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How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?

A dog or puppy is so much more than a pet...they’re a member of your family with wants, needs, and so much love to give! 

In an ideal world, leaving Puppy home alone wouldn’t be an issue. But, unfortunately for many Americans, it’s simply not possible to be with your furry friend all day as work commitments, social arrangements, and travel plans can mean that leaving Puppy alone is your only option. 

But how long can you leave a dog alone in the house? And how can you ease the transition to ensure your beloved pet doesn’t suffer from anxiety or wreck your home? 

How long can you leave a dog home alone? 

The answer to how long can dogs be left alone depends on several factors including the dog’s age, health, and personality. Some dogs are naturally more prone to separation anxiety and will require additional training. In contrast, certain breeds require more exercise and may become bored and destructive if untrained. 

General guidance on leaving dogs home alone is usually related to how long they can go without a bathroom break. Most adult dogs aged 1 year + can hold their bladder for up to 6-8 hours.

How long can you leave a puppy alone? 

It would be lovely if leaving a puppy alone while at work wasn’t necessary, and many offices are becoming increasingly pet-friendly.

That said, not all offices are so accommodating, and there are some very valid reasons why a puppy might need to be home alone. 

So, how long can a puppy be left alone? The guidance is approximately 1 hour for each month old they are, up to 1 year. Young puppies aged 8-10 weeks shouldn’t be left home alone for more than 1 hour, 2-3-month-old puppies can be left for 2 hours, 4-month-old puppies will be okay for 4 hours, and so-on.

Under no circumstances should you ever consider leaving a puppy alone for 8 hours. 

How long can you leave a dog alone legally? 

Although there aren’t laws specifying exactly how long you can leave your dog alone, animal neglect and cruelty laws are in place in every state to ensure you’re not able to simply abandon an animal you’ve promised to protect. 

If you know you’re going to be out for 6+ hours, it’s a good idea to hire a dog walker or enroll your pup in doggy daycare so they have plenty of socialization, engagement, exercise, and bathroom breaks when you can’t be with them. 

What to do with dog while at work?

Beyond asking how long can I leave my dog alone, you might also want to think about what to do with your pup when you have to work during the day. Thankfully, there are some things you can put into place to ensure your dog is happy and settled during the day.

Before going out

Before leaving your dog alone, be sure to take him or her out for a walk and some play-time. Not only will this give your pup a chance to relieve themselves before a day inside, but it also gives them a chance to expel energy. 

A well-exercised pup is far more likely to curl up and sleep while you’re out, giving them less chance to worry about where you are or get bored and cause damage. 

You should also make sure your pup has plenty of drinking water available, and make sure to feed them first (or invest in a timed feeder to give them multiple meals while home alone). 

Create a safe space

Although you might be tempted to leave your dog with the full rein of the household, this can actually cause more stress as they wander from room to room, mourning your absence. To avoid this, crate training or creating a “bye-bye room” can help ease the separation. 

Filling this space with lots of dog-friendly items, including their bed, toys, and even a sweater that smells of you, can help your furry friend associate the area as somewhere they will be safe and secure. 

You might also want to consider access...suppose your pup is allowed on the furniture. In that case, an adjustable dog ramp could be an excellent addition to enable your dog to get into a comfortable position without risking injury. 

You should also be sure to puppy-proof the space. This isn’t just placing down a pad for accidents, but also ensuring there are no loose wires they could chew on or any places they could hurt themselves.

Mental engagement

Dogs need plenty of mental engagement to prevent destructive behavior and decrease anxiety. Toys designed to slowly distribute treats are great for home-alone pups. Think puzzle boxes with frozen treats.

In addition to toys, you might also want to think about video monitoring. Many offer two-way communication and treat distribution technology so you can stay in touch with your fur-baby throughout the day! Basically a phone call for puppies, this can let your dog know you’re still there and give them a refreshing treat via a virtual connection. 

It can also be a good idea to turn on the radio or TV to prevent your pup from feeling too lonely while you’re out. 

Consider the bladder

As you can imagine, not allowing your fur-baby to relieve themself can lead to accidents in the home, and can be incredibly uncomfortable for the animal. Holding in their bladder can also lead to dangerous conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and worse! 

If you need to be gone longer, you should get a dog sitter or friend to pop in and take your dog outside for a potty break. When puppy training, training pads should also be left in a safe space for them to use in emergencies. 

Get some help

Beyond letting your dog take a bathroom break, every dog also needs plenty of exercise. Hiring a professional dog walker or enrolling your puppy in daycare can help provide for your dog s physical needs throughout the day and help minimize time alone. 

If you can’t afford full-time help, you could ask a friend or neighbor to check in on your pup. They could listen at the door to let you know whether your dog shows signs of being anxious such as barking or crying, or pop in to help keep your dog feel less isolated. 

If possible, try to go home to check in on your dog during your lunch break. Remember, dogs are social animals and see you as part of their pack, so your presence will be much more reassuring to them than a stranger’s! But a regular dog walker can be a substitute for their owner as long as they’re given plenty of walks and attention. 

What could happen if I leave my dog alone for too long?

If you don’t take sufficient steps to ensure your pup has everything they need to be left alone for long hours, then you could notice bad habits developing. This behavior can stem from boredom or anxiety and is unpleasant for you, your neighbors, and your pet. 

  • Barking
  • Crying
  • Chewing on things
  • Scratching the furniture
  • Trying to escape
  • Becoming fearful and emotional when left alone
  • Accidents
  • Howling
  • Binge-eating

You could also be guilty of animal cruelty if you abandon a stressed pet for too long.

Pet home alone training

While your dog’s personal experience, breed, and composure will help you determine how long to leave your dog, a bit of training can make leaving your dog home alone less stressful for everyone. It’s essential as a fur-parent that you make the transition as easy as possible so your pup can enjoy their time alone and look forward to their humans’ return. 

Step one: leaving

To get your dog used to the idea of you leaving, put your shoes on, and collect your belongings as though you’re going out. If you notice your dog panicking, try to stay calm and ignore them to show it’s not a big deal. 

Start going outside and closing the door behind you. Stay out a little longer each time so your pup can get used to the idea that you’re coming back. 

Step two: coming home

When you get home, resist the urge to pile on loads of affection and attention. Instead, command your dog to their bed. 

Go and give them all the fuss you saved up during the day once they’re settled. 

Behaving this way will show your puppy that you coming home is normal and not a special event. 

Is it considered cruel to leave a dog home alone all day? 

Although dogs need plenty of stimulation, companionship, and exercise, it isn’t necessarily cruel to leave your puppy at home as long as they’ve been trained and don’t show signs of distress. 

You shouldn’t leave alone dogs for more than 8 hours a day, and getting some help on busy days can allow you to schedule fun for you and your pets. 

Remember, every dog is different, and the amount of time they can cope independently depends on their personal needs. 

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