How long can you leave your young puppy home alone? Find out the rule of thumb and how you can keep your pup safe while you’re away.
When bringing a new pet into your life, it’s natural to want to be with them all of the time – especially if they are just a baby. Unfortunately, given the pace of today’s world – and the fact that those cute little critters need food, shelter, medical care, treats, toys, and all of the other things that come with parenting a puppy – it’s often necessary to be out of the house several hours each day for work and other commitments. Most likely, you can’t quit your job to stay home, and – while these magical places do exist – most businesses do not offer puppy-parental leave during those first few months. So what can you do? How long can your puppy be alone in the house without you?
How long can you leave your young puppy home alone?
Dogs left home alone for too long can get depressed, anxious, frustrated, or bored – all of which can lead to destructive behaviour. Your dog doesn’t mean to be bad, it’s just that – especially when alone – the outlets a dog has for their frustration and energy are limited to say the least, and that vital file folder on your dining room table or pair of slippers by the door starts to look pretty good.
Puppies can be especially bad because like human children, they go through a teething period – which means that in addition to the reasons older dogs have for chewing, they also chew because their mouths hurt, and chewing just makes it feel better. This makes them more prone to chew anything they can, and somehow seems to translate to them getting into more dangerous situations than they would at a more developed stage – chewing electrical wires being a prime example.
In addition, puppies have smaller bladders and shorter digestive tracts, and just can’t “hold it” the way an adult dog can – nor is it fair to make them try, as it can be hard on their systems.
The general rule of thumb for leaving a puppy alone is that the length of time should be no longer in hours than your puppy’s age in months – some people say their age in months plus one – but never more than that. So for a 2-month-old puppy, no more than 2-3 hours alone tops. That being said, the first time you leave your puppy alone should be much shorter than that, and gradually work up to that 2-3 hours.
Since your workday is almost definitely longer than that, there are options during the day for your dog’s care.
Tips for keeping your pup safe while you work
1- Number one is that for any time they are left at home, they should be in a crate. This may seem cruel, but keep in mind that dogs in the wild sleep and hide in dens. I recommend an lining the crate with an old blanket that your dog is not able to chew – and checking this daily to make sure they aren’t – as pieces of blanket can lead to choking hazards or intestinal blockages – or a crate pad, which is available at most pet stores. There is a good chance that your dog’s crate will soon become their safe place – even if you’re at home and the door is open.
Keep in mind too that crating is not necessarily a permanent situation – I actually have yet to have a dog that had to be crated much past the puppy stages. Once they became more secure in their own space, they understand that you will always return to them, and they learn what you expect of them, they can usually be trusted for longer. Always remember that everything with a puppy is a learning curve – for both of you.
2- If you have the space, you can dedicate a specific room to your dog’s use – one with either a door that closes or where a gate can be used to block them off from the rest of the house. Make sure you remove all potential hazards from the area where your dog will be unsupervised. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water, but do not leave any chew toys, bones, etc. in the room – those should be left for supervised play only. Make sure any detergents, cleaners, cords, and human foods are out of reach – and don’t underestimate your puppy’s determination and climbing ability when you’re putting them away. It is up to you as to whether you would like to use puppy pads in case they need to “go” while you’re gone, but some people do find that it makes housebreaking more difficult.
3- Whether crated or given an entire room, at some point during the day your puppy will have to go outside. Once they are a little older, you should be able to just pop home on your lunch to let them out, but for now, they can’t wait that long. If your hours are at all flexible, you may be able to split your lunch hour and sneak home a couple of times, but this may not be feasible, and it still may not be enough. The other option is to have someone come in and take your pet for a walk – this way you have eyes on them throughout the day, and you know they are being looked after.
If putting your dog in a crate worries you, and you don’t have the space to give them their own room, you can take your puppy to a doggie day care. This will require that they be up to date on shots, but it does a wonderful job of socializing your puppy to other dogs and people, and that will help them later on in life. They will have the opportunity to spend their day playing, get out some of their excess energy, and be as close to a perfect puppy for you as they can be when you’re home and ready for time together.
Whatever you decide, try not to make a huge deal when you leave – give them a special treat and sneak off while they’re eating it, if possible. Taking them for a walk at some point before you go will help them to sleep when you’re gone and not notice as much that they are alone. These steps will keep separation anxiety to a minimum.
Make sure when you are home that you spend lots of quality time with your pup. This will strengthen your bond, and ensure you have a happy, confident dog, even if you can’t be with them all the time.