Leaving Your Dog Home Alone: How Long Is Too Long?
We don’t call dogs our best friends for nothing. They enjoy our company and are hardwired to protect us, work for us, and be our companions. In a perfect world we’d spend all day with our dogs, but for most of us this just isn’t a possibility.
Leaving your dog home alone doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet owner. Fortunately there are some great ways to enrich your dog’s life (and keep your house intact) while you’re away from home.
The first question most people ask when considering leaving their dog home alone is “How long can they go without a bathroom break”? In general, most dogs can go four to six hours without a break. Puppies and older dogs need more frequent bathroom breaks than adult dogs.
You want your dog to know that being left alone at home is safe and normal. Crate training is a wonderful way to give him a safe and comfortable spot all his own. He can also be in a special dog room or, once you know he’s trustworthy, have the run of the house.
Practice leaving your dog at home alone for one to two minutes at a time at first, and gradually increase the time you’re away. Give him a treat when you leave, but not when you return. Praise him in a normal, matter of fact voice, so he knows being left alone is no big deal.
Every dog should be able to be left alone without falling apart or becoming destructive. However, some dogs come into our lives with separation anxiety. If you feel this is the case, schedule an appointment. Separation anxiety rarely gets better on its own, and generally worsens with time.
Beyond potty breaks, every dog needs exercise during the day. Needs may depend on age, breed, and overall general health, but benefits abound. Exercise:
- Aids digestion
- Expels excess energy
- Maintains a healthy weight
- Avoids boredom
- Stimulates the mind
Try to exercise your dog with a 20-30 minute walk before you leave in the morning for your day. This not only keeps him healthy, it releases energy and will make him more relaxed when you leave and while you’re gone.
When you get home, a romp in the yard or indoor games can help give your dog the rest of the 60 minutes of physical activity he needs per day. Herding and sporting breeds may need even more.
If you can’t give your dog the exercise he needs during the day, consider boarding your dog with us. He’ll get exercise and potty breaks, plus plenty of TLC while you’re away. A professional dog walker is another great option for mid-day exercise.
A Busy Dog Is A Happy Dog
Not only do dogs need physical activity, they need mental exercise and stimulation as well. Without it, they can quickly become bored and possibly destructive.
Here are some ways to keep your dog busy while you’re away:
- A Kong toy stuffed with treats can keep your dog busy for hours
- Puzzle toys, like these from Nina Ottosson, have different levels of difficulty
- A strong chew toy, like a Nylabone, can work out the body and the brain
- Games like the Furbo or a Bob-A-Lot engage your dog in interactive play
- Create a secure comfy zone for your dog with his bed, toys, and perhaps even a t-shirt that smells like you.
Make sure that any toys left alone with your dog are indestructible. You don’t want anything that your dog can rip apart and swallow. This risks a foreign body obstruction and possible emergency surgery.
Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
The bottom line is that every dog is different when it comes to being left alone, but all of them need potty breaks, exercise, and mental stimulation. If your work schedule means you’re away from home all day, consider a pet sitter, dog walker, daycare or boarding. Having help with your dog during the day can make your homecoming all the more sweet.