When your schedule is packed and life gets hectic, it’s perfectly okay to leave your dog at home. The big question is, how long is too long for your dog to be on their own? You can measure the time in minutes or hours, but the answer is never simple.
To break it down, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before leaving the house.
How safe is your dog home alone?
Getting into trouble is normal puppy behavior, and some adult dogs don’t grow out of it. It can be expensive to replace ripped up items and a hassle to clean up, but the more important issue is your dog’s health and safety. If your curious pup swallows the wrong thing while you’re at work, their life could be in danger.
Having a dog that likes to get into trouble doesn’t mean you can never leave your house. It means you need to train your dog and take extra precautions before leaving them unsupervised.
Crate training is the best way to ensure your dog’s safety while you work on other behavior issues. When you use the crate correctly, your dog will view that space as a safe place, and you can leave the house confident that they’re comfortable.
It’s important to realize, however, that crate training is not a solution to long days. Leaving a dog–even a crate trained dog–in a crate for an extended amount of time could cause needless stress. Crates are excellent training tools, but just because your dog is in a crate, that doesn’t mean you can leave them alone for longer.
How is your dog’s bladder and bowel control?
It doesn’t matter what stage of house training your dog is in–indoor accidents will happen if you leave them home alone for too long. Dogs can only “hold it” for so long, and forcing them to go all day without a bathroom break will cause them stress, discomfort, and even pain.
As a general rule, puppies and senior dogs need more potty breaks than healthy adult dogs. Their bladder and bowel control is either not fully developed or weakened in old age. And if you’re trying to house train your puppy, keeping them on a schedule is essential. Leaving them for too long will make house training a lot harder.
Every dog is different, but here’s what vets say is the average amount of time a dog can go between bathroom breaks.
- Puppies: Puppies can typically “hold it” one hour per every month of their age up until eight months. So a three-month-old puppy will need to go to the bathroom roughly every three hours.
- Adults: Dogs one year and older can usually last 8 hours in an emergency, but their comfortable limit is closer to six hours.
- Seniors: Dogs seven years and older can sometimes experience a loss of bladder or bowel control as they age. It will ultimately depend on their overall health, but the time limit could range from two to six hours.
If a dog is forced to hold their urine for too long, they could develop a painful urinary tract infection, stones, or crystals. Before you agree to stay late at work, think about the last time your dog had a chance to go to the bathroom.
Have you given your dog appropriate exercise and mental stimulation?
Even the biggest couch potatoes will be more comfortable home alone after a walk or play session. And if you have a high-energy dog, exercising them before you leave the house is essential for their physical and mental well-being.
If your dog is tuckered out after a long morning walk, there’s a good chance they’ll spend their time home alone completely relaxed or asleep. But if they’re bubbling with unused energy, they’ll be stressed, bored, and more likely to get in trouble.
In general, dogs need about one hour of moderate exercise every day. For some high-energy breeds, however, that won’t be enough. It might take a five-mile run to convince your Ridgeback to relax on the couch. An overweight Doxie, on the other hand, might get tired after a 15-minute walk.
Before you leave the house, always take the time to exercise your dog. It might mean waking up an hour earlier, but that exercise will help your dog stay relaxed and comfortable while you’re not at home.
Does your dog become stressed easily?
Exercise and mental stimulation can help prevent stress, but some dogs are more anxious than others. Separation anxiety is common in dogs, and it can make leaving them home alone a lot harder. In extreme cases, dogs jump through windows and chew through walls. They panic when they’re left alone, and that stress puts their health in danger.
Separation anxiety isn’t something you can solve overnight. It will be a slow process that involves a lot of trial and error. If you know your dog has separation anxiety, you’ll need to start by leaving them alone for only short amounts of time. Here’s a helpful article on how to help dogs overcome separation anxiety.
Putting It All Together
There is no formula to determine how long your dog can stay home alone.
It will depend on their age and stress level along with their exercise and bathroom routine. The smallest puppies should not be left alone for more than three hours. Healthy adult dogs could potentially go up to eight hours, but doing that on a regular basis could negatively affect their overall mental health.
If you’re worried about leaving your dog home alone for too long, here are a few tips:
- Come home during your lunch break to let your dog outside
- If you can’t go home, hire a dog walker
- Take your dog to doggy daycare a few days a week
- Spend time before you leave the house exercising your dog or playing brain games
- Ask about occasionally bringing your dog to work
- Inquire about occasionally working from home
- Ask a friend to visit your dog while you’re away
Having a dog is a major responsibility, and you can’t expect your pup to be happy if they spend all day every day home alone. There are options, however, that will allow you to leave your dog home alone knowing they’re safe and content.
Do you know why some dogs suck on blankets? Learn about it here.