How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone?
You can’t be with your best friend every second of every day, as much as he (and you) may want that. Unless your office welcomes dogs, you’ve got to leave your dog at home when you head to work. Or when you’re running errands. Or when you’re invited to a humans-only shindig.
There is no reason to feel guilty or spend time worrying about leaving your dog alone for a few hours at a time. How many hours exactly depends upon too many variables for a universal answer. But you can ask yourself these questions to help you decide how much alone time is right for your furry friend:
Are you leaving a puppy alone?
Puppies simply don’t have the bladder or bowel control to be left alone for a day without having an accident. Young dogs who haven’t learned to keep themselves occupied yet can also resort to destructive chewing to relieve boredom and anxiety. It’s best to enlist the help of a willing friend, relative or neighbor to walk, play and spend time with your puppy while you are at work. If there is no one nearby, you’ll want to hire a dog walker or send your puppy to daycare. When your dog is older, house trained and more comfortable being alone, you can start to expand the hours he spends solo.
Do you give your dog enough exercise?
Hook on that leash and head out for a long walk before you leave and when you return, especially if you plan to leave him alone longer than an hour or two. This gives him a chance to relieve himself and exercise, which can use up excess energy he may otherwise expend deconstructing your couch cushions.
Is your dog getting plenty of quality time with you?
Your best friend is a highly social animal and craves time with his human family and other four-legged friends. Make time for catch and playdates with other dogs. And don’t forget all the love and cuddles.
Do you have another pet?
Companionship in the form of another dog or a cat goes a long way toward keeping your dog peaceful and happy at home while you are away. Of course, you’ll want to be sure the furry pair get along swimmingly before leaving them on their own.
Is your dog house trained?
Puppies are still learning how to “hold it,” and a full workday—let’s factor in the commute and call it nine hours—is definitely too long for them to be alone without the opportunity to relieve themselves. Same goes for senior dogs who are more prone to incontinence. But adult dogs who don’t experience accidents can spend extended periods of time alone, especially if you’ve set them up to be happy and occupied while you are out.
What your dog needs when he's home alone
- A dog crate, dog bed, or special cozy spot to serve as his den where he can relax and feel secure.
- Chew toys and/or puzzle toys with treats he has to work to reach. These will keep him occupied and less inclined to chew furniture legs, blankets and pillows.
- Dog bowls with plenty of food and water. If no one is checking in on your dog during the day, consider setting out multiple water bowls.
Is your dog accustomed to being alone?
When he’s a puppy, train your dog to be comfortable alone and he’ll most likely be perfectly at ease when he’s old enough to be at home on his own. Even older dogs exhibiting problem behaviors when alone can be retrained to control themselves when you are out of the house.
What's your dog's energy level?
If your dog is constantly in motion day and night, it’s unfair to leave him alone in the house all day. At the very least he should get a long midday walk, or go to daycare. If your dog is a bit of a couch potato, he’ll likely be alright whiling away the hours on his own. However, a midday visit from a dog walker would certainly do your furry layabout good. If that’s not possible, be sure to take him for a long walk at the beginning and end of the day.
Does your dog seem okay with being alone?
If your dog exhibits no problem behaviors, such as chewing his dog bed to bits when left alone for long stretches, experiment with stretching out his alone time. If you’re really concerned, run home from work to peek in on your dog. Or have a friend stop by and report back. Or set up a home doggie-cam near where your dog hangs out most of the time. Chances are you’ll find him sleeping, gnawing on a toy or happily chewing a treat out of his puzzle toy.
Are you okay with your dog being alone?
The last thing you want is to worry about your dog and what he might be up to while you’re at work. If you have distracting, disruptive thoughts while you are separated from your dog, do yourself a favor and enlist the help of a friend, a dog walker, or drop your furry best pal off at doggy daycare.
Even if you keep the time your best bud spends alone to the bare minimum, it’s good for your dog and for you to be able to spend some time apart with minimal drama. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder and without some time apart, you can’t savor those joyful reunions.