Tips for Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

A brown spotted dog laying on its Orvis Dog Bed inside a home

We bring our dogs on adventures as often as we can, but we know not every outing is dog friendly. The idea of having to spend less time around our dogs can be an upsetting thought, but there is nothing wrong with our dogs staying home and having a bit of space from us. This is especially true when we have done our job to set them up for success while we are away.

What success looks like from dog to dog can be vastly different depending on the dog's age, breed, household, and current behavioral issues. Here are our tips for keeping dogs happy and safe at home when alone!

A brown dog inside a crate in a home


A small dog sitting outside a gate that's set-up in a doorway inside a home

There are many dangers within a household. An easy way to prevent your dog from getting into dangerous situations when you are not around to supervise them is to contain them.

  • Crate—secure and comfortable, every dog needs their den. When used and introduced correctly, the dog crate should act as a den, which is necessary for dog husbandry. The den acts as a safe space for a dog, which allows them to have a safe place to retreat from certain situations. A great benefit of the crate is no missed training moments. When outside of the crate, unsupervised dogs can engage in behaviors that can be very gratifying and self-rewarding. This includes negative and bad behavior that are typically corrected. If we cannot supervise and redirect undesirable behavior, our dogs will be able to reinforce their own behavior. Learn more about our crate training tips here.
  • Dog Gates—If crate training isn’t the direction you want to go, some people utilize dog gates to create barriers throughout the home for extra dog confinement. These gates come in a large variety, and some mount to the wall while others are on stands to prop them up. This is nice because, essentially, you can turn any space into a confinement area. For mature dogs, this gives them the comfortability of areas that they enjoy while ensuring that they are away from other areas that may be dangerous or hazardous.
  • Playpen—Another alternative to the crate that provides the same confinement with less coverage and more room to move freely. Playpens come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, making them flexible and easy to place anywhere throughout the home. Picking the best option for your dog’s age and breed is very important.
  • Bedrooms and other rooms—Some pet owners choose to simply keep their dogs behind closed doors. Similar to using gates, shutting the door behind them turns any room into a confinement area. Like the other options, you should ensure that this is the most comfortable and safe situation for your dog. Some dogs that do well with dog gates do not do well with actual doors shut as it can induce anxiety.
A small gray schnauzer surrounded by fluff on the floor

Remove All Hazardous Items

A small black and white dog looking up the stairs inside a home

Suppose you are not using a crate for confinement. In that case, you must comb over the location where you plan on keeping your dog and find all hazardous items. It's important to think like your dog and be objective about everything in the environment that they may consider a toy, food, or anything else they may put their mouth in the event of boredom.

Examples of Hazards to think about:

  • Chemicals and cleaning products
  • Electrical cords
  • Unsecured furniture
  • Other pets—make sure each pet’s space is respected if home alone
  • Dog items—most dog toys and supplies are meant to be used while under the supervision of a human. Especially if your dog is a chewer, it’s best to leave them with nothing to get into to avoid choking accidents
A curly-haired dog laying upside down on a floor surrounded by toys

Set Them Up for Success

A woman walking a speckled black and white dog on a leash

Confinement and hazardous items are not the only things we have to worry about when it comes to keeping our dogs safe and healthy while alone. Considering these other factors may help you determine what confinement style may help and provide perspective on what your dog truly needs in these environments to thrive.

  • Behavioral Problems—Dogs that are battling anxiety and separation anxiety need the assistance of behavior specialists to ensure you do not worsen their anxiety. Anxiety can manifest in destructive behavior such as excessive barking, chewing, scratching, compulsive behaviors, indoor urination, and escaping. If your dog is already known to suffer from anxiety of any level, please consult a professional.
  • Beating Boredom—Some behavioral issues that come about during confinement are sometimes linked to the lack of mental and physical stimulation. Some dogs may be okay with lounging on the couch for eight hours while you're away, but most dogs need something to keep them busy in their bouts of boredom. As we mentioned with crate training, KONG® toys are wonderful, safe, and enriching toys. KONG® toys and Nyla bones are great items to leave with your dog as they are tough products that do not break off in large pieces or create choking or obstruction hazards.
  • Dog Walker—Another great way to break up the day for your dog is to hire a certified professional dog walker. By hiring a true professional, you will be able to let your dog get out of the house and engage in physical activity while also getting to socialize with another trusted human. This will also give your dog a moment to get outside to enjoy the sunshine and go potty. Depending on who you find as a dog walker, they may also offer individual play sessions, socialization with other dogs, day trips to parks for hiking, or other adventures. It's important to understand that pet care in the US is unregulated, so do your homework to ensure you are hiring a certified, experienced, and insured pet-care professional.
A spotted dog emerging from a crate at the back of a car to greet their owner

Longer Trips

A woman hugging and smiling with a speckled dog

When we can’t bring our dogs on the road with us, our first choice is to have a family member or friend that our dog is comfortable with stay over while we’re away. However, alternative options like a dog sitter or boarding can be great choices, too. Before boarding, make sure your dog is up to date on all preventative medications and vaccines, just to be safe (plus, your kennel will likely require proof of this beforehand). If using a dog sitter, set up a meeting in advance to make sure it’s a good match for everyone.

When researching dog sitters, kennels, and doggie daycare, be sure to ask about:

  • Experience
  • Training
  • Certifications
  • Professional association memberships
  • References
  • Insurance policies
  • Medical emergency protocols