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Your dog is part of the family. While you may want to spend as much time as possible with your pet, that is not always possible. With responsibilities like work, family, and school, you’re forced to leave your dog at home — and that’s okay. But how do you prepare your puppy to be alone? How long is too long for a puppy to be alone?
We spoke with Mary Janek, Director of Public Training and Instructor of Competition Obedience at the Muncie Obedience Training Club for answers.
Acclimate Your New Puppy to Your Routine
Getting a new puppy is exciting, but it also comes with new responsibilities and changes to your routine. To raise a healthy and happy dog, your puppy will need attention, exercise, and social interaction. In addition, a well-adjusted and thriving dog will need to learn how to be alone.
“When acquiring a new puppy, plan on some vacation time from work so your puppy can get acclimated to the new environment,” said Janek.
Use the time off to get your dog used to the house and their crate. Once they’re more comfortable at your house, you can leave them at home in their crate for an hour or more at a time. Janek recommends making arrangements for someone to let the puppy out at least once or twice after you return to work.
How Long Can Puppies Be Alone?
- Under 10 weeks: 1 hour
- 10-12 weeks: 2 hours
- 3 months: 3 hours
- 4 months: 4 hours
- 5 months: 5 hours
- 6 months: 6 hours
- Over 6 months: Maximum 6-8 hours
Remember, dogs and especially puppies need to urinate often. As a guideline, new puppies up to 10 weeks old typically can’t hold their bladder for more than an hour. Dogs between 10 to 12 weeks old can usually hold it for around two hours.
Once your dog reaches three months old, they can usually hold it for an hour for each month they’ve been alive. After six months, dogs can usually hold it for up to six hours. However, even adult dogs shouldn’t be home alone for much longer than six to eight hours without a chance for a bathroom break.
Teaching Your Puppy How to be Alone
When you first bring home your puppy, it’s likely they’ve never been alone before. To teach your dog how to be alone, start by teaching them how while you’re still home.
Put them in a crate or exercise pen to start out and leave the room. Janek explains that the key is to make this a safe and relaxing place for them, instead of a punishment. To make this a safe space, feed them meals inside it and give them special toys they only get in their crate. You might also try a white noise machine or other anxiety-easing products to provide a more calming effect.
When you’re crate training, Janek recommends setting up a schedule of bathroom breaks and exercise. “Come home for lunch or hire someone to do it for you,” she said. “Leave special safe toys to occupy the puppy while you’re away.”
If you’re nervous to leave your dog alone or are curious about how they react when you’re gone, consider investing in a dog camera so you can check in your dog when you aren’t home.
How Long Can Older Dogs Be Alone?
While puppies require constant care, they’ll gradually learn how to be comfortable alone for an eight-hour workday.
“Older dogs seem to do well at home alone while owners are away at work and other functions,” she said. “Senior dogs may need to be out more frequently, so going home for lunch or having someone to come by to let the dog out may be required.”
However, each dog is different. Once you observe and get to know your dog, you’ll be able to better understand their needs and adjust accordingly.
Considerations Before Getting a Dog
A new puppy brings a lot of joy and excitement, but you should consider your current schedule and availability before getting a dog. “How long the puppy is going to be home alone should be considered before bringing home a new puppy,” Janek said.
Dogs are social animals and shouldn’t be cooped up in a kennel or tied up outside all day. Dogs are the happiest when they’re with the people they love. Janek reiterated that puppies need exercise, time to bond, and time to get used to their new environment.
“If you don’t intend to spend lots of time with the dog each day, morning, afternoon, and evening, maybe a different pet would be a better fit,” she said.
When you’re considering adding a dog to your family, decide who is responsible for feeding, grooming, exercising, and training the dog. A new dog in the family is a great addition if everyone agrees to do their part in their care.