How long can a dog be left alone vs. How long should a dog be left alone are questions that every new and existing dog caregivers should know the answers to?
There is no hard-and-fast rule for the maximum amount of time a dog can be left alone. However, there is a difference between how long your dog could and should be left alone. To make a clear distinction between the two, you need to understand the basic dog’s needs as well as individual needs your dog might have once he is left by himself.
Consider your dog’s physiological needs
Most dogs shouldn’t go without a potty break for more than 6 hours. How often they need ‘’to go’’ mostly depends on the age of your dog:
- Puppies need to go to the bathroom for one hour for every month of their life. This means that if a puppy is 5 months old, they have to “go” every 5 hours.
- Adult dogs need to “go” every 6 to 8 hours.
- Senior dogs need to “go” every 2 to 6 hours. Older dogs with certain conditions such as urinary incontinence need the bathroom breaks more often.
Dogs who hold their urine for a long time are more prone to chronic urinary tract infections In severe cases, they can develop urinary crystals and stones.
Be sure to provide your dog with fresh water, as well as with a feeding schedule according to his age.
- Puppies who are under 4-months old should be fed 5 times a day.
- Over 4- month old puppies should be fed 3-4 times a day.
- Healthy adult dogs are fed 2 times a day.
- If your dog has any health issues such as gastritis or diabetes mellitus he will require a special feeding schedule recommended by your vet.
Consider your dog’s age
Your puppy at first will need a lot of attention. Crate training is a useful solution when your puppy has to be alone at home, but it needs to start slow. Make them play in and near the crate. During the process of introducing him with a crate, use some treats to keep him motivated. Once he becomes comfortable being in the crate you can extend the length of time he is in there. Length of time recommended for your puppy to be in his crate:
8–10 weeks: 30–60 minutes
11–14 weeks: 1–3 hours
15–16 weeks: 3–4 hours
17+ weeks: 4–5 hours
After 17 weeks of age, your pappy can be kept in a crate for longer periods. But remember, this should never be a permanent solution. So if you are not able to occasionally check on your dog during a day, this may not be the best solution for him.
If your puppy is going to stay alone for more than a couple hours consider a “puppy zone.” Choose a secure area of your home. All you need to make a cozy “puppy zone” is baby gates, blankets, potty pads, and plenty of safe chew toys.
How long should a dog be left alone?
Consider how long you are going to be gone. After some time your dog will get used to being separated from you while you’re at work. But if you are planning to travel, you need to prepare everything so your dog will have proper care while you are gone.
If you are planning to leave for a day or two, the first thing that comes to your mind is to ask a friend or family member to keep him. This can provide you whit a comfort, knowing your dog is safe. On the other hand, for him, this is an unfamiliar environment and can be an unnecessary step for trips this short. Ask a trustworthy person to check on your dog, and give him some attention, while you are away.
When you know you’ll be out of the house for a week or more the preparation process is a bit more complicated. If you want to leave your dog in his familiar environment there are steps you need to take:
- A week is a long time but it’s still recommended to keep your dog in his own home. You will need the right person to look after your dog every day, providing him or her with the necessary food, water, and affection during your absence (family, friend, or a professional dog sitter).
- Stock up on food and set out your dog’s leashes, doggy pads, stain removers, and medication for easy access.
- Double-check that your dog’s tags are up-to-date.
- Create a list with full details of instructions that describe your dog’s specific needs. Warn your sitter about triggers that might upset your dog.
- If your dog is taking any form of medication then it’s important that clear instructions explaining the time and method of the application be provided. Leave a contact number for your vet, along with your contact information.
Dog pensions can be a solution for some dogs. It is important to know that they don’t work well for an anxious dog who love their familiar surroundings and people. Also, not a good idea if your dog didn’t have the right crate training.
How long can a dog stay home alone?
Consider how being home alone can affect your dog. Dr. Karen Becker in her article, quotes Dog trainer Nancy Tucker: “A lot of dogs might spend most of their waking hours home alone and seem to do just fine, but is it okay? Are they really fine?
If you notice any of the following behaviors, it can mean that your dog is not comfortable whit amount of he time spends alone:
- Your dog is following you around the house to get the companionship they crave.
- He isn’t as playful as before. This can happen because of inconsistent companionship. As a result, your dog may lack social skills and withdraw themselves from wanting to play.
- Your dog may develop” Lick granulomas”. Veterinarian Tammy Hunter notes
that this small circular sores that, often seen on the dog’s carpus or wrist are a common manifestation of loneliness or anxiety in dogs,”
- Your dog is sleeping more often. Just as humans do when feeling down your dog may sleep more during the day than usual.
He can get bored.
When your dog is bored, he will take action to amuse himself. Typical signs your dog is bored include:
- He’s barking a lot (whether it’s at the mailman or the other dog) some dogs will howl for hours.
- He is showing signs of destructive behavior such as chewing on furniture or getting into mischief
- Escaping can be a grand adventure for your bored dog.
- Hyper greetings when you come home are the sign of your doggie feeling bored while he is home alone for hours.
He may experience separation anxiety.
Pat Miller, another animal behavior expert, explained the difference between isolation and separation: “ Isolation distress means the dog doesn’t want to be left alone — any old’ human will do for the company, and sometimes even another dog will fill the bill. In her article, she also notes that true separation anxiety means the dog is bonded to one specific person and shows stress only if that person is absent, even if other humans or dogs are present.”
According to the ASPCA organization, the symptoms of separation anxiety don’t occur in your presence, but rather when you are gone, some of the symptoms manifest in some of the following ways:
- Urinating and defecating. Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their care giver.
- Barking and Howling.
- Chewing, Digging, and Destruction. These behaviors can often result in self-injury.
- Escaping. A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from his own house.
- Walking around without direction when left alone or separated from you. Some dogs move around in circles while others walk back and forth.
- Coprophagia can be another symptom of separation anxiety according to ASPCA. When left alone or separated from you, some dogs defecate and then consume their excrement.
How to make my dog feel comfortable with being left home alone?
Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. But, are we doing the same for them? When canine behaviorist Shay Kelly set up his Canine Enrichment group on Facebook in 2017, he never imagined it would count over 300,000 members in just 3 years. This proves that today’s pet parents are more concerned about the fact that dogs need to stay alone for hours and hours, and they unite to share tips and experiences to address
There are several steps you can take to make your dog feel better about staying home alone:
Minimize your dog’s time alone
- Some of these solutions involve an additional expense like hiring a dog walker or a pet sitter. Others can include: coming home for lunch, working from home, or bringing your dog to work or getting a second dog.
Exercise for 30 minutes before you go
- When your dog is tired he will not have as much energy to be anxious and destructive.
Practice your ” leaving” routine even when you are not leaving
- This is especially helpful if your dog expresses severe signs of destructive behavior or separation anxiety
Don’t make a big deal of departures or arrivals
- Dr. Rolan Tripp, animal behaviorist, and veterinarian, in his book, notes:” The dogs who are anxious about being alone, get worse when their owners are lavishing them with attention before they leave and when they come back”.
Consider working with a behavior professional
- This will allow you to ensure that you are to be sure you’re on the right path.
Consider some kind of entertainment while you are gone.
- There are a lot of toys and tips that will help your dog feel better about his time alone. The range of dog toys varies in size and complexity and over time you’ll learn about what type of toys your dog prefers.
- Furthermore, there are automated gadgets that are designed to activate at time intervals or respond to your dog’s behavior. These can serve as useful tools to help had some diversity into your dog’s routine when you’re not around.
While experts such is Nancy Tucker says “10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch”, some owners on the other hand claim they’ve always left their dogs, with no issues. Nevertheless, it is important to have in mind these words from Tucker: “The dogs who appear to be fine have simply learned to cope with something that is entirely out of their control. Being left alone for long periods is not a likely choice that they would make if it was up to them.”
After considering everything you could leave your healthy, adult dog alone at home up to 10 hours a day. However, it is up to you to see how much time you are ready to invest to learn about your dog’s needs and behavior patterns.
By doing so you’ll know how long he actually should be left alone at home. Small adjustments in your routine can make all the difference in your dog’s life, and at the end of the day, you will be happy knowing you have done everything to make his life more fulfilling.