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How long can your dog stay home alone?

Dog home alone

If we had it our way, we would have our dogs with us at all times. However, life sometimes requires us to be apart from our pets and leave them home alone. But guidance on how long your dog can be home by themselves is unclear, often making pet parents’ stress even worse. 

How long can your dog stay home alone? What factors into this and where (or when) do you draw the line? And finally, how can you set your dog up for home-alone success?   

Table of contents 

General guidelines 

How long your dog can stay home alone completely depends on your dog because every pup is different. There is no single, straightforward answer, but there are some general guidelines most experts recommend: 

  • Adult dogs can be left alone for 4-6 hours, according to PAWS Chicago. Some healthy, well-trained adult dogs are able to stay home by themselves for 8-10 hours, but they shouldn’t be forced to “hold it” for more than 6 hours at a time, nor should they regularly be left for this long period of time.  If you will need to leave your dog for 8-10 hours on a regular basis, it may not be a good decision to have a dog, which is an important consideration.   
  • Young puppies shouldn’t be left alone for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. 
  • Seniors should only be home alone for 2-4 hours, notes Rover.  

These are only general guidelines. There are some important questions you should ask about your individual dog to determine how long they can safely stay home alone. Keep reading! 

Important considerations 

It is important for pet parents to understand what factors into the length of time they can safely leave their dog alone. Like we said, every dog is different. And as an owner, you know your dog best. Here are some considerations for leaving your dog alone: 

  • Bladder control – No one wants to come home to accidents on the living room rug, and if your dog is potty trained, having an accident in the house may be stressful for them, too. Providing your dog with ample potty breaks is important for their comfort and safety. Any dog forced to hold their bladder for too long is at risk for urinary tract infections, warns VCA Animal Hospitals.  

    Puppies have smaller, weaker bladders and need to be let out more frequently. According to Rover, puppies generally need to go to the bathroom every one hour for each month they age. A 3-month-old dog, for example, can typically go 3 hours between potty breaks. Older dogs often lose some bladder function and can’t hold it as long as they used to. These dogs may need potty breaks more often, approximately every 2-6 hours. 
  • Emotional needs – Dogs are social animals and should have the opportunity to interact with their people throughout the day. If left alone for too long, dogs can become bored and lonely, which can lead to destructive behavior and separation-related stress. 

    It is important to note that puppies younger than 14 weeks are in a sensitive socialization period and should have lots of interactions and stimulation. Rather than leaving your puppy or stressed dog alone for several hours the first time you step out, start with just a few minutes and gradually build up the amount of time you are away. This will require lots of patience but can save your dog from emotional distress. 

    While some dogs are very independent and are happy to do their own thing, others can be clingy and suffer from stress related to being separated from their owner. It is important that pet parents consider how much social interaction their individual dog needs, as even a few minutes alone can be too long and unsafe for dogs with severe separation stress. 
  • Overall health – If your dog has a medical condition that requires specific care on a schedule or requires close monitoring, you will not be able to leave them alone for very long. Dogs suffering from illness or injury should be supervised, which may require you to get help from family, friends, or professionals if you have to leave them. 
  • Exercise requirements – Some dogs are more energetic than others. Active breeds like the Australian Cattle Dog should not be left home alone all day. High-energy dogs need designated time for exercise, plenty of room to run, and thrive with an active owner. If not properly exercised, high-energy dogs can easily become bored. They are then more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors like destructive chewing and disruptive barking. 
  • Behavior – Does your dog chew up couch cushions or dig in the garbage can when left unsupervised? While many undesirable habits can often be traced back to boredom or stress, behavior problems are a considerable reason for pet parents to avoid leaving their dog home alone.  

    This is also why many owners decide to crate train their dogs. A crate is not a magic solution to any behavior issues, however, and does not allow you to leave your dog for hours on end. In fact, dogs should only be in their crate for a couple hours at a time, potentially shortening the amount of time you can leave them compared to if they had free reign of the house.  

What to do when leaving your dog home alone 

Leaving your dog home alone is inevitable and may not be an enjoyable experience for either of you. There are some ways, however, to ensure your dog’s safety and help them be more comfortable while you are away: 

  • Put away potential household hazards – Make sure electrical cords, toxic houseplants, cleaning supplies and other chemicals, garbage cans, and food are out of your dog’s reach. Some of these products can be very dangerous if ingested. While some foods may be toxic, excessive amounts of both human and dog food can simply make your dog feel sick if they eat too much. For particularly determined and clever pups, consider using child-proof cabinet and door locks.  
  • Close doors and windows – Safely secure your dog in your home before leaving. If they spot a squirrel through an open door or window screen, they can easily get out and get themselves into trouble while you are gone. You should also close the doors of any rooms you do not want your dog to access, like a bedroom if they are not allowed on the bed. 
  • Leave plenty of water and dog toys – Your dog should always have access to clean water—yes, even when you are away. Fill up their water bowl before you go and leave out their favorite toys. Puzzles and treat-dispensing toys like Kongs are a great way to keep your dog busy, exercise their brains, and tire them out. For dogs who thrive on being around people and the chaos of a busy house, Fear Free Happy Homes recommends leaving the television on. 
  • Keep the house at a comfortable temperature – Keep the house at an ambient temperature. This is particularly important during the summer months, when dogs can be at risk of overheating. If you don’t have air conditioning in the house, consider leaving a fan on for your pup. 
  • Exercise and potty – Set your dog—and your home—up for success by letting your dog go to the bathroom immediately before you leave. This will help avoid accidents in the house and give them an opportunity to get some fresh air. If possible, plan ahead to exercise your dog before a longer period home alone. Going on a walk, playing fetch in the backyard, or a playdate with doggy friends are great ways to burn energy that may otherwise lead to boredom and destructive behavior. A tired, contented dog is more likely to settle down when you leave. 

Longer trips 

Not every trip out of the house will be a quick one. If you will be away from home for more than your dog can handle, or your dog suffers from separation-related stress, have someone help.  

Having family, friends, or a professional dogwalker check in on your pup while you are at work will give your dog an opportunity to go to the bathroom and get some much-needed social interaction and stimulation. Keep an eye on your dog from wherever you are by using a doggy camera. Some pet sitting services like Rover and Wag also provide peace-of-mind resources for owners like GPS tracking and messaging through their platforms. 

An in-home dogsitter can not only take care of your dog for extended periods of time but can also help minimize your dog’s stress by allowing them to stay in a familiar space. For more social dogs, dropping them off at doggy daycare or a boarding facility may be a good option. These spaces can provide your dog with plenty of social interaction and both physical and mental stimulation. Do a test run in a daycare or boarding environment before leaving for a big trip to make sure it is a good fit for your dog. 

ElleVet’s Calm & Comfort situational use chews provide maximum support for dogs in stressful situations like being home alone, allowing them to remain calm while they are away from you without setting off stress-related responses. These chews, when given between 1-1.5 hours ahead of your departure, are extremely effective in addressing your dog’s acute level of stress. 

By truly calming without sedating, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA oils, chews, and soft gels can lead to a reduction of their fear response to separation over time. Your dog may never enjoy being away from you. But if they can manage their stress and respond calmly, then you both will be much happier. And we all want a happy and relaxed pup!   

For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your canine friend live their best life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.