How Long is Too Long to Leave A Dog Home Alone?

How much isolation a dog can and should endure are two different things. How much time does your dog spend home alone? Is your dog experiencing isolation distress?

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We know it’s okay to be apart from our dogs and to leave them home alone, but for how long, exactly? Is there a limit to the amount of time our dogs should spend alone? How should you deal with separation anxiety in dogs?

A lot of dogs might spend most of their waking hours home alone and seem to do just fine, but is it okay? Are they really fine? I sometimes wonder if, instead, this is something we say to ourselves to assuage our guilt, or to avoid taking a harder look at a cultural norm that could use an update.

Let’s look at how social isolation may affect dogs, and what we can do to minimize negative effects and maximize their well-being.

dog in the window

Being Alone All Day is Stressful for Many Dogs

Let’s start with the most basic of truths: Most dogs will spend time home alone on a daily basis. How long depends on the owners’ lifestyle and schedule. Someone who works an eight-hour day and has a commute, followed by errands and evening activities, could conceivably leave their dog home alone for 10 to 12 hours in a single day and on a regular basis.

Dogs have historically been left alone for long stretches without a second thought. As recently as a couple of decades ago, if a family needed to be away from home for a day or two, how the dog felt about being left behind – whether indoors or outdoors – was not an important consideration. As long as he had enough food and water, most owners felt secure in the knowledge that he was all set.

Few people today would admit to leaving their dogs home alone for 24 or 48 hours or more, but leaving the dog home for 10 to 12 hours is not at all uncommon – and questioning this practice can sometimes lead to social ridicule. If an owner decides that after being gone all day, she’d rather not confine her dog or leave him alone for an additional few hours in the evening, she might be met with less-than-understanding responses. “You’re not coming out because you want to be home with your dog? That’s crazy! You’re letting your dog control your life!”

Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.

I know, I know. It’s a very broad statement and there is always the argument that, “We’ve always done it this way and our dogs have always been fine!” What this means, though, is that the dogs who appear to be fine have simply learned to cope with something that is entirely out of their control. Being left alone for long stretches of time is not a likely choice that they would make if it was up to them. They’ve adapted to our routines, but it’s far from ideal for them.

We count on our dogs to be there for us when we’re ready to interact with them, but in between those moments, we expect them to do nothing and wait. It’s a tall order, but lucky for us, most dogs adapt incredibly well to anything we ask them to.

People whose dogs have difficulty adapting are the ones who come to us trainers, asking for help with behavior problems such as barking and destructive chewing, or emotional issues such as fear, anxiety, aggression, or over-excitement, to name a few. In fact, many of us trainers and behavior consultants are kept very busy as a result of the lifestyle to which many dogs are subjected!

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Some home-alone dogs may experience separation anxiety. For more information about this extreme form of isolation distress in dogs, see Training Editor Pat Miller’s article on separation anxiety.

So How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone?

Trainers are often asked, “What’s the maximum amount of time a dog can be left alone in a single stretch?” There’s no simple answer to this. We know that in most cases, a dog will manage if he has no choice, but we shouldn’t push the envelope just because we can.

Let’s consider the dog’s basic needs. While not all dogs are alike, most adult dogs should be able to go outside to relieve themselves about three to five times a day (more often if they are sick or elderly) and shouldn’t be forced to “hold it” for more than four to six hours at a time, on average. We know most adult dogs can hold their bladders for more than six hours, but they really shouldn’t have to.

Granted, this is relative. Some dogs, if given the opportunity, will go outside to eliminate every couple of hours, while others – even with the freedom to do so – might still only eliminate three times a day.

You know your dog best and are in a unique position to figure out what his individual needs are. When you’re home during the weekend, does you dog stick to his usual weekday elimination schedule, or does he tend to go out more often?

Puppies need to eliminate way more often than adults, and although we can set up their “home alone” environment to include a space where they can eliminate indoors, there is still the question of how long they should be left alone without human company.

Yes, Dogs Get Lonely

Dogs are social animals and should have the opportunity to interact with people at least several times a day, and with other dogs on occasion, if this is something they enjoy.

It’s even more important to not leave puppies home alone all day. Puppies younger than 14 weeks of age are in a sensitive socialization period and benefit from lots of social interaction. They should be in the company of their family for significantly more time than an adult dog.

Again, for emphasis: Leaving a puppy home alone all day is a waste of valuable – crucial – socialization time that can confer lifelong benefits.

Crating A Dog While At Work

I have a number of clients who, prior to consulting with me, had resorted to using crates in an effort to prevent their dogs from doing further damage to their homes through destructive chewing or soiling, or to curb barking at the windows. The irony is that the behavior issues were actually created by too-long stretches of isolation. Crating the dogs only made bad situations worse by increasing the dogs’ level of stress and further limiting their ability to interact with their surroundings.

crating dog during the day

A crate is no place for a dog to spend an entire day. If necessary, confinement in a small space should be temporary and for short periods of time, say, a couple of hours, tops.

There’s often a comparison drawn between crates and “dens” – that somehow a small enclosed space should instinctively make a dog feel relaxed and safe because it resembles a den. However, dogs are not “den animals” at all. And even if they were, they would be able to leave their dens whenever they please, which isn’t the case with crates.

And if your dog actually seeks out his crate to nap? Does that mean he loves it so much that he’d be okay in it for an entire day? Well, I have a favorite chair in the living room where I sometimes like to curl up and take a nap. My choosing to spend time relaxed in a space without budging for sometimes an entire hour is a far cry from being physically confined to that chair, unable to leave it to stretch, eat, drink, relieve myself, or just plain do something else. It’s time we rethink the use of crates and our dependence on them.

If the principal reason for using a crate to confine a dog during our absence is to avoid destructive or nuisance behavior, a better approach would be to address those behaviors through training, or through management that involves meeting the dog’s physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.

How to Minimize Your Dog’s Time Alone

Following are a few ways you can avoid leaving your dog alone for too long. It can be hard to make this work, but if you dig deep and get creative, you’ll find there are actually more solutions available than you might have thought:

Doggie Daycare

Even if your dog is enrolled for just one day a week, that leaves you with only four more to go to cover an average work week! Of course, not every dog is a good fit for daycare, but for dogs who enjoy other dogs’ company, even just one day a week is a good step toward meeting his social and physical needs.

Keep in mind that not all doggie daycare operations are alike. Look for clean, well-designed locations with qualified staff who will manage interactions between the dogs and provide necessary rest periods. Also note that doggie daycare is not the right environment for young puppies.

Come Home for Lunch

If not every day, then as often as you can during the work week. If there are several family members in the household, consider taking turns coming home in the middle of the day to let the dog out to relieve himself and enjoy a short visit.

Hire A Dog-Walking Service

Dog walkers have been around for ages, but in the last decade this industry has seen a surge in numbers, possibly because more people who work outside the home are recognizing the importance of addressing their dog’s needs.

The types of services offered by professional dog-walkers can range from a quick home visit to a neighborhood walk, or even day training (when a trainer trains the dog in your home while you’re at work). Again, a caveat is needed here; there are some horrible dog-walking services out there.

Work From Home On Occasion

Telecommuting is more popular than ever as technology makes it easy for folks to perform their professional tasks from a home office.

Bring Your Dog to Work with You

Obviously, not everyone is in a position to do this. I frequently work with clients to treat their dog’s separation anxiety, and this suggestion is almost always met with an immediate negative response, “No way, I can’t do that.” However, it turns out that sometimes, it is possible.

Unless you’ve actually looked into it by communicating directly with the person who’s in the position to say yes or no, hold off before crossing the idea off your list of possible solutions. It may seem unlikely, but you may be very pleasantly surprised!

Arrange for Someone to Visit Your House and Let Your Dog Out

Ask a neighbor, or your co-worker’s teenage niece who loves dogs, or that kid down the street who does odd jobs. Not everyone is comfortable with the possible liabilities a scenario like this can present, but you may already have someone you trust to handle this type of task.

Naturally, your dog needs to be comfortable with someone walking into his home while you’re out, and in the best of cases, he’ll be thrilled to receive a midday visit!

Solutions Have Higher Cost, But Worthwhile Benefits

While some of these solutions involve an additional expense, consider it a normal part of owning a dog. When calculating a budget for expenses related to caring for a dog, owners may figure in the expenses for food, toys, maybe some grooming, and the occasional vet visit. All too often, though, money for training and other services like daycare, boarding, or dog walking tend to fall erroneously into the “luxury” category. In reality, these are essential services that contribute to meeting a dog’s needs more completely.

Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question all along. Rather than trying to figure out how to best stretch the amount of time we can leave our dogs alone, we should be trying to help our dogs get more out of every day. This idea might take some getting used to, especially since it suggests that our dogs aren’t happy. Sometimes, though, it’s good to question the status quo and ask ourselves if we can do better.

Nancy Tucker, CPDT-KA, is a full-time trainer, behavior consultant, and seminar presenter in Quebec, Canada.

81 COMMENTS

  1. I have neighbours who own a Great Pyrenees. They go away for four or five days and leave the dog inside. Someone comes in once a day to feed the dog and let it out for 15 minutes. The poor dog is never walked. I own a dog myself and would NEVER do this. But maybe this is considered okay? Is this common? I just feel for the dog.

  2. Thank you for bringing up the difference between crates & this inane idea so many people have of dogs being “den” animals. As if that’s what Den animals experience, if dogs even are “den animals” at all. I don’t care if they call it a crate, a townhouse, or the Ritz Carlton. A cage is a cage is a cage.

    • I have a puppy mill survivor. She came to us in a crate (for safe transportation). When we brought her home, it was extremely difficult to get her out of the crate. That crate was her “safe zone”. Nobody could hurt her in that crate (and people had hurt her a lot). It took weeks for her to feel comfortable enough to begin to stick her head out of the crate. It was very difficult to get her outside to go to the bathroom (it took a long time with lots and lots of highly yummy treats to lure her out of the crate and outside). She’s been with us for 4 years now and still loves her crate and will go in there of her own accord. She will particularly go into her crate if something frightens her (and she is an extremely fearful dog). Even when she isn’t in her crate, she loves to sleep and rest in closed-in areas. They make her feel safe (even though she knows nothing bad will happen to her here). My non-fearful dog will also seek out her crate to rest (but prefers the couch with her extra-large Wolfhound head on my lap). I would never take our puppy mill rescue’s crate away from her. It isn’t a cage to her–it’s a “safe zone” where she feels safe and secure. It would be cruel to take away that source of comfort for her.

  3. This article actually really hit home for me. I have a 1 year and 7 month old Aussiedoodle whom has severe isolation anxiety. I recently moved from a house to an apartment complex and was unaware for a long time as to how much she would yelp and cry as if she was being hit when I would leave for work (gone for 10 hours a day). Since moving into the apartment complex I realized this due to my neighbors now bringing it to my attention so I have hired a trainer to help me out to put together a training plan along with a dog walker who comes middle of the day for a 15 minute walk while I am gone.

    She still has the isolation anxiety but it seems to be getting better and now only goes around 4 hours without human interaction!

  4. My neighbour’s cat died, so she has bought a dog. It’s kept alone most of the time and never walked. Its a puppy and it barks constantly to seek attention. I have complained but with minor success on the noise front. Don’t think the dog’s life has improved.

  5. I think it will depend on the dog breed and personality. I leave my dog alone every day for 8h because of work. But I usually exercise him before leaving to make sure he hasn’t any pent up energy left. Also, what helps me to keep an eye at him is watching him online to see what he is doing, and I see that he usually sleeps the entire time when left alone. I also like to interact with him from time to time when I’m away so he doesn’t feel so alone. After a lot of trials, I found a camera device that is perfect for me to watch him on my phone and also talk to him and even throw some treats. I bought it over amazon and it made me so more relieved to leave him alone at home. This is the product that I bought:

    https://amzn.to/2N202s0

    Have any of you guys tried it before?

  6. I just hope your article doesn’t deter someone who has a full-time job but still can’t afford doggie daycare not to adopt a dog. I would rather see a dog adopted and left home for 8-9 hours while people work then to not get adopted at all and eventually euthanized. They now have so many creative ways to take care of a dog even when you’re not home…
    cameras that let you talk to them, feeding timers, treat toys, continuous water dispensers, etc.
    I don’t believe in crating a dog but maybe making a larger area THEIR space where they can’t get into trouble. Whether its a spare room or just a quarantined area designated where they have access to their bed, toys and water.

    • Thank you! I agree as well, having volunteered at a shelter I have mixed reactions. I totally understand where the author is coming from, but most of us have to work a full time job. There are people who actually surrender their dogs to shelters because they feel guilty for working, and leaving the dog home. The dog now has to spend all day and night in a kennel. Shelters do the best they can, but the dogs are in kennels with the only human interaction being from the volunteers. I think it’s okay to leave your dog as long as you are spending a good amount of time walking and interacting with them when you are home.

    • The article stated:
      “Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.”

      Your response talked about 8 – 9 hours. People who will leave a dog 10+ hours should probably not adopt especially if it is a younger dog.

    • I agree. A dog with a home is better than a dog in a shelter. I don’t know of too many people who can come home for lunch …work from home ..or take their dog to work. That’s a little ridiculous. I work in the medical field so that would never work. I have 2 rescue dogs who do fine all day. Have had them for 7 years.

  7. Great article! I work from home most days, bring my two dogs with me to work when I have to go in the office, and feel guilty when I leave them for four hours. We are all different but bottom line, we all love our dogs and try to do right by them.

  8. Thank you for taking on this issue. Most dog owners in our society say we consider them to be family members. So let’s accord them the consideration they deserve as sentient beings and true family members.

  9. I am still not sure what the recommendation is for the “ideal” maximun time to leave a dog alone. I am retired. At most I leave my dog for six hours. She had terrible separation anxiety when I adopted her from animal shelter. She has been taking fluoroxine 10 mg/day and is doing well.

  10. I have had dogs all of my life.
    Since 1980 when I got married it has always been my duty to make sure the dogs
    got a break during the day. We moved numerous times due to job transfers and strived to buy a house close to my work so I could run home on my lunch break.
    After divorcing I bought a house ten minutes from my job. I worked shift work and the last years before retirement I came home on my break at 11 pm.
    When I would return at 315AM they were ready to go out before we went to bed.
    I have never understood the mentality of crating a dog all day long.
    My ex husband always said I put the dogs first…..well maybe I did but I thought it was very important they get a break during my work day even if it meant I only had ten minutes to eat on my break.
    Thank you for shining a light on the truth about dogs and crates.

    • Crates can offer safety. We have a sighthound (an Irish Wolfhound) who does not chase our cat (many sighthounds love to chase furry little critters), but we would never leave the two alone together. I trust her not to chase (and certainly not harm) our cat when we’re home, but I would not take a chance when we aren’t home. We don’t crate her, but the are in separate rooms. So am I an evil person for wanting to safeguard my cat? Or maybe I don’t deserve to have my dogs? I love all my animals and want to do the best I can for all of them. Don’t judge my situation until you’ve lived in it yourself. I work at home and seldom leave the animals alone. But there are days when I must leave and when I must, the dogs and cat are separated. Period. I refuse to come home to a badly injured or dead cat. Thank you for understanding. And our puppy mill dog is crated when I leave for a wide variety of reasons and she loves her crate. I would never deny her the security of her “safe zone”. I would never leave my dogs in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours without a break, but crates aren’t necessarily the evil torture devices some people make them out to be. Yes, they can be, but any tool can be made into something used incorrectly. I use a hammer to pound in a nail–not somebody’s car. A hammer is a good and useful tool–if used correctly and harmful if used incorrectly.

      • The article stated:
        “Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.”

        Are you leaving your dogs and/or cats inside a cage for 10+ hours a day.? If not, then no one is calling you anything.

        • Monica you are offensive, highly judgmental, and clearly need a life. Stop trolling individuals on this thread. You included your comments and have reiterated your thought multiple times. ENOUGH. Unless you are prepared to adopt EVERY dog to ensure that it is crated the “appropriate” amount of time, refrain from continuing to comment. YOU are a bully and NOT helping anybody/dog out with this behavior. Perhaps you and Kathryn are related?

  11. Having two (or more) dogs reduces loneliness significantly. My dogs often nap side by side and they interact with each other throughout the day whether I am at home or not. They groom each other and play tug of war with their unstuffed toys when I am away. They like it when I return because it means walks and treats, but they are not frantic. Both dogs are reliably house-trained and are not destructive, so they are free in my house when I am gone. There is a risk of household accidents if they have digestive upsets, but free run works much better than having them lying in their poop and it happens rarely. They can move from their sunny morning nap spot to where they keep their toys (the brain-stimulating variety). I am not sure whether it helps, but I usually leave public radio on so there is music as well. I make arrangements for them to be let out if I am go,ing to be away for more than 4 hours (I have found that they ask to go out about every 4 hours if I am home). Of course, fresh water is always available.

    • I have the same situation, Alice. We have three dogs and I think they do a lot for each other when we are not home–playing, cuddling, etc. They also have free-reign of the home with access to water and toys. I don’t feel bad at all about leaving them home alone together up to six hours (max). I feel like this article really overlooks the benefits of a multi-dog household.

  12. Agree…some of us can “hold it” for longer, but we shouldn’t. I don’t have anyone I feel good about entrusting my sometimes reactive pup with or to check on her…recently I wanted to take a flight on a retiring aircraft, and although it was a tight turnaround…calculating the getting to the airport and back time it would have been 10-11 hours and I had to say no…I loved the plane, but I love my little one far more.

    • Keep searching for the right person or persons to help you out. I can’t count how many people I’ve interviewed and have had meet us to find out if they would be a good fit to interact with our “reactive” sensitive boy. I was so fortunate to meet a wonderful trainer when he was a puppy and already displaying lots of troubling behavior. She (and a consultation with the veterinary behaviorist at UC Davis) helped me learn about best practices for training and interacting with him, so that I knew what to look for in people that I could allow to be part of his care. The vast majority of people did not fit with our program or his needs, but eventually I found a few who do. Now we have several fantastic members of “Team Vinny” as we call it. It not only gives me peace of mind and opportunities to be gone longer hours sometimes or out of town for a few days (they stay at our home with him), it also helps make his world a little bigger, enhances his life, and provides him with more opportunities to interact appropriately with others.

  13. Having two (or more) dogs reduces loneliness significantly. My dogs often nap side by side and they interact with each other throughout the day whether I am at home or not. They groom each other and play tug of war with their unstuffed toys when I am away. They like it when I return because it means walks and treats, but they are not frantic. Both dogs are reliably house-trained and are not destructive, so they are free in my house when I am gone. There is a risk of household accidents if they have digestive upsets, but free run works much better than having them lying in their poop and it happens rarely. They can move from their sunny morning nap spot to where they keep their toys (the brain-stimulating variety). I am not sure whether it helps, but I usually leave public radio on so there is music as well. I make arrangements for them to be let out if I am going to be away for more than 4 hours (I have found that they ask to go out about every 4 hours if I am home (they each weight about 45 pounds)). Of course, fresh water is always available.

  14. I agree with Pam’s comment, that your article could very easily deter a perspective dog owner to forget the idea of
    adopting as they can’t afford a dog walker, can’t work from home or work too far away to come home at lunch. The article is an awful “guilt trip” to place on people who love their animals but can’t live up to your expectations

    • I agree with you. i work full time and have done so for 25 years and my dogs have done just fine while i am at work for 9 hours. My dog gets a walk and play time morning and evening. My current pup is crated and has a dog walker 3 times a week. she is still chewing stuff in front of us so we still crate. she’ll be 2 in Dec. My rescue puppy is happy and loved and gets lots of attention. i hope to work from home someday but my current job won’t allow it.

  15. I am retired and Pepper is alone sometimes. Actually I schedule my time around Pepper, trying my best not to leave her alone more than fife hours six the most.. After that I am on pins and needles… I have declined many party invitations because my dog was not welcome.
    Recently that has started to change…..friends who figured out why I decline invitations, have started to welcome Pepper as well. She really is well behaved and very sweet and made some new friends.

  16. Dogs are pack animals and need to be part of a group, no matter if it’s people or other dogs. They do not like to be alone, and as the article points out, if they are left alone for long periods of time, they will develop neurotic behaviors. My dog is always very happy since I work at home. I make sure that she has her needs attended to, and we have lots of fun time together when I take breaks from working. I also take her with me on errands, and to restaurants that have outdoor dining that allow dogs. When on vacation, I take her with me to dog friendly hotels.

    Because of the security she feels, she is an amazing friendly dog, and her tail is constantly wagging. She loves people and they love her upon first meetung her. I rescued her a year ago, so I admit, that I have been overprotective, but she has adjusted very well. Tops, I leave her alone for 3 hours when I can’t take her with me. For the first time, I will have a sitter at my home since I will be gone for 6 hours. She knows the sitter, so I hope it will work out well. I agree with the person who said that if you work away from home, you should have two dogs.

  17. I’m glad someone I can only imagine what torture it must be for an intelligent social animal, 100% reliant on you, to be alone the greater part of the day, every day. I have a small, clingy rescue dog. Three hours is max for her, and I don’t do that often. Anything more, I hire a pet sitter. But usually she goes nearly everywhere with us. I’ve worked hard on manners so she is welcomed most places. I realize not everyone has that luxury … but if you really can’t share much time with a dog, than maybe that isn’t the right animal for you. Great article — it needed to be said — and the author offered many workable solutions.

  18. I am happy to see this topic being discussed. This is not about guilt tripping anyone- it’s talking about what is best for our dogs. Dogs are social animals. Leaving them with no interaction for 10+ hours is not good for them. I agree- two dogs can help the situation. But getting someone to stop in- whether a dog service or friendly neighbor or a teen who lives in the neighborhood- is a great idea. Win-win for all.

  19. Thank you for this article, especially for the comments regarding crates, which confirms something I’ve always suspected. We’ve used crates for training, but once our pups are house trained, that’s been it.

    I am wondering what your thoughts are about the impact of having multiple pets. A few comments have mentioned this as a help for dogs left alone, and we’ve almost always had more than one dog (and cats). I’m fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule so our pups are rarely without human company for more than 6 hours, but occasionally, they are. Does having other animals in the house make a difference for them? We don’t see destructive behaviors.

  20. Hmm, I see I have a couple typos in my previous post! I can’t seem to edit, so please delete “I’m glad someone” and “than” should be then. Sorry!

  21. I never leave my 3 year old working line German Shepherd alone for more than 5 hours. I leave for work at 5:30 a.m. and my ex-husband (yep… my EX) works overnights and comes to the house by 10:00-10:30 a.m. and stays with her until I get home at 3:00. I swore that I would “do right” by her when I got her at 12 weeks and I do all I can to ensure she is happy and healthy. I don’t go out at night often if ever (I’m 65…been there, done that), and on the weekends when I run errands, if I’m going to be gone long, the Ex will come stay with her. We divorced, but we’re still close. He understands how much she means to me and is comfortable helping take care of her. She’s very reactive so doggy daycare was out of the question and, quite frankly, I don’t trust anyone with her. She is the joy of my life and if she were mistreated I would never forgive myself. I’ve become “one of those” dog people, but I couldn’t give a rat’s behind what anyone else thinks. She’s my family and she comes first. Thank you for this enlightening article. I will be sharing it frequently!

  22. After I retired I fostered an 8 yo blind English Setter whom I later adopted. I could not leave Amber alone EVER, not even for 15 min. She had such bad separation anxiety she would get diarrhea and then pace in it. I always hired a pet sitter for her when I had to run errands. If the pet sitter was not available, I stayed home. I also had a second adopted dog, Lacey, so Amber was not lonely, she just needed a support person in order to feel secure/safe. Luckily, my pet sitter was also active in rescue work so understood her needs (and her fees were reasonable). I don’t think I could have managed otherwise.

  23. Thank you for highlighting this disturbing practice today of locking and storing dogs in cages. I hope to soon see it phased out here in the U.S. and banned, as it is in many European countries. Our dogs have always been adopted from shelters or rescued. The unspoken promise to each dog: they will never lose their home again, and they will never again be forced to live in a cage. Ever since I’ve lived with dogs, the priority whenever we moved was finding a home with a large fenced yard. (Some of the houses left a lot to be desired, but had good yards!) If there was no fence, we had one installed immediately. (Physical fences — not electric shock collar perimeters!) We’ve always had two or three dogs, and they seem to be very content with and derive much joy from each other’s company. Dog doors lead to a large, well-fenced backyard. Our dogs relieve themselves whenever they need to, 24/7. If they choose to enjoy a nap in the morning sun and breeze for awhile, they do that when they please. If I have to be away for a day of errands, indoor webcams indicate they get up, move around the house, drink water, and go outside about every 3 hours. I’m by no means wealthy. We make situations work when they are important enough to us. And nothing is more important to me than my dogs, their health, and happiness.

    • Okay, here’s a situation. I know a lady who has a little dog (a Yorkie). This dog isn’t properly house trained (and the owner has absolutely no interest in doing the job properly). When the family is gone, if the dog is given the run of the house, she will poop not only on the floor, but also on their furniture (beds, couch, chairs, etc.). The were ready to take her to the shelter when someone (not me) suggested they crate train her (why that was more acceptable to her than to fully house train the dog I don’t know, but it was). It is doubtful that this little dog would get adopted due to a number of behavioral issues–the pooping is just the tip of the iceberg. They crate trained the dog and she loves her crate and will go in it of her own choice. They crate her when they’re gone and everybody’s happy and the dog still has a home. Would you rather they dump the dog at the shelter with the most likely outcome being a dead dog?

      • I think what seems to be most difficult for many people, based on many of these comments, is that their first priority is their desire to have a dog, not whether their current life/work situation really works best for a dog. As indicated in the article, many dogs do “act out” when left alone, because they are social creatures, like people. Being left alone for hours can be terrifying for many dogs. From the situation you described, it sounds like working with a trainer might be a possibility for this dog and owner to improve their lives. Personally, if I was captured, forced to live in a cage where all I could do for hours and hours every day is stand up, turn around, and lie down again, try not to eat or drink, lest I have to sit in my own waste, and this was going to be life for all the years ahead, yes, I think death would be kinder. If returned to the shelter, there is also the possibility that another adopter or foster family better suited to attending the needs of this dog could give it a good life. So, no, I don’t think everyone should have a dog just because they want one.

      • Absolutely!!!!! Everyone is an expert all of a sudden. Common sense people. You know YOUR dog better than this author and the commenters. You do what works best for your family.

  24. I traded my social life for a life focussed on my dog’s needs. I work all day with one thought in my mind: when can I go home and see him. I feel very guilty when I am stuck in traffic! I usually go home to pick him up and take him grocery shopping even though he waits for me in the passenger seat. He puts his head on my arm and I know he likes being with me. Even driving to places. I am thinking of getting him a sister for company. Although my cat is good company as well.

    • Keeping multiple dogs together makes it easier to leave them alone (providing they get along).
      However, please also consider that it makes it much harder to bring your dogs out & about with you.
      I started out with one dog who came everywhere with me. Now that I have added two more to the pack, group outings are chaotic to say the least, and if I leave one or two dogs behind at home, there’s hell to pay when we get home.

  25. This article doesn’t take into account that many people cannot financially survive on a 40 hour work week anymore and may have more than one job to make ends meet. The article makes it sound like dog ownership is only for the wealthy that can afford the luxury of coming home for lunch, paying for doggie daycare and being home every night at 5 p.m. That is just not feasible for so many of us that are paying off student loans and working exhausting hours to just pay the rent. I LOVE my dogs but also have bills to pay and must be away from home fore longer than 8 hours at a time. Does that mean I not deserve to have my dogs?!

  26. My first reaction was that it’s always someone else’s expectations that seem to determine public opinions! Dogs are increasingly taking the place of children with ever increasing must dos or you are a bad ‘pet parent’. That is just plain wrong. We have dog sitters, dog psychologists and almost mandatory play sessions now for dogs. That sounds an awful lot like taking care of children if it becomes common place and EXPECTED.

  27. I always ask people who leave their fur babies alone for extended periods this question. How long can go without going to the bathroom? Usually the response is around 3-4 hours. I then ask, So what makes you think your dog should hold it longer? The shocked and light bulb going off look is priceless!

  28. I have a 7 month old puppy who loves sleeping in his crate which is beside my bed. That is the only time that he is in it – nite-nite time. Other than that, I have a playpen set up in living room, and he goes in and takes naps in that during the day (as well as on my lap). I do put him in the playpen when I have to run errands (grocery shop/dr appts, etc), but it’s not over a couple hrs at a time. I also leave him in my kitchen at times (after making sure everything is out of his way) like going to visit daughter who is recovering from surgery. There he has his bed, water, kong or chew and a peepee pad. He is doing well, with the exception of training which we start on next month.

  29. Like others have said, I can afford my one dog (I used to have multiple dogs, as well as cats). I can’t afford pet walkers, pet sitters, daycare. My dog is reactive and I would not trust a random neighbor to walk him safely. I just moved 8 months ago, and don’t know anyone well enough to remotely trust them with my dog or to be inside my home while I’m away. I work a 40 hour week. Between the commute, 30 minutes for lunch, and the 8-hour day, my dog is home alone, inside with free run of the house, for about 9.5 hours, 5 days per week. Other than that, I give him my all. My job provides the roof over his and my heads and the food we eat. I don’t “love” my job, and I am also isolated and lonely at work. My dog and I are in it together. I will not feel guilty.

    • Thank you, Natalie. I am in the same boat. I will not be made to feel guilty about leaving my dogs at home when I need to be away by keyboard warriors who do not know me or my situation.

    • The article states:

      “Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.”

      You said you are leaving your dog for 9.5 hours. Seems like you just made it.

  30. I work part-time and my husband works full-time. I have always adopted adult rescue dogs because I did not feel it is fair to leave a puppy for 5 and a half hours 4 days a week but my adult rescues are fine with this. I walk them before and after work and they attend my training club with me and also dog shows at weekends.
    We had a very bad experience with being sold na extremely aggressive dog by a breeder who did not tell us the truth that the dog had not been socialised or left its own garden and after that I could not go through getting another adult dog. Before I got my puppy I asked my employer if I could work split shifts until my puppy was older. I was lucky in that my job needed people to work early & late so they were agreeable to this as it helped them staff times when others did not want to be there. I worked 8-10.30 then 3.30 – 6pm each day for 8 months whilst I socialised and training my puppy. He was only left for 2 hours at a time and crated when left though my older dog was in the same room so he was not left alone. This arrangement worked very well and he is now a therapy dog and has won talent & obedience competitions due to all the work I put in when he was a puppy. It is so wrong to h ave a dog and leave alone all day-they need mental stimulation as well as human company and walks. I would not have considered getting a puppy and leaving it for more than couple of hours. The trouble is we think of our needs but what about the dog’s?

  31. I’ve had dogs all my life and not once have I ever left a dog alone for more than3 hours once a week when I go shopping It would never occur to me to leave a dog alone. I think most of them liked going out because as I come home my dog and even my cat come running to see what I got for them ..When my husband and I would go away for long weekend I made sure my son was going to be home and I’d call and he was home and taking the dog for a walk. It always worked for me and my husband. Never ever leave the dog alone. And when we would go away for a weekend we always left a phone number for us in case of an emergency.

  32. I have a 12 year old English Lab/Mastiff who is perfectly content to be alone. Even though I’m home all day, he will not ask to go out. We used to do an hour of walking a day, but sadly, his arthritis no longer allows him to do that.He walks, does his business, and heads for home. My husband does take him out before we go to bed, but the dog doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

    As for the crate, we have one. The door is open all the time and he can use it or not, as he wishes.

  33. I am relieved to read this article. I was taking my Cooper to work every day after first rescuing him, mainly to insure his house training needs. He is now house trained. My in laws who live in the house with us were not in a good position to help with that. Now, I leave for work by 6 am every day I let him out before leaving to do his business). My husband walks him at 8 am and then he leaves for work when he is home ( only occasionally not) then, my in laws will try to let him out during the day. Cooper is often resistant to their doing so. And growls. I get home by 4 and pay him attn and we go for another walk. I worry he self limits himself while I’m at work. Trying to find training or play dates for us.

  34. Nancy I love you for writing this article. As a dog walker I refuse to take clients that keep their dog in crates all day long. Common comments are: ‘oh, the dog is use to it’ or ‘It’s puppy training’. It brakes my heart and just can’t do it. They suffer. Most of the owners don’t even put water inside the crate. All the dogs I walked, I have never the feeling that they are okay with being alone all day. I they could choose they would not choose having a lonely life like that. Deeply traumatized dogs may behave different but this is another story.

  35. I work from home and I am with them 23.5 hrs out of 24 a day. And still when I leave to go to the store and it is too hot with carbon dioxide global warming, to take them with, they misbehave. Dog one will leave a big poop by the front door, even if I was only gone 20 minutes. Dog two goes around and chews up wires. I dread going home after grocery shopping! I can’t imagine what I would come back to if I left them for hours!

  36. I am an experienced dog owner and have trained and shown my dogs in breed and performance for over 2 decades. The comments in this article would discourage many of us in the workforce from having a dog. I agree that young puppies should not be left alone/ crated all day but once your pet is housebroken and trustworthy in the house (I.e. no chewing furniture, getting into trash etc), it is OK to leave them alone in the house uncrated for 7-8 hrs. The latter provided you give them a good romp and/or walk before you leave and of course the same when you return plus extra attention in the evenings. Also, intermittent venues of socialization are important such as doggie day care once in awhile and/or training classes. My dogs are my life and most of my leisure time is dedicated to them. Weather permitting, they always join me when running errands. I think for this reason they have always done fine on their own during the week, especially since they spend most of the day asleep. Yes, it’s not the ideal situation but ultimately does no harm to your dog if you take the extra time to give your pet the love and attention it deserves!

  37. I agree that long periods of time alone and no potty break is not ideal for a pack animal. Nor is being confined in a tiny space all day. However, on the flip side, my sister was declined a dog by several rescue groups because she works. So instead of rescuing she purchased a puppy. She lives in the country, owns 30 wooded acres with a creek, has another small dog and has trained both to use the pee pad for long days at work. I sincerely hope the dogs in the rescue groups went to an equally fun home. Yes, we should strive to do the best for the creatures in our care. But I also think the focus should be on the ~670,000 dogs being euthanized in the US each year.

  38. I have a rescue dog since he was 70 months old. He is now 10 years old. He is our first dog. I had a cat for 17 years. When he was first with us, he would raid the kitchen bin. The mess was all over the floor and broke the bin. The large bin was replaced 3 times. I said I had had enough and if he did it again, I would take him back to the rescue centre but then I would feel sorry as we were his 3rd home in 7 months.Even though he is 10 years old, he is still full of energy and mischief. I never realised how much personality a dog could have. My husband does not believe in having animals sleeping in the bedroom. So our dog sleeps in the utility room. I feel it is better for him as it means when I am away and he is with the dog sitter, he does not pine for me at night. He sees it as a treat because he is allowed to sleep on the dog sitters bed. He has a crate that has a bed in side it and one tide on top of the crate as h like to jump onto the top of it. The crate dog is never closed. He coms and goes as he pleases. If I have to leave him for more than 4 hours my friend takes him to her house and he spends time with her dog and I return the favour. I never realised how close the relationship would be between myself and my dog.

  39. I have 3 whippets, work 4 days a week 7 hours out of the house, a 5 minute bike ride / commute away.
    Half way during these 7 hours I have a Dogwalker come to the house for an hour, to walk, cuddles & fresh water & treats before she leaves. They seem to be ok with it.
    Dogwalking services can be very expensive, especially with multiple fur kids.
    Check in your community for perhaps retirees or students. My Dogwalker is a spunky 74 lady, who is well known in this community for her love of animals. She doesn’t have her own dog, because she’s too busy looking after other dogs & cats.
    She is a firecracker & we are so blessed to have her. Also consider a hidden camera when you start with a new Dogwalker. Piece of mind & I caught several years ago a young professional Dogwalker just spending 20 minutes, instead of 1 hour she was paid for. When you have that funny feeling in your gut, investigate.

  40. I would like to suggest to readers that if you have the time and have neighbors with a dog home alone for long days, maybe offer to let them out and play with them for free if you can. I did that and the owners were totally surprised that I would even want to. They wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking me. They thought they would be imposing or that there was no way a middle aged woman would want to do that. Now they pay me a fee they’re comfortable with and even hire me for their vacations so the dogs can either stay with me and our dog or I let them out 4-5 times a day. It benefits the entire neighborhood when the lonely dog(s) aren’t barking all day and frustrating some neighbors. Plus the dogs are all now socialized to the other people and pets from me walking them during the day. I also take in their mail, deliveries, trash bins, etc. It makes the house look occupied and is safer for all of us.

  41. There’s certainly good information in this article and I think everyone would benefit from considering their dog’s needs more fully. But I chafe at any recommendation that tells people how long any dog can be in a crate, home alone, etc. Yes, it makes it easy to moralize, but dogs, families and situations vary greatly and what sounds awful to one person may in fact be the most humane option for a particular dog.

    My dog and I have done a tremendous amount of work to help him overcome his severe reactivity, attended a lot of classes together, have a great petsitter that visits daily, and use a great daycare once a week. We play games, go for walks, etc. every day. And he spends probably 10-12 hours a day in his crate.

    Not only is he doing well, if I were to let him free roam he would be much unhappier. He truly feels safe in there. I know this because if I leave him unattended outside his crate, his reaction to external stimulus is extreme and probably really unpleasant for him. And with me not there to help him out, he could really hurt or upset himself.

    This dog came from a chaotic, deprived situation and meeting his needs takes up a good part of my life. And part of meeting those needs includes predictable structure, including a safe place to stay when I’m gone. So please, check yourself before your go condemning others based on a rule of thumb that isn’t necessarily applicable to all situations.

  42. They need our presence. We have been breeding them for centuries to have extraordinary social skills with humans. All of them, even dogs that are said to be “less close to humans”.

  43. Is my 4 1/2 (I’m retired and live only with my dog Ethel, 7 1/2) hours of work next door OK? Your guidelines fail to mention any “surveys” of dogs happy with, for example, 4 hours or so in which they are alone.

    Such ‘surveys’ would make your article about 100 times more useful!

    Yours, Sid / Chicago

  44. Talking a friend recently, we got on the topic of dogs and how they can rule your life. She admitted that although she loves her dog, Hattie, she often feels burdened by guilt when leaving Hattie home alone. She and her husband and kids go skiing every weekend of winter and spring when snow is on the ground.

  45. I like how you suggest coming home for lunch as often as you can to take care of your dog. My neighbor told me that he would like to get a puppy since he lives alone but he does not know how to take care of a pet. I will share this article with him so that he can think about getting a puppy before taking the decision.

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