Basic education

How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. July 21, 2020
How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?

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When we adopt a dog we should know the responsibilities required of us. This does include food, shelter and monitoring for health problems. However, too many animal guardians are still unaware of how much attention, bonding and cognitive stimulation is required to maintain a dog's health and well-being. There are some who are aware of this, but who have had to spend less time with their beloved dog due to circumstances beyond their control.

Since dogs are such social animals, we need to ensure they have the right level of interaction. This is why you may ask yourself, how long can you leave a dog alone? Since the working day is 8 hours, some suggest this should be fine. AnimalWised reveals why the answer isn't so straightforward.

You may also be interested in: How to Leave a Puppy Alone - Training and Tips!
  1. Leaving a dog alone at home
  2. Separation anxiety in dogs
  3. How long can we leave a puppy home alone?
  4. How long can you leave a dog home alone
  5. What to do when leaving a dog alone

Leaving a dog alone at home

As we referenced in the introduction, there are some reasons why you may need to leave a dog on their own. When you need to go to work, you may have to leave your dog alone for extended periods. Some of us are fortunate to be able to have our dogs at work with us, but this is an option for only the minority of people. Most will have to say goodbye and may worry about them.

While we have so far considered our routine, we forget that a dog has one of their own. We co-exist with our dog and try to educate them to live in a domestic setting. However, we need to remember they are a dog with specific canine needs. Dogs are animals of routine, so if we leave them for long periods of time, especially at erratic intervals, they can become concerned.

One of the main problems is that a dog will feel insecure about their basic needs. Dogs need to eat to stay alive, but rely on us to provide their diet. If we are not there to do so, a dog can become concerned and grow anxious.

Another very important factor is allowing them to go outside to relieve themselves. Some of us may be lucky enough to have a yard to allow them to do this, but those of us without outdoor access are asking our dogs to hold it in if we leave them at home for a full day.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Dogs need contact with their family. Dogs create special bonds with us and need to be stimulated and given affection. Without it, they can develop something known as separation anxiety. This is a feeling of anxiousness derived from being separated from their family. It can be due to feeling insecure about their safety and resources, missing their humans or a mixture of both.

Leaving a dog to spend too much time on their own can lead to various problems associated with separation anxiety. This includes:

  • Destructive behavior
  • Improper urination
  • Excessive barking
  • Aggression with others
  • Coprophagia (eating feces)
  • Attempting to escape

While we may think it is OK to leave our dog alone for 8 hours or more, we are not present to how they feel. We may see examples of improper urination, but many symptoms will not be known to us. It may take a neighbor or someone else to witnessed them to to tell us.

Dogs which suffer from separation anxiety, however, will develop problems which start to affect your relationship. They may become agitated when you even go near the door without them. They may follow you everywhere and be very demanding of attention. The anxiety may also cause them to have behavioral problems such as aggression.

While there are many different factors which contribute to this situation, there are some breeds more prone to separation anxiety than others.

How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone? - Separation anxiety in dogs

How long can we leave a puppy home alone?

So far, we have discussed the effects on an adult dog when left alone, but age is a significant factor. Puppies are even more dependent on their human guardians than adult dogs. They not only need regular meals for their physical development, but their emotional development means they need cognitive and physical stimulation. Without them, their development will suffer.

One of the most important aspects of any puppy's development is their socialization period. During this period, the puppy interacts with other dogs, animals and humans to learn necessary boundaries. For example, when puppy's bite they are learning necessary motor skills which allow them to interact with their environment and those within it. If they are left alone for too long, they can develop improper biting behaviors and even be dangerous.

Also, puppies will need to learn how to urinate outside. If they don't learn early, they can have trouble for the rest of their lives. Very young puppies will need to urinate almost every hour. While newspaper and other accessories can help, they will have hygiene issues if left for hours on end as feces and urine accumulates.

Since puppies need so much attention, we really will need someone to be there at all times. This is not only so they can be actively stimulated, but since they are away from their mother, they will need the reassurance our presence provides to feel safe. If they do not have this security, they can develop trauma and consequent behavioral problems later in life.

Not only should you not leave a puppy for more than 8 hours, you shouldn't leave them alone for any extended period of time. You have to go out to run short errands. For this, some people recommend crate training the puppies. However, this is not generally advised and should only be used when their safety is in danger.

How long can you leave a dog home alone

There is no one answer to the question of how long you can leave a dog on their own. The reason is that we need to take into account various factors which affect the dog's well-being. Most importantly, every dog is an individual with their own specific needs. While some dogs will develop separation anxiety if left alone for even short periods, others will have little trouble filling their time.

What we can say is that any happy and healthy dog will want to spend time with their human family. Depriving them of this necessity will only bring trouble, so it is ideal to reduce the amount of time they spend alone to a minimum.

Knowing how long you can leave a dog a lone will depend on:

  • Food: since the dog needs to eat, you will need to be there to provide it. However, we cannot simply leave a large amount of food out and let them eat at will. Some dogs are greedy and will be prone to obesity if allowed to eat as much as they like. A healthy dog may be able to wait 8 to 12 hours between feedings. However, how much and how often we feed a dog depends on many factors. For example, dogs which eat too fast will need to have smaller portions of the same overall amount of food split into more regular feeding times.
  • Health: some dogs have health problems which lead them to require extra attention. They may need to be given medication, observed for symptoms or simply need more care and attention. How long you can leave the dog alone will be greatly affected by this.
  • Personality: some breeds are generally more clingy than others. They can form very strong attachments with their human family and will not fare well when separated for long periods. But the personality of a dog depends on many various factors, especially socialization and education.
  • Experience: some dogs have had traumatic experiences which lead them to having behavioral and psychological problems. If left alone for long periods, they may develop anxiety and it can be very bad for their well-being.
  • Exercise: some dogs need a lot of physical stimulation and will need to be walked multiple times a day. They will need additional exercise on top of this. Some dogs cannot be left alone for more than a couple of hours without needing to expend some energy.

Understanding the personality of your dog will best help you to understand for how long you can leave an individual dog home alone. At the very maximum, some dogs can be left for 8 to 12 hours alone without suffering any major repercussions. However, it is important to spend as much time with your dog as is possible. If any signs of separation anxiety are observed, you will need to rectify the problem.

How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone? - How long can you leave a dog home alone

What to do when leaving a dog alone

There are simply some situations whereby you will have to leave your dog home alone for certain periods of time. In these cases, it is imperative that we minimize the potential problems isolation can cause. For this we should try to use the following guidelines:

  • Education: while dogs need to spend time with us, it is possible they will become too attached. You can see this overdependence in dogs which cry when left alone even for short periods of time. This is why it is vital we properly educate our dog to not rely on us and to be calm when left alone. If we cannot do this, we may need to see a dog trainer or ethologist to help.
  • Environmental enrichment: ensure the dog has enough in the home to help them be engaged and not to become bored. Toys and accessories can help, but so too can relaxing music for dogs.
  • House calls: if at all possible, it is important for us to stop at home and give the dog attention and a short walk. If we cannot do this ourselves, we should try to organize a friend, relative or neighbor to do so. In some cases, especially with dogs which need a lot of exercise, we should engage a dog walker to help.
  • Bring the dog to work: if at all possible, we should investigate the option of bringing our dog to work, even if for short periods. For some, they may be able to work partly from home to spend more time with the dog.

Whatever you do, if you see signs of separation anxiety or other behavioral problems, you will need to take the dog to a veterinarian to know what to do. They can advise and suggest an ethologist to help prevent this problem.

As we mentioned above, relaxing music for dogs can also help to keep them calm while you are away. Use this video below if your dog needs some help to chill:

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.

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How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?