Can Dogs Live in a Garage and is it Legal? (Summer & Winter Care)


can dogs live in a garage

The subject of whether it’s ok to let your dog live in your garage is a murky one. Primarily this is because there are many different scenarios where it will be perfectly fine and legal to do so… but other cases where the scenario is simply unacceptable.

Let me give you an example; my friend’s dog sleeps in his garage at night. However, the garage is attached to the house with a door that connects the rooms.

My friend is a responsible dog owner and has a well-ventilated garage in the summer, and a warm garage in the winter. He feeds his dog twice a day, it’s part of their family, is allowed inside the house and gets all the exercise and love a dog would ever need.

However, I recently read a report about a guy who kept two dogs chained up in a garage at the foot of his yard to deter criminals. The dogs were never exercised, had no stimulation, and were under-nourished and not looked after properly. This is clearly not right and he was punished by the law.

So, as you can see, it’s very much down to circumstance. But let’s take a closer look.

Can dogs live in a garage?

Can dogs live in a garage? Dogs can live in garages providing that the garage is temperature regulated for both summer and winter. The dogs must also not be kept in the garage for extended periods of time, ideally only when sleeping at night, or when you need to go out for a few hours and don’t want them let loose in your home.

The bottom line is this; garages can provide a comfortable living environment for dogs but as long as it’s safe, and you are a responsible dog owner who doesn’t contravene animal welfare legislation. If the garage has been converted into a living space then even better as it will reduce the risk of harm coming to the dog.

When you buy a dog, it should become an extension of your family. Treat your dog like any other family member (within reason). If you think that your blurring the lines of responsibility and care, then it is not acceptable to keep your dog living in the garage.

is it ok to leave a dog in a garage
It can be ok to leave a dog in a garage for short periods of time, but please make them comfortable and safe!

There are irresponsible owners out there who will keep their dog in a garage and pretty much forget about them. Dogs are social animals who need companionship and human interaction. By denying them this, it’s cruel and will lead to an unhappy and unhealthy dog.

However, there is no problem with you leaving your dog in your garage for a few hours when you go out, or indeed letting them sleep in a garage overnight. But that advice comes with some large caveats which I am going to cover off below.

Is it ok for dogs to sleep in a garage?

It is ok for dogs to sleep in a garage as they are generally very adaptable. But there are certain things you should do as an owner to ensure their comfort, safety, and well-being.

Guidelines set by various animal charities say that dogs can be left overnight to sleep for up to 8 hours by themselves. Any longer than that and you start to enter the territory of animal cruelty.

Above all, your garage should provide a safe and comfortable living space for your dog, away from any risk, dangerous substances, and extreme summer or winter temperatures.

Here are some things you need to consider if you are going to be having your dog sleep or live in your own garage.

1. Keeping your dog’s temperature correct

It will only be ok for your dog to live in your garage if you can make sure the temperature is regulated depending on the season.

For example, come wintertime it needs to be well insulated, possibly with a heater or wall insulation including covering any gaps around the garage door. If you scroll further down the page you will see my tips on how to keep a dog warm in a garage in winter.

Similarly, in the summer, some adjustments will be needed to ensure your dog doesn’t get too hot. Overheating just like in a hot car can be fatal. You can also read my tips further down the page on how to keep your dog cool in a garage. 

2. Keeping your dog safe from harm

Untidy and unsuitable garages can pose a wide range of risks and dangers to dogs. This is why I recommend you only let your dog sleep in your garage when it’s been converted into something more in line with a living space.

For example, you might have sharp tools on the ground. There could be dangerous chemicals such as paints, weed killers, and fuels on the floor.

If you do let your dog sleep and live in your garage, please clean it up first and get anything that could pose a risk out of there.

If your dog was to eat something it shouldn’t or have a piece of machinery fall on them, it might be some time before you realise. And it could be too late to help them by that point.

3. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated

Dogs need interaction and entertainment. If you decide to leave them in a garage for prolonged periods of time the dog won’t get what it needs mentally.

I’ve listed a few toys that you should consider which could help ease your dog’s boredom.

4. Keeping your dog exercised

It’s not ok to leave your dog in your garage and not exercise them. Dogs need exercise daily so if you can’t find the time to walk them, find someone who can. 

5. Giving your dog outdoor access 

In the perfect world, your garage will have a door or dog flap that lets your pup get outdoors to do a poop.

If that’s not possible you should designate an area in the garage that serves as a toilet. You can buy fake lawn pads that work very well. Here’s one on Amazon I recommend.

6. Keeping your dog well fed and comfortable

Out of sight can often mean out of mind. I truly hope that won’t be the case if you decide to leave your dog in your garage overnight or for long periods of time.

I imagine that it would be easy to forget to feed them if you are an irresponsible owner, so please make sure they have all they need to eat and drink.

Similarly, make sure that your dog has enough bedding and comforts whilst sleeping.

How to keep a dog warm in a garage in winter

Dogs left in garages over the winter are at risk from a wide range of health issues including frostbite and hypothermia.

How to keep a garage warm for dogs

If you really do have to leave a dog in your garage over the winter, then please take the necessary steps to ensuring it’s warm enough (in addition to the tips I wrote earlier):

  • Install weather stripping to prevent cold drafts.
  • Install a heating system or radiators.
  • Make sure they have plenty of bedding and food.
  • Don’t leave them unattended for prolonged periods of time.
  • Raise the dog bed off the floor.
  • Invest in a heated doghouse.
  • Install a thermometer and monitor the temperature.

Can I keep my dogs in the garage in the winter? You can leave dogs in a garage during winter. However, the garage should be fit for purpose, safe, well-insulated and warm. Dogs should not be left in a garage for prolonged periods of time.

Handy Hint: For more information on how to keep a dog warm at night in a garage or inside of your house, read these tips on all the things you need to do and buy.

But how cold is too cold for dogs in a garage?

All dog breeds are different, with some being able to cope with cold weather better than others. For example, we own a Frenchie and in the infographic below you can see how cold is too cold for our particular breed.

how cold is too cold
The numbers in this infographic are based on research I found courtesy of the Tufts Animal Care and Conditions scale. If you would like to use it on your own website, then please do – but just link back to FrenchBulldogOwner.com as way of credit.

An acceptable temperature range that you should stick to make sure your garage isn’t too cold for your dog is somewhere between 60F (15C) and 80F (26.7C). This temperate should be just about right in most cases.

Handy Hint: You might also like my guide to keeping your dog warm and happy during the cold winter months.

How can I keep my dog cool in the garage in summer?

Just like winter, a garage in the summer can become unbearable for dogs. Many garages won’t have proper ventilation to help keep your dog cool and will heat up very quickly to possible dangerous levels.

Summer is a dangerous time for many dog breeds, particularly those like French Bulldogs who are a brachycephalic breed – they tend to overheat more than other dogs.

However, any dog left in a garage in the summer needs to be carefully monitored, and there are things you should do to your garage to keep things cool:

  • Make sure the garage is well-ventilated.
  • Leave doors and windows open.
  • Fit insulation to prevent hot air coming in.
  • Install a ceiling fan.
  • Set up a swamp cooler to circulate cool air.
  • Make sure there is plenty of water available.
  • Install a thermometer and monitor the temperature.

Can I leave my dog in the garage in summer? Yes, you can leave a dog in your garage during summer. However, it should only be for short periods of time and the garage should be well-ventilated and cool enough to not lead to overheating.

Handy Hint: I recently wrote a guide which explains how you can stop your dog from over-heating in the warm summer months.

What the laws says

I researched both UK and US laws to see what the law said about keeping a dog in a garage. Here’s what I found:

Is it legal for dogs to live in a garage in the UK?

Whilst there is no law regarding keeping your dog in the garage in the UK, there is certain legislation that relates to your dog’s welfare.

Many owners will leave their dog to sleep in a separate room for 8 hours at night, and there’s no issue with that. It could be that you have an adjoining garage to your house that your dog likes to sleep in.

Where legality can become stretched is your dog’s welfare according to the Animal Welfare Act (view on Gov.uk). As an owner you should:

  • Prevent harm and unnecessary suffering.
  • Be responsible to prevent harm coming to your dog.

If you do let your dog live in your garage and it’s evident that your pet is being harmed as a result, then yes, it will be illegal, and you could face fines and even imprisonment.

So, it’s not entirely clear cut. However, I think as a responsible dog owner, you should surely know whether or not your dog living in your garage is causing them unnecessary suffering.

For example, are they left in the garage for hours at a time, are they too cold, are they chained up and not being exercised? This would amount to gross negligence and I would welcome any action being taken by the UK authorities if this was the case.

Is it illegal to keep dog in garage in the United States?

Again, I could find no references to whether it was illegal to keep a dog in a garage in the United States, but just like the UK, there will be laws regarding animal welfare.

Just like the UK, the United States has an Animal Welfare Act that relates to the treatment of animals (view USDA website).

The decision on whether it’s ok to let your dog live in your garage will boil down to welfare and responsible ownership. You won’t be breaking the law if you let your dog live in your garage, but it really will depend on how you let them live there.

Use your common sense please.

Conclusion

I don’t agree with keeping dogs in a garage, unless it’s just for a few hours and perhaps due to them having behavioural issues which manifests itself in destructive habits.

However, I appreciate that some owners can make their garage into a suitable living area for their dog, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s safe and fit for purpose.

Marc Aaron

We are the proud parents of Claude the French Bulldog. This is our website where we share everything we've learned about Frenchies and the adventures we've had.

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