Giving our dogs alone time and leaving them home alone for a little while, we all know, is completely okay and even encouraged. But, how much is too much time for a dog to be left home alone?
All-Day Isolation and Stress for Dogs
For dog owners, it’s a simple truth that their dogs will be left alone at home on a nearly daily basis, if not every single day. The length of time they’re left alone will depend on their owner’s schedule and the lifestyle they lead. Even someone with the best intentions and the purest heart may have an eight-hour shift, a commute, and other things like grocery shopping to take care of...all while their dog waits those 12+ hours at home alone. For many families, this is a daily occurrence.
As dog lovers, this topic might be challenging to read about, but the fact that this conversation is mainstream now is a jump from how things used to be. Dogs have been left alone for long periods throughout history. It wasn’t too long ago that families used to go for weekends at a time and leave their dog--indoor or outdoor--without a second thought. Most people felt that as long as their dog was provided food and water, the dogs were living like kings. A dog’s physical or psychological comfort was not a consideration.
It’s socially common and acceptable to leave a dog home alone for 8-12 hours, but not many dog owners willingly confess to leaving their dogs home unattended for 1-2+ days. The unfortunate truth is that even when people decide to go home and tend to their dog instead of going out after work or something similar, they often face questioning and even mocking from friends and family.
It might sound like, “That dog is fine. Are you going to stop living life for a dog?” Another might be, “It’s only an extra hour to two!” Regardless of how minor the comments may be, over time, they can begin to make a person feel like they are
having to choose between having a social life and caring for their dog properly.
It’s imperative to note that it is not the aim of this article to blame or shame. With that said, I must shoot this straight:
Twelve hours, give or take, is probably too long for a dog to be home alone in one stretch.
That may be a controversial statement, as many people subscribe to the argument that they’ve been doing it for as long as they can remember, and their dogs have been just fine. Indeed, that may be true, but all it means is that their specific dog has figured out a way to cope with it. Dogs are adaptable, but they also can’t talk. That’s why it’s our job to put ourselves in their shoes for a second.
Though we love our dogs, many of us expect our dogs to be ready to play when we’re ready, but don’t think much about the whole lot of nothing we expect our dogs to do in between those times. Luckily, dogs are loving and adaptable, so we, as dog owners, do our part to not ask them to bend too far.
Dog owners whose dogs struggle with this separation time seek trainers once behavior problems arise like destructive chewing, barking, emotional issues, aggression, over-excitement, anxiety, and others.
What’s the Right Amount of Time?
Well, we know that 10-12 hours is too long, so how long is appropriate? There isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Most dogs will adapt to whatever amount of time they’re left, but that doesn’t mean to push the limit because it can be done.
A dog’s basic needs dictate that they will need to use the bathroom throughout the day. It’s not recommended to make a dog hold their waste in for more than 4-6 hours (again, just because they can hold it longer doesn’t mean we should make them). Some dogs go more often, like the elderly and puppies, while others wait the few hours with ease. You’re the one who knows your dog best, so lean into your instincts.
Many puppies are left with a puppy pad to use the bathroom on, but there’s still the consideration of how long they should have to go without human companionship.
Solutions to Reduce Your Dog’s Amount Alone Time
Come Home for Lunch If Possible
Coming home for lunch can break up your dog’s day as well as yours. It gives you time to eat, and your dog time to use the bathroom while interacting with you a bit. Even a little bit of time here goes a long way.
It’s not necessary to stress out over getting there every single day. Trying out a new schedule even just a few days a week at first is a great way to get started.
A Doggie Daycare
Not all dogs are made for daycare, but these daycare services can be invaluable for those that are socially inclined. The social interaction and the physical exertion they get to experience during their stay at one of these centers can go a long way to meeting a dog’s needs.
Plus, enrolling your dog in a daycare for even a day or two each week leaves fewer days where you may have to come home from lunch or whatever you decide is the best supplement.
Dog Walking Services
There are loads of different types of dog walking services available today. Whether you choose to go through a national agency or hire locally, these services are usually excellent.
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The professional dog walkers will walk or sit with your dog for whatever amount of time you dictate, allowing them time to get physical exercise, eat a bit of food, sip on water, and use the bathroom, not to mention get a little bit of love at the same time.
While these options might be a little bit more expensive than leaving a dog home alone, they are unquestionably worth it.