When it comes to the thought of leaving your puppy home alone while you’re at work, it’s natural to feel anxious and have a deep sense of guilt. After all, it probably seems like you can’t step out for five minutes without your little furball tearing up the house, making a mess on the carpet, or wailing mournfully at your absence. How are they going to cope when you’re gone for hours at a time?
However, it’s important to remember that it’s not bad nor dangerous to leave your puppy home alone for safe periods of time. On the contrary, it’s good for young puppies to learn how to self-soothe and be calm without their family constantly by their side. If you’re headed back into the office and can’t stop stressing about what to do with your puppy, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn more about how long you can safely leave your puppy alone and how to make the transition easier for both you and your canine companion.
So, how long can you leave a puppy alone? The answer depends on your puppy’s age, physical needs, and emotional needs. While most healthy adult dogs can hold their bladder for six to eight hours, puppies can only hold it for one hour per every month of age. For example, if your puppy is three months old, that means they can hold their bladder for approximately three hours. As such, most experts agree that young puppies should not be left alone for more than two to three hours at a time.
Your puppy’s breed and personality also play a factor in how long you can leave them alone. If you have a high-energy husky with a bad case of separation anxiety, they’re naturally going to need more time and attention than a couch potato breed who hardly notices when you slip out the door. As a general rule, though, no dog should be left alone for more than four to six hours at a time.
Leaving a puppy alone for too long can lead to behavioral problems later in life, a destroyed home, and a heavy dose of guilt on your end. Thankfully, you have plenty of options to help you get through the puppy stage and keep Fido happy while you’re away. Here are a few of our best tips for leaving your puppy home while you are out.
The last thing you want is an undisciplined puppy running amok around your house while you’re at work. Beyond destroying your most prized possessions (R.I.P., favorite mid-century modern chair), your puppy could get into chocolate, medicine, cleaning products, and other dangerous items that might warrant an emergency trip to the vet.
To keep Fido (and your belongings) safe from harm, create a safe confinement area just for your furry friend. Crate training is a great way to keep older puppies safely sequestered while you’re at work. (Tip: You can help your puppy build positive associations with the crate by leaving the door open and putting tasty chew treats inside.) If you have a young puppy or plan to be gone for longer than four hours at a time, consider using a puppy pen instead. A puppy pen will give your puppy a safe area to play and stretch their legs. You can also place a puppy pad in the corner to contain any messes your dog makes while you’re at work.Treat Your Pup to a Tasty Chew
If you’ve been working from home ever since you got a puppy, your four-legged friend has probably gotten used to your constant, reassuring presence. For that reason alone, it’s important to take things slow. Start by leaving your puppy in his playpen or crate for 10 minutes at a time. Before you walk out the door, give your pup a yummy treat. This will help teach them to associate your absence with rewards and good feelings. If your dog starts showing signs of anxious behavior (e.g., whining, pacing, and destructive chewing), do not punish them! Instead, shorten the duration of your departures and slowly work your way up to longer stretches of alone time.
As the saying goes, “A tired pup is a good pup.” If you want to slip out the door without your dog barking or whimpering at your departure, you need to make sure they’re getting plenty of age-appropriate exercise. This is especially important for high-energy breeds that have lots of excess energy to burn off. Just like humans, dogs get a rush of feel-good endorphins from exercise. So, why not get your pup’s heart pumping to make them feel good? Tire your puppy out by taking them on a brisk walk in the morning or playing fetch with them in the backyard. (Don’t forget, you can also work your dog’s brain with training sessions.) By the time you leave for work, your puppy will already be settling down for a nap.
Providing the best calming treats and chew toys for your dog is a great way to help them beat boredom while you’re at work. (They’re good for your dog’s teeth, too!). That said, it's important to remember that dogs should never be left alone unattended with items that could be considered a potential choking hazard. For this reason, we recommend using marrow bones for dogs and other healthy, edible chew treats as a reward for when you come home. Just think how excited your puppy will be when you walk in the door with a bully stick or a beefy marrow bone!
So, what can you put in your pup’s crate or playpen while you’re gone? Here are a few suggestions:
It’s not uncommon for dogs to get upset when their owners leave home. If you worry that your puppy will respond poorly to your absence, there are several little things you can do to ease their stress and help them stay calm while you’re at work. One way you can put your puppy’s mind at ease is by placing an unwashed t-shirt, a blanket, or another item with your scent on it in their crate. Your familiar scent will continue to provide comfort to your pet long after you’ve shut the door and left for work.
You can also try dog-appeasing pheromones (DAPs), calming supplements like L-Theanine (always consult with your vet first), and soothing instrumental music to put your pup at ease. Every dog is different, so keep experimenting until you find something that puts your pup at ease.
Note: If your dog has debilitating separation anxiety, enlist the help of a professional trainer.
Whether it’s coming from the radio, the television, or a white noise machine, providing some background noise for your furry friend is a simple and effective way to make your pet feel less lonely while you’re away. Not only can background noise keep your pup distracted during the day, but it can also help block out outside noises that might make your pup anxious.
Of course, you’ll want to be picky about which background noise you choose. Be aware that some radio stations and television channels run commercials and advertisements with noises that might trigger your dog (think: ringing doorbells, barking dogs, and car alarms). To ensure that you’re not accidentally contributing to your pup’s anxiety, consider streaming DOGTV and other programs that are designed specifically for dogs.
If you’re crating your dog while you’re at work, you need to come home from work to let them out at mid-day. Even adult dogs will need to stretch their legs and go potty after spending four hours in a crate. Even if you’re using a puppy pen and pee pads, it’s still a good idea to check up on your puppy on your lunch break. If you can’t make it home for lunch, consider asking friends or family to check up on your puppy for you. You’ll find that many dog-lovers will happily volunteer for this job, as it means getting one-on-one time with an adorable puppy.
If your boss has a soft spot for puppies, they may be okay with giving you a flexible schedule to take care of your puppy. It never hurts to ask! (Hint: Be sure to show them cute pictures of your little fuzzball before you pose the question.)
It’s always a good idea to have a professional pet sitter or dog walker on speed dial. Why? Because even though your friends may adore puppies, they won’t always be available to help you take care of your dog. By hiring a dog walker or pet sitter in advance, you’ll have someone to call when you get stuck in traffic or get caught in a meeting that goes on longer than expected. The key is to find a pet sitter you trust. If you have friends and family with dogs, consider asking them if they have any recommendations. You can also find a credentialed pet sitter from organizations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).
Another great option for busy pet parents is doggy daycare. Like child daycare, these pup-loving facilities promise to watch your pup all day and make sure their needs are being met, all while you’re busy poring over Excel spreadsheets or typing up reports. In addition to giving your pup exercise, doggy daycare is also a great way to continue increasing your pup’s socialization skills. However, keep in mind that not all doggy daycare facilities are equal. You’ll want to do your research and choose a facility that emphasizes transparency and comfort. Additionally, not every pup is a good candidate for doggy daycare. Make sure your puppy is already well-socialized and has no concerning behavioral issues or bad habits that doggy daycare could exacerbate.
If you’re the type of person who constantly frets about their pet when you’re not with them, do yourself a favor and install a pet camera in your home. Being able to keep tabs on your puppy and seeing that they are content will go a long way in quieting that anxious part of your brain. Pet cameras can be surprisingly inexpensive (some are priced below $40), but if you want to be able to interact with your pet and give them treats remotely, you may want to consider investing in a high-end pet camera with all the bells and whistles. The peace of mind it will bring you could be well worth it!
When you get home from work, your puppy will probably be excited to see you. Wait until they calm down before you greet them. Once your puppy is calm, reward them with an all-natural chew treat and, of course, lots of attention. Given that your pup brings so much joy to your life, it only makes sense to return the favor!
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