It can be very difficult to ignore the puppy-dog eyes your pup gives you as you walk out the door. Sometimes I feel guilty leaving even just for a quick trip to the grocery store! How do working dog owners do it?
And when your dog does have to be on their own, make sure they’re kept as comfortable and happy as possible.
We’ll discuss how to do this below, along with more tips for leaving your pup home alone.
Table of Contents:
Is it OK to leave a dog at home all day?
It’s best not to leave a dog home alone all day when you can avoid it.
Regardless of your dog’s personality, it isn’t fair to leave them home alone all day on a regular basis. Dogs get lonely just like people, and generally don’t enjoy being left for hours on end with nobody to interact with.
However, there are plenty of working dog owners. How do you balance caring for a dog and working full-time?
- Having family or other pets in the household prevents loneliness, as your dog will rarely be left all on their own.
- If you live alone, consider hiring a dog walker, dog sitting service, or doggy daycare to care for your furry friend while you’re gone.
- Alternatively, you could ask a family member or friend to care for your pup while you’re at work. Or, if you live close to work, you could return home on your lunch break so that your dog isn’t alone the entire day.
- Wear your dog out with a morning jog or playtime before you leave, so that they aren’t left to fend for themselves with a ton of pent-up energy.
- Follow our tips in this article for when you can’t help but leave your dog alone!
Is it illegal to leave a dog at home alone?
No, it is not illegal to leave your dog home alone (see also ‘Is It Better To Leave Dog At Home Or In A Car‘).
However, just because you won’t have the police knocking on your door, that doesn’t mean leaving a dog home alone for extended periods of time is the right thing to do.
Are dogs sad when left alone?
Yes, dogs do get sad when left alone.
Dogs rely on their human family a lot, and it’s quite selfish to ask them to go without proper care, such as socialization and potty breaks, for an entire day while you’re at work.
Some dogs will just feel bored and lonely when left alone, while others develop separation anxiety and suffer enormously.
Even dogs who adapt to being left alone all day don’t like it—it’s still not fair to them in the end.
How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?
Dogs with separation anxiety feel very anxious when left alone. This may show itself through a dog getting into trouble or through changes in behavior.
Whenever your dog’s behavior changes, you should take note, as it’s often the first sign that your pup isn’t feeling well. This doesn’t just pertain to separation anxiety, but any physical or mental problem they may be having.
Some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety, and it occurs more often in dogs who tend to cling to their owners.
Dogs who are left alone more frequently will also be more prone to developing separation anxiety, and it can also be brought on by a change in schedule.
Here are some signs your dog may have separation anxiety:
- Persistent barking or whining
- Repetitive behaviors such as pacing or licking
- Getting into things they aren’t supposed to or chewing things that aren’t theirs
Dogs with separation anxiety may show symptoms before you leave, while you’re away, or even after you’ve returned home.
Should I leave the TV on for my dog?
Leaving the TV or even a radio on while you’re away can help some dogs.
This is most effective if you teach your dog to associate the music or voices with something positive, like treats.
However, television and music don’t entertain dogs in the same way they do people. These things may distract them for a moment or two, but they’re not going to keep them occupied long-term.
Should you leave a dog in a crate while at work?
Crate training can be a great thing for dogs. If you’re only leaving for a short amount of time, your pup might even feel safer in their crate.
However, dogs shouldn’t be left locked in their crates for entire workdays (see also ‘Why Your Dog Is Refusing To Leave Their Crate‘). This is even worse than leaving them home alone to wander the house. In their crates, dogs have minimal space to move around and will become even more bored.
When it comes down to it, locking a dog in a crate for 8 hours at a time, every weekday, is animal cruelty.
How to keep dogs calm when home alone
There are several ways to keep dogs calm when they’re home alone. The first, and most important, is to minimize their alone time as much as possible.
How To Minimize Their Alone Time
You can break up the day by returning home for lunch, having family or friends check in on them, or hiring someone to do so.
Or, you can avoid leaving them alone altogether by hiring a dog sitter or doggy daycare service. Although this is too pricey for most people, it’s worth it if you have the funds.
In the morning, you can walk or play with your dog to tire them out before you leave. This will keep them calmer, and they might just sleep while you’re gone.
You can do the same if you return home in the middle of the day, or ask whoever’s taking care of them to give them a bit of exercise before they leave.
How To Entertain Your Dog When You’re Not Home
Toys are also a huge help in keeping your dog busy while you’re away. Leave them a stuffed KONG toy to keep them occupied for a bit, or buy puzzle toys that’ll provide enrichment.
You could consider buying or building your dog a window perch so they can watch the world outside!
Of course, the classic squeaky toys are great for them as well—sometimes, having plenty of their own things to chew will stop them from getting into your stuff.
Some dog owners choose to purchase a dog camera so that they can see what their dogs are up to on their phones. These devices often allow you to speak to your dog and provide them with treats as well, so it can be a fun way to keep in touch and make your dog feel safer.
Keeping Them Comfortable
Lastly, you want to ensure your dog feels comfortable and safe in your home. This often takes patience, especially if your dog has separation anxiety.
It might mean leaving them for brief periods, until they feel safe being left a little longer.
Crate training also helps give dogs a safe place to turn to that’s all their own. They shouldn’t be locked in a crate for hours at a time, however.
But giving your dog a comfy spot in your home will help them feel more secure while you’re away.
Leaving a puppy home alone
Leaving a puppy home alone can be a lot more challenging than a grown dog!
The first thing you should know is that puppies shouldn’t be left as long as adult dogs. So, if you work full-time and are considering adopting a puppy, you should probably reconsider.
Adopting an older dog is a better option for people in this position.
But what do you do when you have to leave your puppy home alone for a while?
- Let your puppy go potty before you leave—and don’t expect them to hold their bladder for too long!
- Try to leave your puppy when they’re tired, like right after playtime or a walk.
- Make leaving a pleasant experience.
Puppies are still learning, and they need lots of training. This includes potty training, which you don’t want to ruin by leaving them for a long stretch of time.
Get your puppy to go potty just before you leave, and return in a few hours, at the longest, to let them go again.
You can leave puppy training pads for them to go on while you’re gone, but you probably don’t want your puppy to get into the habit of going in the house, even on a pee pad.
Helping Your Puppy To Get Used To Some Alone Time
Another aspect of training is allowing your puppy to see that it’s okay when you leave. It’s good for them to be alone for short stretches, as it helps them grow the self-confidence they’ll need.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to stay with your puppy 24/7 throughout their entire life, so it is important they get used to the idea of being home alone.
You should make this as pleasant of an experience as possible by easing into it, providing comfort items like beds, blankets, and toys, and by not making a huge deal when you go.
If you make a fuss about leaving them, it just tells your puppy that there’s something to worry about.
Finally, it’s better to leave a tired puppy home alone than an energetic one. Wear them out first, so that they’re less likely to get bored and find trouble.
Leaving a senior dog home alone
It can be tough leaving a senior dog home alone, especially if they have health problems.
As your dog gets older, they will need more constant care. Like puppies, they’ll need frequent bathroom breaks. They also need a careful eye as they become less healthy than they used to be.
If your dog needs help getting around, they might require someone home with them during the day. This would also help prevent accidents in the house.
Sometimes older dogs develop dementia, which might cause distress if they are left home alone and begin to feel confused or frightened.
It’s good to realize what your dog’s health is like and accommodate them as well as possible in this new stage of their life.
Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how long dogs can be left alone and can create a plan to make your dog as happy and healthy as possible, even as a working pet owner.
How do you help your furry friend adjust to you being away? Has your dog ever had separation anxiety? How did you deal with it? Let’s chat in the comments!