Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
But, it’s not as simple as heading to the shelter to pick out your new best friend. Dogs take a lot of work and In today’s fast-paced world, you may be wondering: ‘Am I too busy for a dog?’.
And that’s a valid question. Dogs are social animals and they need a lot of attention to thrive. In fact, without proper attention, dogs can become anxious, destructive, or even depressed.
So, read on to find out how much attention dogs need, to help you decide whether you can fit a canine companion into your busy life:
Table of Contents:
How many hours a day should you spend with your dog?
This could be time spent out walking, playing fetch, or even curled up on the sofa. The important thing is that you’re together. You see, dogs bond closely with their human families. And that means that they need time with you, in order to be healthy and happy.
This could be time spent out walking, playing fetch, or even curled up on the sofa. The important thing is that you’re together.
You see, dogs bond closely with their human families. And that means that they need time with you, in order to be healthy and happy.
Now, 3.5 hours might not seem like a lot of time…. But bear in mind that this is a minimum. Whilst some dogs will cope fine with just 3.5 hours of quality time, others need far more attention to thrive.
And of course, 3.5 hours only applies to adult dogs. When a dog is a puppy, they need far more attention. In fact, puppies need near-constant attention in order to feel safe and at ease.
Plus, if you are considering adopting a puppy, it’s important to note that whilst some breeds are generally more independent, each individual dog is different. This means that it’s not possible to know whether your puppy will cope without you for long periods of time until they grow up.
So, we’ve looked at how long your dog needs you around, but how long can they be left entirely alone?
How long can my dog be left alone?
It is difficult to give an exact time-frame for how long dogs can be left alone. Simply put, every dog is different. However, no dog will be comfortable if they are forced to hold their pee for a long period of time.
So, as a general rule of thumb, dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than 4-6 hours at a time.
This is because most adult dogs can hold their bladders for 4-6 hours without becoming uncomfortable. However, if your dog is nervous, or has a small bladder, they are likely to need more frequent bathroom breaks. And some dogs may be able to hold their bladders all day long!
But, we don’t only have to think about dogs’ bathroom needs when considering how long they can be left alone. We need to consider their emotional needs too.
Your Dogs Emotional Needs
You see, it’s important to remember that dogs are social animals and they feel happiest when with their families. Therefore, it is best not to leave them alone all day, even if they manage to hold their pee until you return home from work.
Of course, many people disagree and it’s not uncommon to hear dog owners claiming that they have always left their dogs at home all day without any issues.
And it’s true, some dogs do appear to cope well when left for longer periods of time. However, it is impossible to say for certain whether these dogs are truly comfortable, or whether they are simply adapting to something they have no control over.
But, as much as we’d all like to keep our dogs with us at all times, most people have to leave their pets alone, at least sometimes. So, how do we make them more comfortable in the time we are gone?
How do I make my dog more comfortable when I need to leave them alone?
Firstly, you shouldn’t suddenly start leaving your dog alone for long periods of time. No dog will be happy going from near-constant companionship to being alone for 4-6 hours right away.
So, to keep them feeling secure, gradually build up their alone time, starting by leaving them alone for a few minutes. Once they seem comfortable, slowly start to increase the time you’re away. This will allow your dog to acclimatize to being alone, and learn that you’ll always come back.
It’s also important to consider where you leave your dog. Ideally, you should leave her somewhere she feels safe, like the room in which she sleeps. You should always ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh drinking water. And you’re going to want to make sure she is entertained whilst you’re away.
To keep your pooch entertained, think about leaving toys for her to play with. These can be a great boredom buster, but make sure not to leave anything that could be destroyed and eaten in reach.
Remember that many dogs like to chew, so leave a chew toy in reach (especially if you don’t want your dog to nibble on your furniture!).
You may also want to give your dog a tasty chew to keep them occupied as you head out of the door. Not only will this distract them, but giving your dog a tasty treat each time you leave can have the added benefit of making them see alone time as a positive experience.
What happens if I leave my dog alone for too long?
If your dog is left alone for longer than they are comfortable, they may become distressed. This can result in behaviors like:
- Defecating indoors
- And licking their lips
Psychologically, dogs may become anxious or even depressed. And some dogs develop separation anxiety.
For dogs with separation anxiety, being left alone for any length of time can be distressing, and a dog behaviorist may need to be brought in to help them recover.
So, with this in mind, let’s look at what you should consider before adopting a dog if you work full-time:
I want to adopt a dog but I work full-time
OK, so quitting work to spend all day with your dog is a pipe dream for most people. But what if you really want a dog, even though you work full-time?
Well, the good news is that it’s possible to be a great dog owner and work full-time.
The bad news? It will take a lot of planning, and potentially be quite expensive to make work.
So, what do you need to consider before rushing down to the shelter to pick out your four-legged friend?
First, think about changes you can make to your routine.
If you are usually out of the house all day, could you come home for lunch? Or maybe you could work from home occasionally?
Or even better, check whether your employer would let you bring a dog to work with you!
Then, consider what age and breed of dog you adopt.
Some breeds, like the Chow Chow are known for being fairly independent, whilst others, like Shih Tzus and King Charles Cavaliers are more suited to near-constant companionship.
Ideally, you’ll also need to stay away from puppies and look at adopting an older dog as well.
I know, I know, puppies are cute! But they take up a lot of time. Not only do they need potty training, but they also need to be socialized and taught basic commands like “sit” and “here”.
Because of these needs, it can be difficult to ensure a puppy gets the best start in life if you are out of the house all day.
On the other hand, when you adopt a dog from a shelter, the staff should be able to direct you towards dogs that are happy spending some time alone. Sometimes, senior dogs are happy to sleep the day away on a comfy blanket.
But, you will still need to consider arranging for someone to care for your dog while you are at work.
If you are able to go home at lunch, you may be able to avoid finding someone else to help care for your dog. However, if this isn’t possible, you will need to look for outside help.
Depending on your pooch’s individual needs, this could take the form of a dog walker or an all-day doggy daycare.
And if you are set on getting a puppy? Well, it is possible. But choose the breed wisely, and make sure you arrange for a dog sitter or for someone to visit at regular intervals throughout the day.
It’s important to remember that many doggy daycares do not accommodate young pups, so you are likely to need a specialist service.
And, you’ll need to give up your free time to bond with your dog.
If you are out at work all day, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of your free time to your pooch. You see, you’re their family, and they need your attention.
This means that even when you’ve had a long day, you’ll still need to find the energy for walks, games, and training.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Many dog owners find that playing with their pups after work improves their stress levels and helps them to relax. After all, what’s better than coming home to the excitement of seeing your best friend?
Should I get a dog if I work all day?
As we have seen, the answer to this question depends on how much time and money you have to spare.
If you are happy to spend your free time bonding with your dog and can afford either doggy daycare or a walker, getting a dog is possible. And, providing you are careful, it is possible to be a great full-time dog owner.
OK, but what if you are busy outside of working hours too?
If you work full-time and have a very busy social life, getting a dog may not be for you. Of course, most people socialize without their dogs sometimes… and there are lots of ways to socialize with your four-legged friend.
For example, you could meet friends at the dog park, go on hikes, or search for dog-friendly bars in your area.
But it’s important that you are really honest with yourself here: would you be happy missing some social occasions that weren’t dog-friendly?
Getting a dog is a huge commitment, and if you wouldn’t be happy to miss social occasions, it’s probably not a great idea to adopt right now.
If you do, you may find that either:
- You begin to resent the responsibility of dog ownership
- Your dog becomes unhappy because it is not spending enough time with you
Questions To Ask Yourself
However, many people find that owning a dog is incredibly rewarding. And this makes it worth sacrificing the odd social engagement.
So ask yourself this, ‘would I be happy to sacrifice after-work drinks in favor of going home to a wagging tail and slobbery doggy kisses?’
Remember, only you can answer this question, so take your time!
OK, we’ve looked at getting a dog when you work full-time, and when you have a full social life.
So, if you think that getting a dog might be right for you, let’s recap some of the ways to fit a dog into your busy life:
How to fit a dog into a busy life
Choose the right breed of dog
Remember, some dog breeds are naturally more suited to spending time alone, whilst other breeds thrive on constant attention.
Adopt an adult dog
Puppies need more attention than adult dogs, and shelters can match you with a pooch that will cope well with less attention.
Adjust your routine
To limit the time your dog spends alone, try coming home for lunch or working from home occasionally. You could even ask if you can take your dog to work with you!
Hire a dog walker, or enroll your pooch into doggy daycare
Sending your dog to daycare, or having a dog walker come in once a day can help prevent boredom and help your dog cope when you’re away.
Make sure your dog has fresh drinking water, is somewhere comfortable, and offer treats
Try to make your dog’s environment as comfortable as possible when you are away so that they feel secure and don’t get bored.
Owning a dog is a huge commitment, so skip after-work drinks and head to the dog park instead.
Socialize with your dog
Where possible, include your dog in your outings. Hikes in nature are a fantastic way to spend time with your friends, and your pup.
If you have decided that you’re too busy for a dog right now, don’t despair. There are lots of great ways to spend time with dogs, without committing to getting one of your own.
Alternatives to owning a dog
If you’ve thought long and hard about it, and you don’t have time to care for a dog of your own, you might be feeling a little deflated.
However, all is not lost. In fact, there are plenty of ways to spend time with dogs, without making the commitment to being an owner.
So, why not try…
Volunteering at a shelter
Shelters are filled with dogs waiting to find their forever homes. So, make their wait more enjoyable by volunteering to walk, cuddle, and play with shelter dogs!
Or walking a neighbors dog
Do you have a neighbor that would appreciate some help with their dog? Maybe they are old or ill?
Offer to help them out by walking their pooch for them. Not only will you be helping your neighbor, but you’ll get to spend some quality one-on-one time with a dog, without the commitment of pet ownership.
I don’t have time for my dog anymore
Not having time for your dog can be deeply upsetting. But the sad fact is, sometimes people’s circumstances change.
Maybe you’ve recently broken up with your partner, or have taken a new job. Sometimes, things happen that we can’t control, and it is important not to beat yourself up about it.
If you find that you are leaving your dog alone for long periods of time, try to enroll them in doggy daycare. Or alternatively, look for walkers or sitters in your area. It may even be worth asking friends and family if they can help out with your dog care needs.
However, if you are unable to provide care for your dog, and it becomes anxious or upset when left alone, you may need to look at rehoming your pet.
This is a heartbreaking decision, but if you have explored every other option, it may be the best outcome for your dog.
If you do need to rehome your dog, use an established no-kill center. Whilst it may be possible to find a new home yourself online, it is unwise to do so. This is because it is difficult to vet prospective homes yourself, and your dog could end up in the wrong hands.
Should You Get a Dog?
So, there we have it. After reading this article, you should have a pretty good idea of whether you’re too busy for a dog of your own.
But, whether you do decide to get a dog right now, or decide to wait a while. We hope you continue to love our canine friends in any way that you can!