Dogs are often referred to as man's best friend because of their loyalty, companionship, and the joy they bring into our lives. However, as much as we love our furry friends, there may be times when we need to leave them alone at home. The question that arises is, how long can you leave a dog alone?
Having a dog means having a schedule. You arrange work hours, social outings, and errands based on when you can get home. If you’re anything like me, you may even skip a night out because you feel guilty leaving your dog home alone. Dogs and humans both have separation anxiety, but that's another discussion!
Our dogs enjoy the company of us, their humans, but that doesn’t mean leaving them home alone is bad or dangerous. Read on to learn how long you can leave a dog alone, and tips to make their time at home safe and enriching.
Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
We know you don’t take pleasure in leaving your dog home alone. But sometimes it has to be done (ever heard of something called work?). If you must head out sans dog, the general consensus is not to leave your dog alone for more than four to six hours.
This time varies depending on your dog’s age, health, behavior, and temperament. For example, young puppies who still needs to be potty trained and a senior dog who sleeps most of the afternoon require very different schedules. Read on to learn more about the factors affecting how long you can leave your dog alone—and how to do it in a healthy way.
The answer to this question varies depending on several factors, including your dog's age, breed, and health. In general, adult dogs can be left alone for up to 8 hours a day, but it is recommended that you don't exceed this time. On the other hand, puppies require more frequent attention, and it is not recommended to leave them alone for more than 4 hours a day.
How Long is it OK to Leave Your Dog Home Alone?
As your puppy gets older, it is ok to gradually increase the total amount of time you leave them alone. The PDSA says dogs shouldn’t be left alone regularly for more than four hours. Modern Dog Magazine says crated dogs shouldn’t be left home alone for more than three or four hours. PAWS Chicago, a nonprofit no-kill shelter, says five to six hours is the max for an adult dog.
As you can see, there isn’t a specific amount of time experts agree on for every pup or dog, and your dog’s needs might change over time. As a general rule, it's best to tune in to your dog's personality & needs, and leave them for short periods only first.
This will also depend on whether you have one dog, or multiple dogs. Most owners know their own dogs well enough to judge how long they can be home alone. When you have to leave the house for short intervals, run errands, etc, it should be fine to leave a dog home alone for a few hours.
It’s very important to consider your dog’s breed, age, size, learned routine, established behavior patterns, and health when deciding how long to leave them home alone. Especially long periods. Some breeds, like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, need a lot of exercise and can become incredibly destructive if bored or left indoors.
They also need a lot of social interaction. More than two hours alone could send these energetic breeds into a frenzy. On the other hand, Basset Hounds are much more sedentary and relax well on their own. Every pet is different when left alone!
Things to be Aware Of
It is essential to note that leaving your dog alone for extended periods can lead to various issues, including separation anxiety, destructive behavior, and even depression. Therefore, ensuring that your dog is adequately prepared and comfortable with being left alone before you do so is crucial. It may even be wise to look into crate training when you leave your dog.
As social creatures, dogs need plenty of dog/human interaction and companionship to live healthy lives—even the ones who enjoy their alone time. A puzzle toy, special treat, or even some time spent at a reputable doggy day care can be helpful when it's time for your dog to be left alone.
Consider Your Dog’s Bladder
The first question most people ask about leaving their dog home alone is: how long can my dog last without bathroom breaks? According to experts, dogs generally need to pee between three to five times a day. But the timing of potty breaks varies from dog to dog, and puppies and seniors need more frequent breaks. It's a great idea to keep track of how often they are going.
How long can a dog “hold it” before needing a bathroom break? Here are common time limits for dogs of different life stages:
Young Puppies: one hour per every month of age (meaning a three month old puppy can wait about three hours to pee)
Adult Dogs: ages one year and up - up to eight hours potentially, but ideally no more than six
Senior Dogs:ages eight and up - depending on size and health, anywhere from two to six hours
Of course, the above estimates vary depending on a dog’s size, health, and habits. A dog's age helps figure out a lot of things regarding their care and safety. But any dog forced to hold their urine for too long is at risk for urinary tract infection, stones, or crystals. They will not be a happy dog. Plus, holding urine for too long is just plain uncomfortable, and can lead to accidents in the house. Dog owners beware.
For safety and comfort’s sake, be sure to provide a bathroom break every four to six hours. Standard work days are eight hours to ten hours long, so if you cannot come home during lunch to take your dog out, consider hiring a dog walker for worry-free care.
Beyond how long a dog can hold it, or how much exercise a dog needs each day, mental activity is important to keep your best friend healthy, happy, and well-behaved. Puppies and young dogs need more enrichment than adults, but all dogs need a certain amount of mental stimulation throughout the day. Keeping your dog occupied when you leave them for more than an hour will help your dog feel better. Without it, they may become bored, and even destructive when left alone.
How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Things
Interestingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many pets’ behaviors, especially when spending time solo. 27% percent of dogs who were adopted since the pandemic started in March of 2020 are demonstrating behavior that can be tied back to a lack of socialization. Almost 20% of newly adopted pups get stressed out when they are left alone, likely because for most of their time with their new humans, the humans were always around!
Even dogs who were family members before the pandemic have acted differently. 22% of dogs owned pre-pandemic are doing new things—including willingly spending time by themselves in quiet zones andgetting fussy when left home alone.
Since dogs thrive with a routine, changes to our circumstances and schedules can really mess with their heads. Whether you’re a seasoned dog owner or new to the game, leaving your dog alone can be a touchy subject. The key is to ensure their safety, which includes monitoring their mental health.
We also spent a lot more quality time with our dogs during the pandemic, which may now be changing as we are going back to work and getting back to our previous lifestyles. Dogs can sense this and will start to miss the human company they have become so accustomed to. It could be the perfect time to look into a doggy day care when you leave your dog alone.
Our Top Tips for Leaving a Dog Home Alone
Here are some tips on how to prepare your dog for being alone:
Gradual training: Start by leaving your dog alone for short periods and gradually increase the time as they become more comfortable.
Create a safe space: Provide your dog with a comfortable and secure area where they can relax and feel safe while you are away.
Keep them entertained: Provide your dog with toys and puzzles filled with their favorite food to keep them occupied and prevent boredom.
Consider hiring a dog sitter or dog walker: If you are away for an extended period, consider hiring a dog sitter or dog walker to check in on your dog and provide them with some company and exercise.
Use technology: Consider using technology such as cameras or pet monitors to keep an eye on your dog and ensure they are safe and comfortable.
The amount of time you can leave your dog home alone depends on several factors, including their age, breed, and health. All dogs are different, and some can handle more alone time than others. But every dog needs periodic potty breaks, exercise, and stimulation . While it is generally safe to leave adult dogs alone for up to 8 hours a day, it is essential to ensure that your dog is adequately prepared and comfortable with being alone before you do so. By following the tips above, you can help your dog adjust to being alone and ensure they are happy and healthy while you (and your family) are away.