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Can Teslas see animals?

Tesla Dog Mode Explained

Tesla Dog Mode

Anyone who’s ever run a quick errand with their pet in tow knows that leaving them in the car is always a calculation. If the day is hot, the cabin may overheat, but if the windows are cracked for fresh air, the car is vulnerable to passers-by (not every dog is a guard dog, after all).

With Dog Mode, Tesla offers concerned pet owners a safer solution than just cracking the windows or rushing to finish errands while worrying about your pet.

In this installment of Tesla Features Explained, we’d like to walk you through what Tesla Dog Mode does and how to use it.

Then—because it’s something pet owners increasingly have to deal with—we’ll talk a little bit about the public perception of Dog Mode and how to avoid problems with well-meaning citizens when your pets are alone in your Tesla.

Finally, we’ll cover which Tesla models have this feature, and extra considerations for finding a used Tesla if you plan to use Dog Mode for your furry companion.

What Is Tesla Dog Mode?

Added in February of 2019 after a Tesla owner requested the feature for his pet, Dog Mode allows your furry companion to sit tight in your Tesla, comfortable in any weather. Dog Mode maintains a set temperature (using both the heating and cooling system) to keep your pet comfortable while you step out to run errands.

Dog Mode was created from an extension of the Cabin Overheat Protection software added in 2018. That program helped keep cabin temperatures from exceeding 104℉ (40℃) when active; Dog Mode simply uses the same sensors and adds an adjustable set point for cabin temperature.

How Use Tesla’s Dog Mode

To turn on Dog Mode inside your Tesla, select fan settings (fan icon) > Dog Mode (located near the top right corner). Dog Mode will activate as soon as you leave the car and turn off again after you get back in and drive. If you happen to get back in and out of your Tesla for a brief period without driving away (like coming back for your sunglasses or wallet), Dog Mode will remain active.

You can also put your Tesla in Dog Mode via the voice command “Turn on/off Dog Mode” to activate or deactivate Dog Mode while parked. We’ve heard it suggested that an update to turn on Dog Mode via the Tesla app will be released soon, but at the time of writing that update is still upcoming.

With Dog Mode active, your Tesla will send notifications to the app after charge drops below 20%, informing you that you should get back to the car and check on your furry friend. It’s important to note that you don’t need Premium Connectivity to get these notifications from your Tesla app, but you will need cell phone coverage to receive notifications and check temperatures.

To help ease the worries of concerned citizens, the Tesla Dog Mode screen shows the message “My driver will be back soon. Don’t worry! The [heater/ac] is on and it’s [current temp].” This message will stay up and Dog Mode will remain active until you deactivate it or the battery runs completely out.

Dog Mode consumes power through the HVAC system at approximately 4 miles of range per hour. That’s a good number to keep in mind when your range allowance is tight. Additionally, you need over a 20% battery charge to enable the feature.

Note: Dog Mode and Sentry Mode cannot be used at the same time. Currently, it’s one or the other. While it would be convenient to be able to record incidents and react to potential bad actors or overly-concerned citizens while your pet is in the car, the reality is that your furry friend would more likely be the cause of Sentry Mode alarms.

Is Tesla Dog Mode Legal?

While it’s generally considered fine to leave a dog alone in your Tesla in most states, you’ll find plenty of additional laws and caveats surrounding this issue. These include restrictions on leaving your dog in the car on a hot or cold day, without adequate ventilation, or for too long.

Animal protection laws like this exist for good reason: despite plenty of public service coverage over how quickly a hot car can turn deadly or how quickly dehydration can occur in a pet, many people are still either oblivious or downright neglectful of their furry friends when it comes to cars.

Teslas have Dog Mode to prevent exactly the situations these laws were created to address, but laws have not yet caught up to the safety of Tesla technology. While many concerned individuals and law enforcement personnel (after you educate them) will acknowledge that your furry companion is safe, there are situations where Dog Mode may get you unwanted attention.

Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to look at the touchscreen’s reassuring Dog Mode message. This can result in your Tesla’s window being broken by a well-meaning human or a citation from a member of law enforcement.

Here are some tips to help minimize these problems:

  1. Leave extra signs on your windows while using Dog Mode. Depending on your Tesla’s window tint, it may be hard for people outside to see the Dog Mode message on your Tesla’s touchscreen (and, like we said earlier, some people just won’t look there). You can print out some of your own or buy a handy window cling from Tesla aftermarket vendors (like this one from Abstract Ocean).
  1. Check laws for your state and specific location. Some places have stricter laws about pets in cars than others, and some even have laws protecting well-meaning citizens when they break a window intending to save an animal’s life. While knowing the law doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid trouble in all cases, it should help you understand the legal risk locally so you can plan your use of Dog Mode to minimize any incidents.
  1. Don’t leave your pet alone in your Tesla for long errands. It’s not fair to your pet, and the longer you are away, the higher the chance someone will decide to assist your pet by breaking a window. If you must be away for more than 10 minutes at a time, set an alarm to check on the cabin temperature every 10-15 minutes. While it may feel excessive to keep checking, just one HVAC failure can be catastrophic for you and your pet.

Do All Teslas Have Dog Mode?

At this time, the Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y can all receive over-the-air updates for Dog Mode capability. The Model S and Model X have the most spacious layouts for pets using Dog Mode for longer periods (or for multiple doggos on one trip). For short errands in a Tesla, even a Model 3 in Dog Mode has plenty of space.

The one exception to Tesla’s Dog Mode lineup is the original Tesla Roadster, which does not have the feature.

Regardless of the Model, always make sure your Tesla is updated to the latest version to keep Dog Mode programming current. It can also be helpful to test Dog Mode under safe circumstances after major updates to ensure that everything is working properly before leaving your pet alone in the car. There have only been a few reported glitches in Dog Mode after updates, but it’s still worth checking occasionally.

Do Used Teslas Have Problems With Dog Mode?

We’ll start by stating the obvious: if you want to use Dog Mode, don’t buy a used original Tesla Roadster (no Dog Mode there!).

Next, Dog Mode’s safe use really depends on the reliability of a used Tesla’s HVAC system. If the HVAC system on the used Tesla you are considering purchasing is unreliable, your doggo will be at risk in hot or cold weather even if the weather isn’t extreme.

What is Tesla Dog Mode?

Pierce Keesee

Tesla dog mode is a climate control feature that allows drivers to keep their pets safe in a climate-controlled cabin of a Tesla vehicle. This climate control feature allows the driver to adjust the temperature and keep their pets warm or cool depending on the climate conditions. The dog mode displays a message for the passersby on Tesla’s screen saying “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry! The heater [or A/C] is on and it’s XX degrees.” This message explains to them that the pet is safe in the Tesla car and the owner is in the vicinity.

Tesla released the following video announcing the release of the new feature in February 2019, that you can watch here. The most recent dog mode update in early 2022 allowed owners to activate this setting from outside of the vehicle.

This unique feature was released after a Tesla fan tweeted Elon Musk — asking to introduce a dog mode feature. Musk is well-known for his twitter activity and he quickly replied, “yes”. The dog mode can be turned on by simply selecting the fan icon on the Tesla touch screen and clicking on “Dog” under the “Keep Climate On” settings. If the owner is gone for a long period and the battery drops below 20%, a notification is sent to the owner’s phone advising them to return to their pet(s).

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How long can you keep dog mode on?

Dog mode will remain on until your car runs out of battery. The heater or the air conditioner is directly powered by your car’s battery. The climate control feature draws the largest amount of power after driving. But the amount of power consumed is dependent on the outdoor temperature and the energy required to sustain the specified temperature.

When dog mode is activated, the battery is drained at a rate similar to that of driving 4 miles per hour. This estimate will vary depending on whether you are using the air conditioning or heater, the outside temperature, and the model of your Tesla.

The dog mode is available in all Tesla models and you do not need premium connectivity to receive notifications or control your car from your Tesla app. Dog mode will automatically turn off once you are back in your car and start driving.

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Another New Feature

Tesla also announced the “sentry mode” at the same time it announced its dog mode. However, it should be noted that both these modes cannot be used together. The sentry mode monitors the car’s surroundings when the car is locked and parked.

The external cameras in the Tesla vehicle detect any unusual and threatening movements. If a minimal threat is detected, like someone is leaning on the car, sentry mode switches to “alert state” and the screen displays a warning that the cameras are recording. If there is a severe threat, like someone trying to break in, the sentry mode switches to “alarm mode,” which activates the car’s alarm, increases screen brightness, and turns on the car’s audio system to maximum volume. The owner receives an alert on their phone that an incident has occurred. Owners can download the video taken by the car’s cameras through their Tesla mobile app.

Tesla dog mode, along with its sentry mode, makes sure that your car is safe at all times. To ensure these features work effectively, however, your electric vehicle needs to be sufficiently charged. Optiwatt is one app that allows Tesla owners to monitor their charging needs and even save money while doing so.

Why do we need this?

Leaving your beloved pet in the car exposed to the sun or cold is extremely dangerous. The heat can get trapped inside your car and cause your pet to overheat, which can lead to illness or death. There have been several studies that revealed that a car parked in the sun for just an hour can reach temperatures of over 120 Fahrenheit during the fall and spring. Summers are even worse and the temperature inside the car can go as high as 180 Fahrenheit.

Even if the outside temperature is 70 degrees, the car can get as hot as 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. The average internal temperature of a dog is 105.2 degrees. If it crosses 111 degrees due to overheating, it may lead to failure of their circulation system, kidney failure, brain damage, and internal bleeding. Your dog may not survive this. In 2019 alone, around 82 dogs died after being left inside a car.

There are also several states that are allowing bystanders to rescue pets from hot cars. In 2021, a Las Vegas woman was arrested and charged with three counts of wilful malicious torture of an animal after she left three dogs in her parked car. Out of those three dogs, one had to be euthanized due to heatstroke.

Protecting your dogs is not just your responsibility but also a state-mandated law in several places. Locking your dog inside a hot/cold vehicle is illegal in 28 US states, which means you could be arrested and charged with animal abuse.

How well does Tesla dog mode work?

Tesla dog mode works incredibly well when the battery is charged. In the case of traditional gasoline cars, the cars have to be left running for a period of time. However, Tesla allows for climate control even when the vehicle is off. With a Tesla, you won’t have to keep your car on to keep your pet safe.

The large infotainment message displayed on the touchscreen allows the passersby to know that the pet is safe and does not need to be rescued. There have not been many cases where passersby have tried to break into Tesla vehicles to save the pets locked inside. However, some people might not see the message on the display and assume the worst, so it is sometimes recommended to leave an additional note on the window to assure passersby that your pet is safe.

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