How Long Can You Leave Your Dog Alone?

Tips for Leaving Your Dog Alone

Dogs are extremely social animals.   They depend on us for much more than just food and shelter....they depend on us for companionship, as much as we sometimes depend on them for companionship.   Your dog needs to socialize, and leaving him home alone for 8-10 hours each day can can result in separation anxiety issues in your dog, which are characterized by excessive barking and extreme destructive behavior.

Leaving a dog alone for an extended period of time can result in extreme physical discomfort for your dog, as well as emotional distress.  Your dog knows he is not allowed to relieve himself in the house, but he has no concept of time, and if you're gone too long, he may first become physically uncomfortable if he needs to relieve himself.   Compound this with his emotional distress over being punished for having an accident, and you've got an extremely stressed out dog!

Remember that puppies will need to relieve themselves every 2-3 hours, sometimes more, so it's important that you not leave a puppy alone for longer than 2-3 hours until his muscle control is better developed, or unless you've provided him with fresh water to drink while you're gone, as well as a small area covered with newspapers. 

If possible, come home during your lunch break to let your puppy out during the day.  This will provide you and your puppy with bonding and socialization time, while allowing him the opportunity to relieve himself.

Older dogs can be left alone for longer periods than puppies, but it's best to try to limit the length of time to no longer than 8-9 hours, even for an adult dog.

Keep in mind that it's best to set up a routine for your dog so he'll know when to expect to be fed and to be let out.   Sticking with your routine will be extremely helpful in reducing anxiety in your dog, because he'll learn to know what to expect.   So stick to your schedule, or if something comes up, make arrangements for a friend or neighbor to let your dog out at the designated time.

   

Understandably, your dog will need to be left alone at some point.  First, because your dog is a companion animal, try leaving the radio or television on while you're gone. 

Next, try this simple LEAVE AND RETURN training method (it may take several days or even weeks to accomplish, but your dog should eventually learn if you are consistent).

Remember that your dog takes his cues from you.   If you are anxious or worried or upset, he will be, too.   So begin your training with a positive, upbeat, natural demeanor.   Gather your things as if you were leaving to go to work, then, just before walking out the door, gently but firmly announce "quiet" and then immediately leave and close the door.   Stand quietly outside the door and count to 10.   Walk back into the house.   If your dog stayed quiet the entire 10-count, praise him with the words "good quiet."   If not, firmly command "quiet" while gently holding his muzzle. 

Repeat this exercise over and over, each time staying "gone" for a slightly longer period of time.   Be extremely still so your dog does not know you haven't really left!  Always praise his "good quiet" on your return.

If you plan to leave your dog in a restricted area of the house, then you'll need to place him in that area when you practice this exercise.

This training method may take several weeks to accomplish, but with persistence, your dog will learn to be quiet when you leave, and, more importantly, to expect your eventual return, which will alleviate his stress while you're gone.

If you must leave your dog alone frequently during the week days, be sure to make extra time for him in the evenings or the mornings, and especially on the weekends, for play time and exercise time and companionship time with you.

Remember to never leave your dog alone when you are planning to go on a trip or on a vacation.   If you can't take him with you, make arrangements to take him to a kennel, or have a trusted friend spend time with him while you're away.

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