10 Simple Solutions to Leaving a Dog Alone at Home

No one likes having to leave their dog when they go out, but it is unavoidable. Work, shopping, a social life and sometimes travel means there are times he will be left by himself. While it is important for dogs to spend time alone so they don’t develop separation anxiety, there is such a thing is being left for too long.  

If you’ll be gone more than 3 or 4 hours, less if you have a puppy, ask a friend, neighbor or family member to take your dog for a walk, or let him hang out in their home. If that’s not possible, hiring a professional dog walker or putting him into doggy day care are other options.

Is it cruel to leave a dog alone all day?

Yes it is. I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of grief for saying that but it’s the truth. I know people have to go to work, and yes you should still be able to share your life with a dog, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave him alone for 10-12 hours a day.

Can you leave a dog alone for 3 days?

I’ve heard many people ask if it’s okay to leave a dog alone overnight, and shockingly if they could leave him for 3 days!!

The answer is no and here’s why.

  • Where will your dog pee and poop? Would you cover the floor with pee pads? Lock him in one room? Allow him access to the backyard?
  • How will he get his daily walks?
  • Who will make sure the water bowl is full?
  • How will he eat? Did you plan on filling up enough bowls of food to last the amount of time you’re gone?
  • What about the stress and anxiety of being left alone without human company for a day or three?
  • Who will know if he gets sick or hurt?

How long can you leave a dog alone in the house?

The RSPCA UK says dogs should not be left alone longer than 4 hours, and that’s the most I will leave mine alone barring any situation beyond my control.

Opinions vary widely about that number of course, and many people I know see nothing wrong with leaving their dog alone 8-10 hours a day. They’re convinced they sleep all day so they’re fine. They don’t have nanny cams so how they know that is a mystery to me. I imagine believing it makes them feel less guilty.

I recently read an article where the author saw no reason why a dog couldn’t be left in a crate for 8 hours. What!!! Sorry, that’s about 4 hours too long.

AgeAmount of time they can be left
Puppies under 10 weeks old1 hour
Puppies 10-12 weeks old2 hours maximum
Puppies 3-6 months old1 hour for every month of age 
Dogs older than 6 monthsUp to 6 hours
Senior dogs2-6 hours

 

NOTE: As I mentioned elsewhere in this post, I don’t leave my dogs alone longer than 4 hours, and if I will be out longer I have my pet sitter come and stay. 

10 Simple Solutions to Leaving a Dog Alone at Home

What happens if you leave your dog alone too long?

Many dogs left alone experience separation anxiety of varying degrees:

  • Whining
  • Barking, often excessive
  • Chewing the furniture, the door
  • Pulling down curtains
  • Peeing/pooping
  • Escaping if he’s left in the backyard for instance

For help preventing or dealing with separation anxiety, please read this article “Here’s How a Dog Trainer Can Help with Separation Anxiety.

Some dogs won’t pee until they’re taken out, and will hold their urine more hours than is healthy. That can lead to urinary tract infections or making an existing one worse.

Accidents because they can no longer hold it in (different from peeing and pooping mentioned above due to anxiety)

NOTE: Be mindful of how long your dog will be alone if he or she is on certain medications, or has a health issue that can cause increased urination.

Simple solutions when you have to leave your dog home alone    

Exercise: Make sure he has plenty of exercise before you go. A tired dog will be less stressed.

Kong or chew toy:  Filling a Kong with peanut butter and freezing it for example, will make it last longer. Chewing also helps with anxiety.

Adaptil: A product that contains dog calming pheromones, it can help your dog cope with alone time. Plug the diffuser in the room he spends his time in, and use the calming spray for his bed, blanket or crate.

Dog walker: A professional dog walker will take him for a private walk or out with a group. He’ll have the chance to take care of business, get some exercise and meet new friends.  

Doggy day care: Another great way to keep your dog entertained during the day with a bunch of new play mates.

Family, friends and neighbors: Make a list of everyone you trust your dog with, and find out if they could help for a few hours or a few days. Having a list of people to call should you need help is important.

Barter system: You have someone walk the dog or let him stay at their place during the day, in exchange for any help you can offer.

Animal care student: Someone taking an animal care or related course at a local college would welcome the experience. Maybe they would do it for free, or at least a lower rate than a dog walker who does it as a business.

Pet sitter: A pet sitter can sleep over in your house or will host your dog in their home.

Kennels: Some are great, some are horrendous but if you’re stuck and have no one to take care of your dog, it may be your only option. Some vets offer boarding facilities so check there first, because at least you know the staff. One important thing to ask is if staff stay overnight or the dogs are alone.

NOTE: When it comes to anyone you are trusting to care for your dog, whether it’s a dog walker, day care, a sitter or boarding facility, you need to do your research. It’s always good to start with a recommendation, but you need to meet these people or visit the locations in advance. Even the most highly rated person or place may not be the right fit for you and your dog.

If someone won’t meet in person or allow you to see their set up, run because that’s a bad sign.

How to stop feeling guilty when leaving your dog alone

The only way to stop feeling guilty when you leave your dog home alone, is to not do it. I’m not trying to be funny it’s the truth. If that act causes the guilt, the only way to assuage it is to not do it.

One solution is to hire someone as I mentioned in the above paragraph. A dog walker every day, and on days when you’ll be going straight out after work get her (or him) to come twice. Doggy day care is the other way to ensure your dog is not left alone.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog but are worried about your long hours, it’s possible it’s not the right time. Of course you should have a dog if you want, but if your work days are long, you have an active social life and love the freedom to pick up and go, a dog doesn’t fit into your life at this point in time. While you may have access to professionals and friends to help, what’s the point of getting a dog if most of his time will be spent with others.

You can always volunteer to walk dogs at a local shelter when you have time. You’ll feel good knowing how much you’re helping a homeless animal, and the dogs will be grateful for the extra love and attention. Everyone wins.

 

For information about my virtual training and dog care consultancy service, and to book an appointment, please visit my services page.

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10 Responses

  1. Roxy were stuck home alone for most of the day too when we both had to go to work. It’s life; what is one to do about that? Though these days, if one can afford it, there are options such as dog daycare, dog walkers, dog sitters …

    Cookie is lucky because I work at home now so she’s never alone.

    1. It’s true, when you have to go to work and dog care is out of reach, they do end up home alone. Cookie is really lucky to have you home. I love working from home, I can’t imagine having to go to an office again!!

  2. Hindy, this is such great advice! For about 2 years during our time with our Husky Icy my husband and I both worked outside the home. We were gone for so many hours and didn’t want to leave her alone for so long (we didn’t have Phoebe yet). 2 to 3 days per week at PetSmart doggie day camp really helped a lot. I was also able to occasionally come home from work during lunch, although rarely, where I could get her out to potty and spend a short time with her. Day camp was better because being a high energy dog, it tired her out a LOT and that was great for her – she loved it!

    1. Thank you Cathy! She’s so lucky you sent her to day camp. Even 2 or 3 days would have made such a big difference to her, having other dogs to play with and the chance to let off some of that energy. I wish more people found a way to make it happen, although I know sometimes it just isn’t possible. I imagine brown bagging it a couple of days a week could pay for a walker or day care even if just for a day or two.

  3. Next door are new to the house and say their dog doesn’t bark when it’s left alone. I can tell them different as it can see down into the back of our garden and barks. But tell that to the pet parent who knows everything – right? Frustrating because the dog is friendly enough and a bit silly 🙂

    I am tired of dog parents who think its ok to leave their animals for long periods of time. You don’t. You take them for a walk, entertain them THEN you go out.

    1. Marjorie don’t even get me started on this topic! Have you mentioned to them the dog barks? I’m constantly amazed by the people who tell me their dogs are fine alone for 10, 12 hours. The worst part, these are the same people who barely walk their dogs. They’re nice enough people, just clueless and not interesting in learning in different. I always say to my husband, surely they see how often I take my dogs out, it should register that perhaps they’re doing something wrong. Nope and you can’t fix stupid.

  4. These are interesting tips. I never owned a dog however have friends that do and all of them leave “wee wee” pads out while at work. I always wondered if there was a better option for working pet parents? Now I know. I’ll have to share this post to give them more ideas. I’m sure it can’t be easy being a dog alone for 9+ hours.

    1. Thanks Kamira. For me it’s about more than leaving pee pads down for a dog. They’re social animals and I don’t believe it’s fair to leave them alone for such long hours. I know we all have to work, and walkers and day care are expensive, and we should all have a dog if we want one but I still think it’s important to try and figure out an alternative.

  5. I grew up with dogs and love them. However, for the past 20+ years I was involved in jobs that required long hours away from the house and several road trips. I’ve had cats for almost 40 years. Truffle and Brûlée like for me to be gone either, but it’s easier than having a dog at home.

    1. I agree about easier with cats. I never grew up with any animals, and for years I only had cats. I worked every day and didn’t feel it was fair to have a dog if I was out of the house for so many hours, and for me a dog walker wouldn’t have been enough. The cats had each other for company and they were fine.

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