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How long can I leave a dog on its own?

Cavapoo dog left alone in the house watching through the window advice

An adult dog can be left alone for around four to six hours a day.

© Shutterstock

We get it. Your dog can’t be with you all the time, and this means that they might have to spend a bit of time at home on their own. But how long can you leave a dog alone? Read on to find out.

By Pippa Ischt

Updated on the 24/08/2020, 10:38

Have you recently brought home a new pup? Are you wondering how long you should be leaving your dog at home? Not to worry, very few people can spend 24/7 with their dog but when the time comes to leave them on their own, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Can you leave a puppy alone?

This really depends on the age of the puppy. At 8-10 weeks old a puppy is very likely not yet potty trained and therefore they will need regular toilet breaks - as often as every 20-30 minutes. With this in mind it’s best not to leave your puppy for too long so any toilet accidents can be avoided.

Also, a puppy has just left their littermates and mum so can be quite anxious, what with being in a new place with new smells and people. As pack creatures, human company is important, particularly for them to build trust and healthy relationships with their new family. In the first few weeks after bringing your puppy home, try to spend the majority of the time with them.

If you are planning to leave your puppy alone here are a few things to consider:

  • Preparation - separation anxiety is very easily developed in new puppies. To avoid distress and bad behaviour when you may have to leave them, it’s good practice to get them used to spending time alone while you’re in the house. Do this slowly. The first step is to put them in a crate or behind a baby gate and leave some distance between you, but still let them see you. This shows them that leaving doesn’t always mean you’re not there (and you can go to the bathroom in peace for example!). Once they’re happy with this, move out of their view or the room completely, making sure they’re still happy and comfortable. Slowly increase the duration of time they are spending alone slowly and steadily. When you do have to leave for a longer period of time, they will have learned that you will eventually come back.

It may also be helpful to invest in a pet camera to see what they are doing when you have left.

  • Toilet breaks - it’s a rule of thumb that a new pup can hold their bladder one hour for every month of age. For example if your pup is three months old, they can hold it for around 3 hours. Going any longer than this can result in a toilet accident and also, they are more susceptible to urinary tract infections and other medical issues.
  • Entertainment - just like us humans, dogs can get bored when they’re spending time alone. When dogs are bored it can lead to bad behaviours like chewing or destroying things. To avoid this try and leave out their favourite toys and dog chews - brain training treat toys are a great way to keep them fed and entertained!

Dog home alone: How long can a dog be left on its own?

Now we’ve covered puppies, it’s time to discuss adult dogs (over 18 months of age) and leaving dogs home alone. Of course, as we’ve covered, it’s important that a dog is used to being left alone to avoid developing separation anxiety.

It’s suggested that you can leave an adult dog alone for around four to six hours a day, but they need to be used to being left for this amount of time beforehand. Most dogs that are left for this amount of time usually just learn to sleep while their owner is gone, and also holding their bladders too.

For an elderly dog this time can vary depending on their health, but it is said that elderly dogs can be left for around two to six hours, as they may need more frequent toilet breaks due to their age.

If your dog isn’t used to being left for this duration of time, this is when bad behaviours can present themselves. This can include:

If they are showing this type of behaviour it may be a sign that they are being left for too long, and need stimulation and attention. Try taking them for a long walk before you leave, to release some of the energy.

Another option to consider is finding a neighbour or a dog walker to keep your dog company or break up the time they have alone, particularly if they’re being left alone on a regular basis. Not only does this accommodate your dog’s physical needs, like walking and relieving itself, but it also will give you, as a dog owner, peace of mind that your dog is being taken care of.

Can you leave a dog alone for 8 hours?

Simple answer, yes - but you should really aim to leave a dog alone for only four to six hours at a time. The most important thing is that a dog is accustomed to being left alone for this amount of time. Leaving a dog for hours on end when they’ve only been left for 1 hour before can result in a dog experiencing separation anxiety and reacting badly (like chewing furniture or destroying your favourite pair of slippers).

It’s always recommended to train your dog to be left for a long amount of time. Start slow and ensure that they have enough water and entertainment for the duration of their time alone. If someone can check on the dog, like a friend, family member or neighbour, particularly if they are being left for over 6 hours, this would be the best option!

Leaving your dog at home while you’re at work

Not all of us can work in a dog friendly office or have the luxury of working from home as much as we’d like. Sometimes our dogs might have to stay at home alone while we’re at work, but you might ask: how long can you leave a dog alone legally? Are there any rules or regulations about leaving your dog home alone while you work?

Well, the RSPCA states that you shouldn’t leave your dog on their own for more than four hours and issued this guidance after carrying out a survey which found that 20% of dog owners thought it was fine to leave their pet unattended for more than a day. Therefore if you’re working away from home for more than four hours it’s best you ask a neighbour to check on your pup or look into Doggy Day Care.

Dogs are social animals and prefer company from other animals and humans, so it’s always a good idea to try and find a dog sitter or walker for the times that you are away. Dogs deserve the best lives possible, so the more time you can spend with them the better!

Are you planning on going away for a holiday but you are not sure what options you have for your pup? Here is what you can do with your dog when you go on holiday!