drooling and/or excessive vocalization (barking and whining). I recently read that it is estimated that 14% of dogs have separation anxiety.

You don’t seem to mind the separation anxiety that much because you want your dog to be with you. However, leaving him in the car even for 20 minutes on a hot day – even in the shade is not acceptable. I’ve seen dogs die from heat stroke in as little as that amount of time. Even in the shade. Many times the vehicle is hot and even parking in the shade does not help.

I think you have two options. First, deal with the separation anxiety. We have several good articles that discuss options for this common problem. Please read Assessing Canine Separation Anxiety and Separation Anxiety in Dogs.

The other option is you can change your life catering to only places that are dog friendly and/or finding a dog sitter/friend that is willing to watch your dog or play with your dog while you run errands. Another option is to drop him off at Doggie DayCare for a few hours a week while you do your errands.

I can see how much you love your dog and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him in the heat of a vehicle.


Dr. Debra