Leaving a new puppy on their own can be scary, for both humans and dogs. But hopefully, before even making the decision to get a dog, you have considered if you have the amount of time and flexibility to commit to owning one. If your lifestyle means you’d leave a dog alone for more than 6 hours a day then it may be best to reconsider your choice to bring home a new puppy.
Of course, circumstances can change and if you do have to leave your puppy alone here are some things to think about.
How long can a puppy be left alone during the day?
It varies depending on how old the puppy is. At 8 to 10 weeks of age a puppy is very unlikely to be toilet trained and have very little bladder control, which means they will need regular potty breaks - as frequent as every half hour or so. Although puppy pads can be used to aid and avoid accidents inside the house, it’s always best for puppies to associate outdoors with being their bathroom rather than indoors.
If your puppy is toilet trained it’s said that a pup can hold their bladder one hour for every month of ages. Therefore if your puppy is 4 months they should be able to hold it for around 4 hours. However to avoid any accidents in the house or even the chance of urinary tract infections is best they have a chance to relieve themselves before this.
Leaving a puppy alone
Before you start leaving your furry friend alone it’s important to understand separation anxiety is very common, and it is usually developed in puppyhood or if a dog isn’t used to being left alone. To prevent any distress or bad behaviours when a dog or puppy is spending some time on their own, preparation is the key.
Find a place where your dog can safely spend some longer periods on their own. This may be in a crate, in a puppy pen or a separate room.
Your puppy is less likely to experience distress if they have some great toys to play with. You can also scatter treats or put a chew in their crate or room so that keeps them preoccupied too.
Before you can leave your dog for a few hours a day they will need to be comfortable spending time on their own. Start by leaving them in their comfortable place, like their crate and then walk away. Leave the room but remain in sight if you can, and stay there for a few minutes. If your puppy gets distressed return to them and put them at ease. Slowly work up the time they are left on their own, then when they’re comfortable move out of sight - again for short periods and then coming back. This way they know and learn you’ll eventually be back. The more time you spend doing this type of training the more they will get used to it and the less likely it is for separation anxiety to take place.
Can I get a puppy if I work full time?
Well, this really depends on a number of things including: how flexible you’re able to be with your working hours, how much time you’ll be able to spend with your puppy, and if there is someone else that can help you.
If you work full time and plan to leave a young puppy alone at home for a few hours a day, it is worth investing in a dog sitter, dog walker or even doggy day care so your dog doesn’t spend too much time on their own. These services come at a cost but young puppies shouldn't really be left for more than 4 hours a day, as recommended by the RSPCA.
If you’re flexible with your working hours or if you can work at home, this is a better solution than leaving your puppy on their own. Just ensure your puppy has enough stimulation and entertainment for the times you might be at your desk, having a meeting or on a call. Don’t forget to take them for their toilet breaks!
Can I go to work and leave my puppy?
As covered already, flexible working hours or the ability to work from home is probably the best solution if you have a puppy and work full time. If you do need to leave your house, particularly if you have a puppy under 6 months, for longer than 4 hours why not ask a neighbour to pop over to check in with your puppy. Alternatively a pet sitter or dog walker could be a good alternative.
If your dog is used to being left alone for longer periods of time, particularly from a young age, they may be able to go slightly longer on their own, however always ensure they have enough toys and entertainment at home to keep them stimulated. Try taking them for a long walk before you leave them too, as this can tire them out meaning that they will spend some of the time alone asleep. Also always make sure they have access to a water bowel too.
If it’s not possible for you or someone you trust to be with a dog for the majority of the day, a responsible person would understand that dog ownership may not be for them. However this doesn’t mean that if you work full time you can’t spend time with a dog - why not borrow one instead? See if a local neighbour would like their dog to be walked when you’re free, or try BorrowMyDoggy instead.
Looking after a puppy if you work full time?
There are a number of options for puppy care for when you might be too busy at work to look after them. Here are some to considered:
Doggy Day Care
f you’re out working most of the day, then doggy day care might be good for your new pup. Other dogs usually attend too so make sure your dog is well socialised and are also up to date on their vaccinations.
If you work close by or for not too many hours your dog may be happy to stay at home on their own. Remember not to leave them for more than 4-6 hours at a time and to make sure they have toys and chews to keep them busy.
If you are leaving your puppy at home, why not give them a break by hiring a dog walker to take them out for an hour or so. They’ll appreciate the time out and they’ll be ready for a snooze when they come back. Most dog walkers are able to collect your dog when you’re not there.
For dogs that don’t fare too well on their own or really suffer with separation anxiety it may be worth looking for a dog sitter. Although they are most commonly used for when owners go on holidays, dogs that are left at home will be more than happy to spend some time with a sitter - and you will get peace of mind your dog will have some company.
Neighbour or a friend
If you had out for a meeting or business trip, try and ask a friend to check in and spend some time with your puppy. Who would say no to spending time with an adorable dog?!
Can I leave my puppy outside while at work?
As a responsible pet parent you have to make smart decisions and while it might be tempting to leave your dog outside your office while you pop in for a few minutes - maybe you’re collecting some files or dropping something off - it’s very risky and dangerous to leave your puppy alone and unattended, especially outside. All it takes is a few second and one untrusting individual and your puppy could be gone.
Instead why not ask a family member or friend to look after your puppy while you’re at work. Even if it's only for an hour or two, your puppy will appreciate the extra attention and company. If you do have to leave your puppy alone it’s best to do this in the safety of your own home. Puppies need stimulation and activities so if you are leaving them on their own always ensure they have some great toys to keep them entertained.
How to house train a dog when you work?
Toilet training can often be tricky, some puppies get in straight away while others need a little bit longer to learn. It’s recommended for new pet parents to stay home and take a few days (or even a week or two) off work when their new pup comes home. This give you time to bond and train your puppy, and as toilet training means frequent trips outside, you’ll have more time and flexibility to do so.
But we get it, some owner’s might not have the luxury of taking time off so it may be worth investing in puppy pads to ease toilet training. Here’s some easy tips to follow if you’re toilet training your dog while you work.
Tip 1: Put puppy pads around your house or ideally near the door - your dog needs to know that this is the place they should do their business.
Tip 2: Once your dog has had their meal, it is always a good bet to put your puppy on the pad to try and get them to go to the toilet - many dogs know to do their business after having a meal.
Tip 3: Whenever you spot your puppy using the pads successfully, praise them. It may be a good idea to associate a word with using the toilet too. “Toilet” works great for both number ones and twos!
Tip 4: Try not to get angry if they make an accident away from the puppy pad. It can be confusing for puppies to know where they can and cannot go. But always reward and praise your puppy when they do go on the puppy pad.
Tip 5: Once they are successfully doing their business on a puppy pad you can start keeping an eye out for when they head in that direction. When they are you can nip them outside (whether that be a garden or balcony) so they do their toilet out there. Remember to reward them and use your word when they do their toilet.
Slowly but surely they will learn to do their toilet in the right place. Remember not to get too frustrated if they do make a mistake - they are only young!
These tips are much easier to follow if you have the flexibility to work from home and keep a closer eye on your pup, but you can always get a friend, family member or even dog sitting to help you if you’re out of the house.
There are many services and people out there who would love to spend time with a dog if you can’t, but dogs truly deserve the best lives possible - if you’re unable to provide the love and attention required with owning a dog then the best decision is to hold off getting a puppy until you do. It will feel so much more rewarding when the time is right!