Leaving Your Dog Home Alone: How Long Is Too Long?

A dog looks longingly out the window

There’s a reason dogs are known as our best friends – they’re hard-wired to want to spend time with us. And if we could be with them all day long – well, sign us up! But, if you’re like most, you have obligations outside your home that take you away for all or part of the day (work, anyone?). 

Leaving your dog home alone does not make you a bad pet owner. But is there a limit to the time you should leave your dog home alone? And are there ways we can enrich our dog’s lives when we aren’t with them that can make leaving them home alone a better experience for them? 

Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care explores the hot button topic of leaving your dog home alone.

House Training

One of the main considerations when it comes to leaving your dog home alone is a practical one: How long can your dog go without a bathroom break? Of course, older dogs and puppies need to go outside much more often than adult dogs. Adult dogs can generally go for 4 – 6 hours without a bathroom break (unless they are sick). Every dog is different, so there may be some trial and error before you know how long your dog can go.

You’ll also want to help your dog to know that being alone is safe and okay. Your dog should be able to stay home alone for a period of time without falling apart or destroying the house. If these things are happening, you may be dealing with separation anxiety, and behavioral training can help. Separation anxiety rarely gets better on its own, and often gets worse with time. Give us a call so we can get you on the right path.

Start With Exercise

All dogs need exercise, and getting a doggy workout in before you leave will make him more relaxed when you leave and while you’re gone. Try a 20 – 30 minute walk before you leave for the day. 

Consider your dog’s age, breed, and fitness level, but all dogs need daily exercise. Benefits of exercise include:

  • Lubricates the joints
  • Maintains a healthy weight
  • Stimulates the mind
  • Aids digestion
  • Expels excess energy

When you get home, take your dog out for another 30 minutes of exercise – a park run, a game of ball, or any other activities you both enjoy. Herding and sporting breeds may need even more physical activity. 

Social Life

Your dog may be able to last longer at home alone, but does that mean he should? Dogs are social creatures, and although he may be physically fine at home, dogs can feel isolated if left at home alone all day, day after day. They need to interact with people at least several times a day.

So, what’s a responsible (working) dog owner to do? Dig deep and get creative. Here are some ideas.

  • Doggy day care can be a great option for dogs who enjoy other dog company
  • Come home for lunch
  • Hire a dog walking service
  • Work from home on occasion
  • Take your dog to work with you
  • Arrange for a neighbor or friend to visit your dog at midday
  • Board your dog with us a few days per week

Busy Bee

The old adage “a busy dog is a happy dog” is true! Mental stimulation is important for dogs; without it, they can easily become bored and possibly destructive. 

Here are some ideas to keep your dog busy at home. 

  • A Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or treats to keep her busy
  • Puzzle feeders with varying levels of difficulty
  • A strong chew toy like a Nylabone can give a body and brain workout
  • Games like a Furbo or a Bob a lot
  • Create a “den” with his bed, toys, and possibly a t-shirt that smells like you (a crate all day long is not recommended)

Make sure that any toys left alone with your dog are indestructible. You don’t want anything your dog can rip apart and swallow. This risks a possible foreign body obstruction and can result in emergency surgery.

Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

The bottom line is that every dog is an individual, but all dogs need exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation. You know your dog best and are in the best position to figure out what his individual needs are. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us for help!

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posted in:  For The Dogs