Dogs are the most sociable pets, and they need interaction with humans and other animals to stay healthy. They also need to use their brains regularly, so they don’t like a lot of idle time alone.
Every good pooch parents asks the question, “How long is too long to leave my dog home alone?”. If you search online, there are so many people asking this question and even more conflicting answers! So… what’s the answer?
Dogs need to relieve themselves three to five times a day
Although there is no consensus in the pet industry, the general recommendation is that four hours is the maximum amount of time your dog should be alone. However, this depends on your pooch as well. Aside from stimulation reasons, an adult dog needs to go outside to relieve themselves three to five times a day. Puppies are more sensitive and need to go outside more often, and generally shouldn’t be left alone for as long as adult dogs.
In the US, the average work day is about nine hours, which poses a challenge for dog owners. Unless you live close enough to work to walk your dog during lunch, it can be difficult to balance being a dog owner and having a full-time job.
This time home alone all day can be boring and even stressful for a dog. If they can’t find someone to play with and receive attention from, they might turn to creative solutions. This could be those new shoes you accidentally left out, excessive barking, digging through the trash, or other types of destructive behavior.
A lot of dog owners will say their dog is happy to just sleep while they’re away. However, this is not always the case. In many cases, dogs sleep when left alone because it’s the only thing to do – not because they want to. Additionally, they may also spend a lot of time staring out the window, or laying down, bored.
Dogs that spend too much time alone can also develop separation anxiety.
So what can I do?
You don’t need to quit your job to take care of your dog full time, but you should be mindful of how long they’re spending home alone.
Some people recommend getting another dog so they can keep each other entertained. Socializing with other dogs is hugely important, but bringing a second dog into the home might lead to two bored dogs rather than one. Dogs depend on their humans, and their relationship to them is very different from their relationship to other dogs.
If you’ll be gone during the day, the easier option (assuming you can’t run home for lunch) is to hire a dog walker to take your pup out for a lunch time stroll. This could be a professional service, or maybe a neighborhood kid that your dog is comfortable around.
For dogs that don’t need to relieve themselves as often, or for shorter home alone stays, you can make their home-alone time less boring if you make sure that there is a bit of entertainment – like hiding treats, stuff Kongs, play a movie. You will find 12 really good ideas here: https://yourdogadvisor.com/dog-home-alone/.
Do-it-yourself solutions are excellent but sometimes difficult and time consuming to make. As an alternative you could consider the Go Dogo. It’s a gaming console that connects to your TV to give your dog instructions and feedback. It will give mental exercise with a range of different treat-based games and puzzles – typically 5-15 minutes/session. Two cameras will see your dog, and he/she will have to figure out which moves that will make the treats come out. It’ll start out really easy, but each new level will be just a bit more difficult.
If your work days are really long and unpredictable, you could also consider a doggie daycare. This way your dog can socialize with others and you can be sure they’re being cared for.
Either way, make sure you find something that works for your schedule. In the end, you’ll be less stressed about leaving your pup, and they’ll be happier with a bit of stimulation throughout the day.