For many years, dog owners have been leaving their animals home alone for short periods of time without a second thought. A few decades ago people would leave their dogs overnight with a large supply of food and water without a second thought.
Nowadays, we know more about the needs of animals and how best to care for them. You can leave your dog home alone while you are working a short shift (think 4-6 hours), but we do not recommend leaving them for much longer than this.
If you must, we strongly advise getting a friend, neighbor, or dog sitter to check in on your dog at regular intervals.
Puppies should not be left alone for extended periods of time until they are at least a year old. This is not only because they are emotionally attached to you, it also ensures that they do not get up to too much mischief!
Despite this, it is good to allow your puppy to get used to you not being there for short periods of time. This will mean that when you need to leave them alone they will not get too stressed out.
We suggest putting up some stairgates in the house. This will restrict the areas of the house your puppy can get to while they are alone without making them feel constrained.
If you are going to leave your puppy alone, you should leave some chew toys and a recently worn item of clothing with their bed to calm them.
We still would not recommend leaving your dog at home overnight, no matter how old. If there was a gas leak, a fire, a flood, or any other kind of disaster your dog may be stuck
indoors unable to escape.
If you do decide to leave your dog in the house alone, we would advise alerting a friend or neighbor to their presence and giving them a set of spare keys in case of an emergency. Another good idea is to hire a dogsitter to look after your dog for the time you are away.
Is your dog used to spending time alone?
If you tend to work from home and your dog is often with you, it is unfair to suddenly leave them alone overnight. Not only this, but it can also cause stress to their bladder if they need to hold in their urine for so long.
If you tend to spend most of the day out of the house and your dog is okay, they will probably be fine with being left alone overnight every once in a while.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is cruel to leave them alone overnight and make this worse. Similarly, if your dog has a medical condition that requires regular treatment and care, you should not leave them alone.
What are some signs of separation anxiety in dogs?
Similarly to humans, dogs will present with physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. These can include a loss of appetite, lots of chewing and scratching, lethargy, and whining.
They may also begin to bite things such as clothes and furniture. They may begin to howl and bark a lot. In some instances, they may even panic urinate or try to run away.
How can you keep your dog safe at home alone?
As mentioned above, it is a good idea to alert a friend, family member, or neighbour to the fact your dog is home alone. They can keep an eye out for any signs of distress or regularly check in on your furry friend while they’re alone.
If you are not lucky enough to have access to this, or do not have the money to hire a dogsitter, you could invest in a security camera. There are many on the market that work similarly to a baby monitor.
Most have an HD and a night-vision camera with a microphone and speaker built in. Not only can you keep an eye on your dog no matter where you are, you can even communicate with them. Some modern versions even allow you to dispense treats for your pup remotely.
How long can your dog hold their bladder?
This is not a precise time limit and as with humans, the length of time between toilet trips will depend on your animal. If they have any kind of medical issues, health conditions, or just habitually pee on the hour, they will need more frequent bathroom trips.
Generally speaking, puppies can hold their pee for one hour per month they have been alive for. This means that a 3 month old puppy can wait 3 hours to use the toilet.
For adult dogs (1 year old plus), you should let them out to pee at least once every 6 hours. Senior dogs (8 or more years old) are more variable. Depending on their health and size, they are likely to need to pee once every 2 to 6 hours.
What are the health risks of not allowing your dog to pee?
Holding in urine can cause your dog to develop a urinary tract infection, and can cause them to develop uric acid crystals or stones.
Additionally, it is plain uncomfortable for the dog and it can lead to them having an accident indoors. This is not their fault, it is yours for not meeting their basic needs.
At a minimum, you should allow your dog out to pee every 4 to 6 hours.
What dog breeds are better at being left alone?
There are a few breeds that can handle being by themselves better than others. These include Yorkshire Terriers, Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Chow-Chows, and Shar Peis. Others are Greyhounds, Maltese, Great Pyrenees, Cairn Terriers, Shiba Inus, Akitasm Beagles, and Whippets.
Working dogs and those with lots of energy should not be left alone. This is because they are very prone to getting bored and restless without regular exercise and stimulation.