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Optimeal® Blog

Optimeal® Blog

How Long Can Dogs Be Left Alone?

By Bridget Reed


You might feel a little sad every time you leave your dog behind, but sometimes you can’t help it. They might want to spend every moment by your side, but that’s not always an option. Besides, coming home to an excited pup with a wagging tail and cuddles isn’t quite something you’d want to avoid.

If you have to regularly spend hours at the office, shopping, or taking care of other responsibilities, you might be wondering how long you can leave your dog alone. The answer varies depending on your dog.

However, most dogs can be trusted to have alone time for quite a while. Plus, we have some tips and tricks you can use to keep them happy and entertained while you’re away. 

If worst comes to worst, you can always look into a pet-sitting service or a doggy daycare for your pup.

How long is too long? Let’s find out.

How Long Can I Leave My Puppy Alone?

Puppies aren’t as independent as adult dogs, but you might be surprised at how long you can leave your puppy alone.

As you bring your new puppy home, it’s important to spend lots of time with them so they can bond with you and adapt to their new environment. Dogs are social animals and don’t like to be alone for long periods of time.

However, it’s not a bad idea to give your puppy some space so they can adapt to being alone when necessary. The most important factor when determining the amount of alone time is bathroom breaks; generally, very young puppies need a potty break every hour or so.

As they age, you can estimate the number of hours you can leave puppies alone without accidents by the number of months since they were born.

For example, a three-month-old puppy can be trusted to hold it for about three hours, a four-month-old puppy can last about four hours, and so on. When your pooch reaches six months, you can generally leave them alone for six to eight hours, depending on how well-trained they are.

As they reach adulthood, eight hours is still a good guideline for the maximum amount of time they should spend alone. Be sure to give them lots of love, attention, and exercise when you get home.

How Long Can I Leave My Dog in a Crate?

If you are crate training your dog, you might wonder how long you can safely leave them in a crate.

Generally, experts recommend building up to longer periods by introducing your dog to the crate for the first time and letting them get comfortable with it. You should make your dog’s crate a comfortable, safe place to sleep so they don’t think of it as a punishment. It can help to give them a toy, like a Kong with peanut butter, to occupy them inside the crate.

By leaving your crate’s door open, your dog can investigate it and even sleep in it whenever they feel like it. Once they feel comfortable with the crate, you can try closing the door for longer lengths of time, starting with just a few minutes. 

If you introduce your dog to the crate over time, they should be happier with staying there when you go to work or leave the house for a few hours. Remember, you can’t keep your dog in a crate for long hours since they’ll need an opportunity to use the bathroom or get some exercise.

Four to five hours is the longest you should keep your dog crated at a time, and it’s important to give them long breaks where they can stretch their legs or take a long walk. 

If you follow these guidelines, your dog will be much happier spending some time in their crate, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re safe and sound while you’re away.

Can I Leave My Dog Alone When I Go to Work?

You probably wish you could bring your dog to work with you, but in most cases, that’s not possible. Still, at least they’ll be waiting at home to greet you when you get back. If you’re curious about what they do while you’re gone, consider installing a doggy camera to watch your pup.

It’s generally alright to leave your dog alone for an eight-hour workday, but any longer, and you might want to come back home during your lunch break, or hire someone to check in on your pet to let them out to use the restroom as well as get some social interaction. 

Remember, your dog needs access to fresh water the whole time and should have at least two meal breaks throughout the day.

If your dog has a yard or access to the outdoors while you’re away, you might not need to check in as often. Make sure your pup is getting plenty of exercise and always has access to a warm, safe place where they can sleep.

Does My Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

If you’ve left your dog alone for long periods, you might notice some destructive behavior cropping up. Your dog might destroy furniture or shoes, claw at doors, or shred their toys. They also might bark for hours on end, which your neighbors probably don’t appreciate. 

This behavior can be frustrating to deal with, and it’s often the result of a lack of stimulation or exercise in your dog’s life. However, your dog may also have developed separation anxiety.

Since dogs are pack animals, even more, independent breeds prefer having family members around. When you’re away, they might be nervous enough to act destructive, bark, or howl for long periods of time.

While getting lots of exercises can help manage some of these symptoms, it’s much easier to prevent separation anxiety than treat it. You should consult your vet if you’re unsure how to help with these issues — they’ll have recommendations tailored to your dog and your situation.

What Are Alternatives to Leaving My Dog Alone?

In some cases, your dog might not be able to handle spending long periods of time alone. This doesn’t mean you can never leave the house, but you might need someone else to keep your dog company while you’re away. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for keeping your dog entertained and happy while you’re not around. These options can’t replace some quality time spent with their pet parent, but they’re viable options for dogs with lots of separation anxiety or potential health issues that require lots of attention.

One of the best options for busy pet parents is doggy daycare. You can drop your dog off at a set time and pick them up when you’re ready to take them home. It’s a good way to ensure your dog gets lots of exercise and playtime with other pups. 

If your dog has separation anxiety, doggy daycare can help them adjust to spending time without you. You can also rest easy knowing that your dog won’t be getting up to any mischief while you’re gone.

Another option is a personal dog sitter or dog walker. You can hire one through a specific service or independently or even ask a friend or family member to help out with your pup. This is a good way to ensure your dog gets one-on-one attention and care. You can get updates through your dog sitter, ensuring you know what’s going on with your dog throughout the day. It’s not quite as good as spending time with your pup in person, but it just might be the next best thing.

Leaving Your Dog Alone

While you might not be happy about leaving your dog alone, they’ll learn to adapt and entertain themselves while you’re away. Remember that your dog always needs exercise, food, and water, and be sure to give them plenty of love and attention when you’ve left them alone for a while. 

As long as you follow these guidelines, you’ll surely have a happy pup who’s thrilled to see you every time you come home!

For more helpful articles on how to be the best human companion to your pup, make sure to explore the rest of the Optimeal blog and check out our line of pet food recipes!


Leaving your dog home alone (a guilt-free guide) | Animal Humane Society

How Long Is It OK to Leave Your Dog Home Alone? | Reader's Digest

How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Alone? | American Kennel Club

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