How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone? Age Matters

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by Lily Ferreras

how-long-can-i-leave-my-dog-alone

Although some dogs tolerate being alone better than others, it isn’t advisable, or safe, to leave your pooch alone at home all day. How long can I leave my dog alone?

Adult dogs can generally be left alone 4 to 6 hours in a single stretch. Considering a dog’s basic needs, they need to potty every 6 hours, while puppies will need to eliminate more often.

Here’s why how long leaving your pooch alone at home depends on his age, including the risks involved and what happens during this time alone.

How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone?

Most dogs spend time home alone on a daily basis. How long depends on the owners’ lifestyle and schedule.

But, how long can a dog be left alone?

According to PSDA, the maximum amount that you should leave your dog alone is 4 hours. Personally, I like to aim between 4-6 hours (you’ll see the reasons why). However, if for example, you are a single or couple dog parent who holds a regular 9-5 job away from home, this guideline would mean ‘something’s got to give’.

In my experience over the years with my dogs, I’ve found it depends on the dog’s personality and what he has grown used to.

If you manage to keep a healthy balance between meeting your dog’s needs and leaving him alone, it can be that your dog handles the long stretch alone just fine.

However, the rule of thumb before leaving your pooch alone is this:

Your dog’s age matters.

For pups especially, as the age relates to the frequency he will need to eliminate.

On average, here’s a dog’s potty breaks frequency according to his age:

  • 8-10 weeks old: Since pups at this age cannot hold their bladders, they can be left alone for less than 1 hour.
  • 2-3months old: Generally they need to potty every 2 hours.
  • 4 months old: They can hold their bladder for 4 hours, although it depends on your puppy’s development.
  • 18 months old and over: As a general guideline, house-trained dogs can be alone without causing a potty accident for 6 hours.
leaving-a-dog-home-furbo
Chart by Furbo.

At night, adult dogs might be able to hold it for longer just because they depend on us to go for a potty break.

What I do is take my dogs to potty before going to bed and I set up an alarm to open the garden door at a set time – 5 am – every day.

dog-training-home-alone

Why Leaving Your Dog Home Alone Has Risks?

Dogs are social creatures and they thrive when they have us as companions. Apart from cuddle time, they need us to spend quality time with them exercising, playing, and training… daily!

This is why you shouldn’t count on any breed to be independent to such an extent that you can leave them for 8 hours a day while you are at work.

They get lonely.

Plus, leaving them alone all day is definitely not advisable if you want a happy, well-adjusted family dog.

Why?

Although so far there’s no data that shows dogs being aware of the length of time they were alone, this study does confirm that dogs are affected by the duration of time at home alone.

When we leave our pooch alone all day, it has an effect on them and it shows with a more intense greeting behaviour towards us, the owners. Also, studies have shown dogs to display more physical activity and attentive behaviour when their owner returns, after 2 hours of separation.

The extreme reaction of a dog who spends time alone all day is called isolation distress.

dog-greeting

What Does Your Dog Do When Home Alone?

Knowing what your pooch is up to when you are away will help you to prepare him when he’s staying by himself.

The most likely scenarios are that your dog is going to:

  • Sleep: On average, adult dogs sleep between 14-16 hours a day (including at night) and puppies can sleep up to 18 hours.
  • Play: If you left a toy behind, your pooch will play for a bit, especially if the toy is interactive.
  • Guard the house: This is a more likely behaviour for guard dogs such as Bullmastiffs, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and Mastiffs, for example. However, other dogs might be on the lookout to find out what’s going on.
  • Eat: Some dogs will eat their meal from their bowl or a dispenser toy (a more entertaining method). However, others will hardly eat or not eat at all until you get back. This is something you should keep an eye on.
  • Make noise: This highly depends on your dog’s breed and personality too. Quiet breeds will refrain from making noises, but outspoken ones will bark at everything that moves (they have a much better sense of hearing than us). Also, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety will likely whine, cry, and even bark when you are away.
  • Explore: If your dog is not left to remain his safe space like a room or a crate, he will likely explore around the whole house! And this can be the cause of many hazards.
dog-home-alone-behaviour

Final Thoughts

Leaving your doggy alone is inevitable, but doesn’t have to make both of you miserable!

We are all guilty of worrying when we leave our pooch at home by himself. So instead, invest on whatever works for you and your pooch to make it better.

Check our 10 Steps to Dog Home Alone Safety and How to Keep My Dog Entertained While at Work blog posts to plan for a caring solution.

All dogs are different, and this also applies to how your furry friend handles being alone. Make sure you cover his daily needs:

  • Potty breaks.
  • Exercise.
  • Mental stimulation.
  • Meals, including water.
  • Other special needs.

Once you get home, you should expect your puppy demanding some well-deserved quality time with you after expending some time by himself 🙂

Take the next step by heading over to The 5 pillars to a happy and healthy dog to further solidify and grow that special bond with your dog.

puppy-seeking-affection
Can I leave my dog alone for 8 hours?

It’s a bit of a stretch for adult dogs since you are asking your pooch to hold himself, which is uncomfortable. On average, an adult dog will need to eliminate every 6 hours.

Definitely don’t attempt this with young dogs and puppies. They cannot hold themselves that long.

Can I leave my dog alone for 24 hours?

Dogs should not go for more than 6 hours alone. Apart from feeling lonely if they are alone for so long, you also provide for their daily needs: potty breaks, exercise, mental stimulation and meals.

If you need to leave your pooch for more than six hours, put him in someone else’s care, such as a dog walker or a dog sitter.

Can you leave a dog alone overnight?

Even if your dog does okay being alone for a few hours, your pooch
will need to release himself every 6 hours (on average for adult dogs).

Any dog forced to hold their urine for too long is at risk of urinary tract infection, or stones. Plus, holding urine for too long can lead to accidents in the house.

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