If you’re like many dog owners, you enjoy having your dog in your life, but you also have to spend time at work. After all, dog food and vet bills don’t pay themselves!
When you have a schedule that requires you to be gone for 8 hours at a time, however, you might be wondering if it’s OK for your dog to be alone that long. In this article, we will be exploring how long you can leave your dog alone depending on their age, as well as ways to make it work if you have to be gone longer than acceptable.
So, can a dog be left alone for 8 hours?
In most cases, Yes. However, there are some exceptions, and depending on the age of your dog, that time frame may not be appropriate. Dogs are individuals, and your dog may have a lower barrier as to what they can tolerate before they require a pee break or some company. Keep reading for a better understanding of what you can and can’t do with your dog.
How Long Can Puppies Stay Alone?
In general, an adult dog is OK being left alone for 8 hours. They will have the bladder control and skills necessary to successfully stay alone and not have an accident.
Puppies, however, are a different story. Young dogs don’t have full bladder control, and are also still learning their house training routine.
The general rule is that puppies can stay alone for the same number of hours as they are old in months, plus one. For example, a 3 month old puppy can usually stay alone for 4 hours, and a 6 month old puppy can stay alone for 7 hours.
This rule maximizes itself at 8-9 hours. Beyond that, most puppies and adult dogs will not be able to stay alone for that length of time. This is especially true if it will occur on a regular basis, rather than the occasional longer day.
Can I crate my dog for 12 hours once in a while?
No, It is not acceptable to crate a dog for this long. If you need to leave your dog alone for 8+ hours, or if your dog is a puppy that can’t stay alone that long, you will want to make additional arrangements so they can have a bathroom break and aren’t too bored and lonely. Here are a few ideas!
The easiest option to break up a long day is to come home on your lunch break to allow your dog time to go outside along with a quick session of play. This isn’t possible for all work schedules, but it’s often the easiest and cheapest option to make sure your dog’s needs are met.
If you don’t have the ability to come home and break up a long day, there are a few other options you can try. Dog walkers are often available to come into your home and take your dog on a short walk, or you can consider dropping your dog off at a dog daycare for the day.
Which option is best for you depends on if your dog enjoys playtime with other dogs, and if they need the extra exercise from a dog daycare, or if they’d prefer a walk on their own.
Even if you will only be gone for 8 hours, it can still get boring for many dogs. Boredom often leads to destruction and other problem behaviors.
Dog walkers and dog day cares will also help with any boredom. However, if the bathroom break isn’t needed because you have an adult dog and won’t be gone for longer than 8 hours, you can still offer them something to help keep them occupied.
A favorite of many dogs owners is the Kong toy, or a similar brand and style, which can be stuffed with food. Not only will it help to occupy your dog, but it serves as a mental enrichment opportunity, too!
When you first fill a Kong for your dog, you’ll want to make it enticing and not too difficult. Using a mixture of peanut butter, applesauce, wet dog food, or a banana along with their regular kibble makes for a great filling. You can even stick a larger dog bone out the end so your dog has an easy reward right away.
As your dog becomes comfortable with the Kong, you can start packing food tighter. Another easy way to increase the challenge and make it last longer is to freeze it after you’ve stuffed it. Puppies with sore gums from teething can greatly benefit from the soothing nature of the frozen toy, too.
Leaving Your Dog Alone for 8 Hours
If your dog is an older puppy or adult with no medical problems, they will likely handle being left alone for up to 8 hours just fine. This is especially true if you are able to ease them into the longer days by starting with 30-60 minutes alone, and working up to all 8 hours.
However, you do have options such as dog walkers and day cares if you need to be gone longer, or if your dog is too bored for that length of time. Leaving food stuffed toys, such as the Kong, can also be a great way to mix up your dog’s day!
As all dogs are individuals, it might take some experimenting to determine what your dog likes best. The good news is that you have lots of options to make it OK for your dog to be home alone for 8 hours a day.
Please note: If you find that your dog struggles with separation anxiety, causing harm to themselves or being destructive when you are gone, it’s best to seek help from a professional to make a plan that is best for you and your dog.
PS. If you can’t find anyone that can help you in your area, it’s easy to get an online consultation. Plenty of dog trainers and behavior specialists offer remote consultations! So, you don’t necessarily need to find a trainer within your zip code if your area is lacking in options.