Anyone with a new dog wants to stay at home all day and make a fuss of it. Unfortunately, as much as we might want to stay at home, most of us have to go out to work most days. Even if you work from home, there will be times when you have to go out and leave the dog at home. If you have to leave your dog alone in the house, you need to be prepared, and make sure that you can provide your dog with everything it needs, even when you aren’t home.
How Long Can I Leave A Dog Alone?
The length of time that a dog can be left alone will vary from dog to dog. Some dogs struggle with separation anxiety and could become destructive if left for too long, whereas others cope much better. Even if your dog does well alone, you will have to think about how long they can go before needing to go out to wee.
Puppies, especially those who are still being house-trained, shouldn’t be left for very long at all. Two hours a day is around the maximum. Puppies need to be taken out to wee too often to be left for any longer. As they’re not yet used to being separated from you, they may be stressed about being left alone.
An older dog, who has learned to manage without you and can go longer between bathroom breaks and can be left for four to six hours. An elderly dog might need you to be around more often. Judge this depending on how their health is, and how often they can go without going to the bathroom. Some senior dogs, like puppies, can’t be left for more than a couple of hours.
What Are The Risks Of Leaving a Dog Alone?
A dog alone will need to go to the bathroom, and if left for too long, you may come home to find they’ve had an accident somewhere in the house.
Even if left outside, your dog could still be into mischief or danger. They could develop separation anxiety, or just get bored, which could encourage them to behave badly in a way they normally wouldn’t. This might be scratching or biting at doors or chewing furniture or clothes left around. Some dogs may overeat to ease boredom. Others might bark or howl, which won’t please your neighbors. A dog kept outside could find a way to escape.
How Can I Train A Dog To Be Left Alone?
Proper training, like the methods on this site, is very important if you’re going to leave a dog alone. As soon as you get a dog, start practicing, so the dog can cope better when you do have to leave it. Start by practicing the ‘Leave & Return’ scenario. This teaches your dog that being home on their own is okay and that you will always come back.
Start by putting your shoes on and go to the door. If you notice that your dog becomes anxious, try to ignore it, so the dog gets used to it. Repeat this step at least three times a day.
When you come home, don’t immediately go to your dog to make a fuss of him. Instead, go about your usual arriving home routine until your dog is calm before greeting him. This helps the dog to understand that coming home is normal, not special. This will help the dog to keep calmer.
When you leave the house, don’t say goodbye to the dog. This can make them want to come with you and worry about being left. If you just leave as though nothing much is happening, they’ll feel calmer about it.
Tips For Leaving A Dog Alone
When you have to leave your dog alone, you can make it easier with some preparation, and some methods to help your dog stay calm and keep your home safe from destruction.
Don’t give your dog free rein of the house, especially when you first start leaving it alone. Instead, leave them somewhere where they’re comfortable. The kitchen is a popular choice, as clean-up is easier in the case of any accidents. Put their bed or crate in the room you’re leaving them in.
Tire the dog out before you leave with some exercise. This could be going out for an early walk before you go to work, or playing an active game together in the garden. If you can tire the dog out, it will hopefully sleep for most of the time that you’re gone.
Leave some food dispensing toys as well as or instead of their usual food bowl. These toys come in different varieties of difficulty, so you can make getting at their food or treats last much longer, to keep them busy while you’re out.
Leave them fun toys to play with while you’re gone. This helps to stop them from becoming bored, so the dog is less tempted into bad behavior, like biting, chewing, or peeing on things.
How Can I Help My Dog With Separation Anxiety?
Some dogs don’t do well with being left alone, no matter how well you prepare. This can be because they have been left for long periods by a previous owner, are not used to being left yet, or because they find being away from you upsetting.
To help with more minor separation anxiety, try not to make a big deal out of arriving or leaving. Ignore your dog when you first arrive home and wait a few minutes before you greet them.
If your dog seems to be upset when you leave, try leaving them some things that smell like you, like recently worn clothes. Just be sure you don’t leave anything that you don’t want to be chewed, just in case.
Try and establish a word or action that you will use every time that you leave the house that tells your dog that will be coming back.
You could also try an over-the-counter product meant for calming a stressed dog if you know the dog gets stressed.
This is a collaborative post.