Here's How Long Your Dog Can Actually Be Left Alone

Leaving your dog alone for longer than a few hours can be tricky. On one hand, you might be afraid they will feel lonely and abandoned. On the other hand, they may develop separation anxiety and start breaking things around the house. This condition affects dogs that are very attached to their human families and can't stand being left alone. If left unaddressed, it can lead to destructive behaviors, such as persistent barking or howling, chewing, digging, and pacing (via The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In the worst-case scenario, your furry friend could run away from home or hurt themselves.

Dogs are social animals. Our fur babies see us as their parents, friends, and guardians. When we leave home, they tend to panic and engage in unusual behaviors that can result in self-injury, warns the ASPCA. A happy, well-trained dog with separation anxiety, may chew on furniture, pee on the carpet, or eat his own poop when they find themselves alone. Sure, you could call a pet sitter or leave your fur baby at a boarding kennel, but that's not always an option.

Luckily, there's no need to cancel your plans and stay home. Most dogs can be left alone for several hours at a time. Plus, you can help your pet relax and feel secure when you're not around. 

How long can you leave a dog alone?

Dogs are not too different from small children. You need to plan your schedule around their needs, teach them good habits, and ensure their safety. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals explains that our pets have five welfare needs: diet, environment, health, behavior, and companionship. As a dog parent, you pick the best food for your fur baby, and take him to the vet as needed, but you can't stay home 24/7. So, how long can you leave your dog alone?

The answer depends on his age, personality, and health needs. Most dogs should spend no more than 6-8 hours alone, said veterinarian Vint Virga in an interview with the American Kennel Club. "For a dog to spend all of their day alone is too much. Dogs are very social animals," he added. Dr. Virga recommends taking your four-legged friend to doggy daycare, asking a friend to care for him, or hiring a dog walker when you must leave home for longer periods. You may also give your dog activity puzzles and toys to keep him busy in your absence.

Rover explains that puppies shouldn't be left alone for longer than one hour for every month of age. So, if your puppy is 5 months old, try not to leave home for more than 5 hours a day. Senior dogs can spend 2-6 hours alone. Ideally, give your fur baby a potty break every 4-6 hours. 

Keep your dog happy when you're away from home

A tired dog is less likely to feel bored or engage in bad behaviors while home alone. Therefore, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. Rover recommends walking your dog or playing with him for 20-30 minutes before you head out the door. Generally, healthy dogs should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

"A dog should have all of its needs met before leaving them alone while an owner is away from home," notes dog trainer and behavior consultant Bradley Phifer (via Inverse). He also suggests using a crate or gated area for puppies and newly acquired dogs when you're not home to supervise them. However, note that puppies shouldn't spend more than 3-4 consecutive hours in a crate, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

If possible, put together a daily routine for yourself and your dog. "Try to leave and get home at the same time every day, feed meals at the same time, and play and exercise at the same time. This will give your dog a schedule so that they know what to expect and when," explains Phifer. As a rule of thumb, leave quickly and avoid getting overly emotional. If all else fails, contact a dog trainer or a specialist in animal behavior.