Features May 2018 Issue

How Long is Too Long to Leave A Dog 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?

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?

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

Do you know what your dog does all day when heís home alone? Many dogs sleep most of the day, but some fret in their ownersí absence and look for things to do to alleviate their anxiety Ė and these stress-relieving things might include barking, chewing inappropriate items, or digging up the carpet!

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!

[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.

happy spaniel puppy

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.

Comments (37)

So I guess most of you think we leave our dogs alone too long and shouldn't have dogs. Tell me then what you think will happen to all the dogs we working people have if we didn't have them. They would be dead!. I have 4 rescues. They are not crated. They have free roam of the house. They do not get me up at night to potty. I have come home before at lunch and they don't go potty.

Would my dogs prefer me to be home? Of course! I would rather be home myself.

My dogs are fine no bad behaviors they have each other for company.

Since there are not enough homes for all the dogs in shelters rescues free ads let's just dump our dogs to be killed because we have a job away from home.

Posted by: Furkids | February 13, 2019 6:56 PM    Report this comment

I have neighbors. Two of them have one dog and one has two. The dogs bark. It's normal and we non dog owners understand that. It is NOT normal for a dog to bark ALL DAY LONG. It doesn't matter what anyone says about that. It shows something isn't right. The owner with the two dogs have a couple fits every now and again, but stop once they get what they want or whatever. Possibly no home training as the owners yell at them to be quiet. The other owners dog is quiet nine times out of ten. The last "owners" dog barks literally incessantly. It must be left home all the time. The thing will bark for more than 10 hours straight in this apartment complex. Anyone can type anything they want but that is NOT normal. It HAS to be that the "owner" is now muzzling the dog because today, as I type this, I have now listened to the dog, cry for more than 12 hours straight as though it wants to bark, but can't. There's no way a dog in that much distress is going to cry for 12 hours, instead of bark, unless it was muzzled. All of you supposed dog lovers that think humans are not supposed to have rights, because you love your dog oh so much are sick if you think a dog should be able to do whatever it wants and folks working hard and paying to live have to deal with constant noise as a result. YOU are the problem, not the folks complaining about noise. Crying for more than 12 hours? I love all animals. I hate the thought of them being used for clothes actually. But this makes you not want to have anything to do with dogs.

Posted by: No | February 3, 2019 5:31 PM    Report this comment

This might sound harsh, but for all those arguing that they have no choice, you do - don't have a dog. I'm sorry if that's hard to hear, but I believe it's selfish and harmful to leave a social animal like a dog in a crate (aka solitary confinement) or even just by itself in a house for 10 or more hours a day. We used to have a rescue who suffered from extreme anxiety that only worsened over the years. We took her regularly to a trainer, who felt being left alone all day exacerbated her inherent anxiety. She became so anxious, even with medication, that she began vomiting frequently. When she was about 11 she aspirated vomit which caused a rapid, untreatable lung infection that killed her. We have so much guilt over what happened that we have refused to consider a new dog, simply because we know we won't be able to provide the environment a dog would need to thrive. I wish people would consider the actual implications of their lifestyles when considering bringing an intelligent, emotional, social animal into their family.

Posted by: chairmankaga75 | January 30, 2019 11:43 AM    Report this comment

I am a single professional who works 10 hours a day minimum. I have a rescue who has separation anxiety. One of his paws only has 2 digits on them so he is very weary of strangers. Weíve tried doggy day care but he doesnít get a long with the trainers. I agree with Mh6716 that if these dogs had a choice of being in a kennel with no real person to take care of them or waiting at home for their master they would go with the 2nd. Also, for the critics who are yelling at the owners who crate their dogs during the day. SOME OF US LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD WITH DEMANDING JOBS THAT REQUIRE US TO BE GONE FOR LONGER THAN 4 TO 5 HOURS A DAY. Yes, I feel horrible when I must leave my dog for 10 hours but Iím sure heís against the alternative, which isÖ. being euthanized. I recently moved from living in a house with a roommate to living by myself in an apartment. My dog has been adjusting since the move. He is a black lab/coonhound mix so he has a loud baying howl. But when I crate him, he doesnít bark. Heís already exhausted after the long walk we have in the morning and I make sure to have breakfast at home with him. His crying can wake up the entire apartment complex. Specifically, when I leave very early in the morning. I have been practicing with him at night and weekends by giving him treats before I leave and say ďbedĒ. Iíll close the door for the apartment for certain periods and then come back. I could keep going but wanted to defend the owners who have real lives, with actual stresses, who chose to rescue a dog and not feel ashamed of it.

Posted by: marlmilo | January 22, 2019 11:35 AM    Report this comment

So Iím a little freaked out by some of these comments. Where did anybody learn to take care of a dog?! They are SOCIAL animals, they live and breathe for you, and they are fear based if you punish them for ďmessingĒ, when youíve made them wait 8, 10, 12 hours! Thatís WHY, those of you who want to say they ďCANĒ hold it, SERIOUSLY, are you kidding me?! They donít want to get punished! MINIMUM standards, are common sense. Get a doggy door!!! If itís absolutely impossible, and not because of money, cause then you should have never gotten a dog, then a minimum of 3 walks a day is absolutely necessary....how would you feel holding forever and forever....youíd be in pain, and not happy. Dogs arenít ďborn withĒ some magic urinary tract! They want to be WITH you.....ALWAYS! Play with them, interact with them, take them with you places when you can...they are depressed when left alone for major amounts of time on a continuous basis. Itís why they act out. Just please, donít get a dog if your arenít able or capable of treating your dog like family. And Iím not Bob Barker, lol, but still, get them neutered and spade....there are already too many dogs that people donít want.

Posted by: ejsimmons | January 4, 2019 2:13 AM    Report this comment

My father taught me ďA cat has a home. A dog has a master.Ē ....

Another friend once said, ďA dog is only a small piece of your life. But you are almost all of their life.Ē They will wait for you ALL DAY. Every day. They just wait for you to be with them.

I live on acreage. I see absent animal owners everywhere around me. I struggle with neighbours who have a dog in a dog run 24/7. Every day I drive by and see their dog out in the elements. In the summer I bring it frozen raw bones. I stop in with all kinds of treats. They think a dog alone in a run is normal. Think nothing of it. I asked them why they even have a dog. They think how they raise their dog is normal. ... Not in my world. This dog is lonely.

They are going away on a 3 week vacation. All they want is someone to pop in and feed their dog. I would happily take their dog and give it a better life. But their dog is not dog friendly. Because she was raised alone. And caged. So she is tense. With attitude. And I have 2 big goldens. Who sleep beside my bed. It wouldnít work. ... This grieves me so much.

I would like to kidnap this dog. But they would only get another one and treat it the same way.

Posted by: Juno | December 2, 2018 12:19 AM    Report this comment

Another solution (aside from the bathroom part, that can definitely be problematic) is to not just have one dog. Paradoxically, once you hit about 3 dogs, they form their own pack, and need a lot less of their socialization from humans. This isn't to say that they don't bond with their humans and love them, but you're not the sole source. It's not a feasible solution for everyone, but it can definitely enrich the lives of the whole household.

Also, the "crates are bad" bit isn't always true. We foster puppy mill rescues, who have very little experience being OUT of cages. This can actually lead to a sort of agoraphobia, where they're terrified of not having a crate available to hide in. The key is figuring out what's best for your dog(s), and going with that.

Posted by: awagers | October 18, 2018 8:41 PM    Report this comment

Thereís some valuable information & suggestions in your article, but itís not fair to judge whatís right for every situation. My dog is home with her feline companions 4-5 days/ week for a minimum of 9 hours, some days, much longer. She isnít crated as an adult. Is it ideal? No. Do I wish there was another option? Absolutely. Does she hate it? Not really. Itís her routine. When I get home she plays ball, walks, does nosework. Weekends she swims, dock dives, lure courses, etc. We travel together to dog sporting competitions... her life is full, and pretty darn happy. When she was young, I was fortunate enough to have an excellent daycare, but she still learned it wasnít the end of the world to spend a day at home ( she was crated then). Sometimes there just isnít an option. Everyone canít come home at lunch or have the luxury of starting work late enough for an appropriate daycare to open or find a reliable dog walker. Sleeping on my bed all day as opposed to roaming rural OK, even if it is a long day is surely a better life for her. It doesnít make my life inappropriate for a dog, or make me an irresponsible owner.

Posted by: Gretagrace | May 25, 2018 7:05 PM    Report this comment

I am a dog parent and a professional dog walker. I have a teenage dog who cannot be trusted to roam about the house when I am gone and is therefore crated! A nice walk and play, then a Kong for the crate before I start work. She goes right in the crate to take a nap. I leave her there for 2 -3 hours AT MOST depending upon which dogs I am walking or matching up for play dates. I always organize my schedule so she either walks or has a play date with one or two of the dogs that she gets along with. Then a treat and back in the crate to recharge. I work from 9 - 3 and she has many opportunities to rest, recharge, and then have more fun! When my day is finished we play, chill out, and walk. This schedule is more than reasonable. Leaving one's dog in a crate or, for that matter, home alone roaming the house for a long period of time is not. Why have a dog? It's selfish.
I have a client who is in the Foreign Service. I took care of their dog (who has since passed away) when they had a shorter work day. One walk a day was fine. They have since gotten another dog and their work day is very long. He's a younger, active dog and they don't walk him before they go to work or when they get home. He is free to roam in the basement, thus not confined. When they asked if I would walk him once a day I declined on the grounds that it is reprehensible to leave a dog alone for 10 hours a day, not to mention selfish of them to expect him to be happy hanging out alone with only one walk per day. Happily, due to the fact that I have worked for them awhile I was able to convince them that he deserves 2 walks/play sessions a day. He is a happy boy. And they have seen the benefits.
Again, as all of the professional trainers and behaviorists with whom I work say: if you are going to leave your dog home alone, crated or free, for extended periods of time, don't get a dog.

Posted by: NJAW | May 16, 2018 5:39 PM    Report this comment

This article upset me. I waited a long time to get a dog. I'm single and I work away from home. My dog is left alone 4 days a week for 10 hours. She goes to daycare once a week. Nights and weekends we are together. we go on 3 walks a day: before work, after work, and before bed. We play in the back yard, we go to the dog park, we have a weekly agility class, and a biweekly obedience class. I spend more quality time with my dog than most people I know who have families with someone home all the time. There might be someone home, but are they really paying attention to their dogs? Awhile back, I read an article from this magazine that made the point that too many good people were getting turned down from rescue facilities because they didn't meet the strict adoption requirements. Is it better to deny a dog a loving home with someone who might leave them alone for 10 hours a few days a week, but is committed to giving the dog the best loving home possible; or is it better to deny both human and dog from a loving home because of strict requirements that is difficult for a single person living alone with a modest income to adhere to?

Posted by: mh6716 | May 15, 2018 7:55 PM    Report this comment

Sooooo glad to hear someone talk about and advise on leaving dogs alone too long, too much, too often. Yes, it is often difficult and expensive to take good care of a dog, i.e., dog walkers, doggie daycare, whatever but it is what we signed up for when we took the dog. And there are other ways, for example, barter! Make cookies or dinner for someone who will come spend time with your dog. Or trade doggie days with another working person. The bottom line is there is always a way to work things out. For the sake of your dog, please find a way.

Posted by: JAH | May 15, 2018 4:02 PM    Report this comment

thank you for writing this great article - this is truly something I felt very strongly about that needed to be said

Posted by: mp33golf | May 13, 2018 10:08 PM    Report this comment

I guess most of these folks have never been on a road trip with a male driver who refuses to stop just because you need a potty stop, desperately, fast. That hurts!
This is not rocket science people. If you choose to have pets in your home, you are accepting the responsibility to meet the needs and provide for that animal. If you can't do that, get a cat, or a goldfish.
Why all this talk about potty training in a crate? That translates to "don't potty in the crate because if you do, you will have to sit or sleep in it". I hope you folks don't do that to your children! Just put the kid in the closet with a small bowl of water, tell them you are going to the store and won't be long, and shut the door.
Have you ever thought of a space with no carpet and a baby gate or exercise pen? If you don't have such a space, make one or get one.
Bottom line: if you wouldn't do it to your child, then you shouldn't do it to your dog!

Posted by: Pennyannie2 | May 13, 2018 4:02 PM    Report this comment

I have chosen to live my life in the company of dogs. I made a conscious choice to do this, which has affected my work life. Rather than climbing the ladder at work, I chose to work from home as much as possible. I was a guinea pig/pioneer for my company the early days of the web so I could spend more time with my dogs. When I worked in warehouse and trucking, I chose to be on the road as a trucker because I could bring my dogs, rather than working in management in the warehouse. When I was a teacher, I chose to work at a private school in a beautiful rural setting, where my dog was a part of the whole school family, and I used her as an alarm clock to wake up the boys in my dorm (she licked their face). I am used to people thinking I'm over the top with what I do to accommodate the dogs in my life. Do I care? NO!

Posted by: Specie | May 13, 2018 12:40 PM    Report this comment

How does one not leave their dog(s) home all day? They become rich and quit their jobs. This is not an option for probably more than 95% of the population.

What isn't taken into account in this post is what activities are done with the dog when the people are home.

I also find dogs that aren't crated and have full access to the house tend to have more separation anxiety issues than those crated.

When I worked as an engineer, I use to crate all of my dogs for an average of 11 hours per day, Monday-Friday. Until the age of 10-12 months old, they would go to work with me and be crated in my vehicle. My morning and afternoon breaks and my lunch hour was spent with my dog. Crate fans, sun tarps, heated pet beds, timed remote starter, etc., kept my vehicle between 55 and 80 degrees, from 10 degrees to 95 degrees.

I do agree that all dogs are different, but will also say that the majority of pet owners that crate their dogs all say just let them out when they are home, but don't necessarily socialize with them. Yes, my dogs were crated at least 55 hours per week, but when they weren't crated we were training or in class for dg agility and we hiked an average of 15-20 hours per week.

Posted by: dbogart1 | May 10, 2018 10:09 AM    Report this comment

I have done and continue to do what you suggest. I close my business at lunch to let the dogs out and exercise them. If I have a long day scheduled I hire someone to do that for me. Even when we had 5 dogs, and 12-13 hour weekdays, we still hired a sitter to come for an hour 1-2 times a day to put them outside, or back inside in bad weather, and to play with them.
As humans we have all manner of things to do and people around us, but our dogs live to be with us.

Posted by: MaryG | May 7, 2018 9:25 PM    Report this comment

Thanks so much for writing about this topic. I too thinks it's horrible that people leave their animals "trapped" inside for 8-10 hours a day. My husband and I work different shifts, so our dog Nicholas is never in the house for more than 2 or 3 hours. We have rentals and you'd be amazed at how little people think about their animal's welfare. When we interview people - if they work different shifts, that's fine, but our response is always the same when they say they work the same shifts and "we just crate Fido - he's good with it" - I ask them "have you ever tried to hold it and not go to the bathroom for 10 hours" or "would you put a child in a crate"? They usually get defensive and either hang up or leave (if it's a face-to-face mtg.). Having a dog is privilege!

Posted by: MJ in Acme | May 7, 2018 12:34 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Nancy, for this very important article, calling out something that is overlooked or little to no awareness is realized. Something that is missing are dogs left alone outside every day, alone, with no socialization, no walks, etc. and who have issues but owners are in avoidance mode, thinking they don't need to do anything or they are too tired to help. These dogs live a life of lonliness and stress, chronic stress. It's very sad and very common.

Posted by: Jbreitner | May 7, 2018 10:44 AM    Report this comment

I waited a long time to make sure I was in the right situation when I could get a dog. I got a new job (which was an hour commute from my house). When I was there ling enough to know I was going to stay, I decided to move to the area and buy a condo. My commute is just over one mile. I then got a Golden Retriever puppy. The first week I had her, I took time off from work, and interviewed trainers and dog walkers. I already had a great referral for a doggie day care. The trainer came to my home and gave helped me out with some basic puppy training. (The breeder was also an invaluable resource!!) We got a routine down. She could not go to daycare until she was 4 months old. But, the puppy walker came twice a day - ensuring she was never crated for more than a few hours at a time. When she was old enough for day care, she went a few times a week, and had the puppy walker come 2x a day when she was not at daycare. Then, as she matured and her bladder was more reliable, the daycare was more frequent, and when she was home, the dog walker came once a day.

When her potty training proved, I gradually increased her crate space by attaching an ex-pen. Every week or so, I would unfold it by one or more panels so she gradually had more space. Eventually, her home alone space was the bedroom, closed off by a plastic "ring gate." She has never once even attempted to knock it down. Eventually, she earned run of the house.

I also lived close enough that if the dog walker was not available, or if I was stuck at work, I was able to get home to take her out for a short walk and play. The first year, between the dog walker and doggie daycare was not inexpensive - but it was very we'll worth it. It's funny, my dog almost seems annoyed when I come home - I interrupted her sleep!! :-)

Posted by: haftaski | May 7, 2018 6:33 AM    Report this comment

We have raised multiple puppies to grow up to be guide or assistance dogs. We were told from the very beginning that we should never, ever leave the dog alone for more than 4 hours. We have maintained this rule in our household for 16 years.

Posted by: Norma Bell | May 6, 2018 9:14 PM    Report this comment

By understanding some basic issues, the stress of dogs alone during work days can be helped: this is a simple Get Real tips:
1. When home, Human companionship includes verbal visiting, TALK to your dog ....engage in "presence,"...visit in conversation....as in let's go upstairs and clean the closet, etc. Being there in full silence is better than absent, but, dogs like to hear people's voices, talking.Many dogs also enjoy someone's arm around their shoulders, visiting..."and how was your day, dear?"
2. Get real. Dogs aren't meant to be lived with only for rich people: dog day care in most cities is $25-$30 dollars a day, or portion of a day. Do the math x 20 days.
3. Finding a neighbor to let out a dog is something to think about, but it should include some pay, and, a fenced yard with an absolutely secured gate/s would be ideal. Having another person walk a dog is a risk, for some types of dogs. And a risk for the walker. Fights, falling, ice, slippery wet, etc.
4. The stretch of time...empyting the bladder or bowels is THE MOST IMPORTANT (most helpful) ... the social part is lesser.
5. Is a dog "alone" if there's one cat or one other dog?
6. Dog walker professionals are about $22 dollars a time; again, do the math. That's for rich people.
7. When getting home, it IS so IMPORTANT to take the dog for a WALK, maybe after letting a dog out into the yard. Go with the dog into the yard. Take some time together, then go for a walk. Get the blood flowing, for both of you. Ten minutes is better than nothing. Too many dogs live lives without regular walks by their people. THAT is unfair to any dog.
8. There's nothing wrong with leaving the radio or tv on when you're gone.
9. How long after eating does it take for your dog to want to poop? Pay attention to that.. you might want to adjust the morning feeding time to allow for pooping time before you leave for work.
10. Trade childcare an hour for letting a dog out twice. Just an idea.

Posted by: St. Paul MN | May 6, 2018 8:02 PM    Report this comment

I agree that it is 12 hours is too long to leave a dog home, but I have not found any reliable dog walkers, and the cost of paying one who both undoes my training, as well as might put my dog at risk for a bad interaction with another dog, is not worth the potential issues.. I have really struggled with this, but have found 90% of dog walkers and those running daycares are not in it for the dogs... I have been lied to about whether my dog went to camp, my dog was flat out beaten up at another camp, and I have had dog walkers lie to my face about how long they walked my dog for (he has a whistle gps tracker, so itís trackable).. I do have one reliable doggie daycamp that is 45 min away, but that is literally it.. as a person very interested in dog training and health myself, it is very disappointing to find most of the regular industry isnít half as concerned as they should be, or honest.

Posted by: Kcb | May 6, 2018 6:15 PM    Report this comment

I have two dogs and two cats, of which three are rescues. Rarely I am away for more than six hours. I have noted a distinct difference in my first dogs behaviour since I picked the second one off the street and brought it home. They both don't seem stressed when left alone because they aren't alone. When I only had the one dog and two cats, my lone dog showed signs of stress when I was away for more than six hours. Am I right in assuming that if there is more than one canine in the house, they don't feel lonely and/or stressed when left behind for a few hours?

Posted by: Kintsugi | May 6, 2018 5:42 PM    Report this comment

I do not know of a single dog owner/trainer who does not crate their dogs, at times. I have no idea how you can house train a puppy without using crate training. I compete in dog sports and its absolutely necessary to have crate trained dogs, and of course my dogs are in crates when ever they travel with me in my car or van...

Now once my dogs have earned the right to have freedom in my house we rarely crate them, but they have to earn that freedom, usually after they are a year old. If they are destructive, chewing things for example they are crated, for their own safety and my sanity when left alone.

How long can dogs be crated and left alone, as long as necessary, as short as possible!

Years ago we had a mix up with our dog sitter...we left for a short two day trip, the sitter was scheduled to be there at our house to take care of our dog. We left Wednesday morning, got home Friday afternoon. Something didn't look right when we got home...walked in the house an realized the sitter had never been there, our dog was left alone, in the house for over two days, she was thrilled to see use, I let her out in our back yard and started looking for doggie messes...checked each room, checked again, checked again...i couldn't believe it she did not have an accident, did not have a mess for over two days, that was 20 years ago and it still amazes me!

Posted by: Nebraska | May 6, 2018 5:34 PM    Report this comment

I would NEVER leave my fur babies home 10 hours. Sometimes they are kenneled 3 or 4 hrs but never longer. That's cruel especially for older dogs.

Posted by: Lulu22 | May 6, 2018 5:33 PM    Report this comment

Dogs can get bladder or kidney infections if they cannot empty their bladders regularly, just like people. They also must have access to water which is very difficult in a crate. My husband and I worked staggered shifts so our dog was left only 4 hours or less.

Posted by: Tmalven | May 6, 2018 5:02 PM    Report this comment

I so wish I could take my pup to work with me. And it breaks my heart that she is home with two elders and could be with them but they are too oblivious to what goes on around them and don't "think dog". She became reactive after my father pummeled her; he is loud because he is deaf, and so if she was startled, she would attempt to bite his feet. Neither he nor my mother showed any interest in working to learn how to deal with her; I had the trainer out who concluded they wanted a trained dog but didn't want to do anything toward that goal. I am torn between coming home and leaving again as I work close enough to home to do so...or just coming home and staying home. When the weather is cool enough she comes back to work with me and takes a snooze in the car (small office and we are on the first floor with windows so if she should bark, we know it) until work is done in an hour or so. She's very happy with that...I love her more than most people...so if my social life is diminished, so be it. I have been going to a support group for adult children of those who have dementia, and with the warm weather approaching, I may use vacation time to be home more during the day, so when I go to the meeting she won't be alone a longer period of time. I also think it is far better for a pup to rescued, say from a kill shelter, to be home alone a bit longer, than to have no home at all.

Posted by: robin r | May 6, 2018 3:29 PM    Report this comment

I'm just a little confused as to how one house trains a pup and makes sure they don't destroy everything without a crate. My method of house training was to watch my dog every second he was out of his crate and interrupt him if he had an accident. If a dog has free reign or is confined to a room while you are out or sleeping, how do you train them not to go to the bathroom in the house? And for that matter, where do you contain them? I have a kitchen on the other end of the house from the bedroom. I guess I could theoretically install two doors for him to scratch up (although layout wouldn't allow it, really) then hope if he pees somewhere other than the pee pad it doesn't run under the appliances and/or into the wood cabinets or moulding. And then I would have to hope he doesn't chew the kitchen cabinets or moulding or table and chairs. The bathrooms are way too tiny.

I am one of those people that never goes out to dinner on weeknights because I don't want to leave the dog alone after being at work. If I have to run errands I call my husband to make sure he is going home right after work. But, I do believe in crates for house training and to keep pups safe and from destroying the house, at least until they are old enough.

Posted by: Krista April | May 6, 2018 2:40 PM    Report this comment

Depends on the dog. How they were raised. How confident or anxious is the dog to begin with. Start young. Desensitize by coming & going, increasing time away. Do yard work, come back. Go shopping, come back. Go to an appointment, come back. Change up your schedule, don't the dog can't predict your cues (car keys, makeup, putting on a coat). Have the car already backed out, your makeup and a coat inside, sometimes. Do NOT greet (and make over your dog) when you come back. Absolutely, totally IGNORE him. Dogs need boundaries. It lowers anxiety. Practice incremental, sporadic containment. Confine to kitchen/family room (instead of whole house). Or to a home office/bedroom, so dog can see outside a window. DOG-PROOF those rooms! Just like with a kid! Provide outdoor potty access, a MUST. Even going out into the garage or a small patio, helps. (Dog Door!!) Think how anxious you'd be, if you couldn't get to a restroom! Feed inside a crate, also means good association. Offer a nap with a chewy treat. 15, 20, 30 minutes. Be near that crate at first. Keep it in the TV room or bedroom or near the PC. Crates are supposed to be safety zones! NEVER, ever use a crate as punishment, or you'll have problems! Solid crates are more natural, or cover a wire crate with a flannel blanket. Make sure, it's not too hot, or in a draft. Don't wash the bedding (very often) because their/your scent is comforting. Travel with a crate, so dog will associate good experiences! My dogs know, when the crate goes into the Van, good times roll!! Use iCalm music, or a dog friendly TV channel (animal planet). Ask a neighbor to just drop by, to water house plants, or put large mail on the table, give the dog a potty break, be sure to leave a long term (SAFE) chewy type treat. Stuffed Kong. Make sure YOU (as the owner) walks the dog AM and PM. Else throw the ball in a big yard. That is often enough to settle a dog during the day. Having 2 pets ALWAYS helps! Trade care time with a neighbor's pet.

Posted by: Pacificsun | May 6, 2018 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Nine years ago my husband passed away and one month later, almost to the day, I had to put my beloved terrier X down at age 14! I had to work and there was no one at home all day. Needless to say I was craving to have a fur kid in my life but knew that it would not be fair to a buddy to be home alone for extended periods of time. So many of my friends and acquaintances were pushing me to go out and adopt a friend. I got very tired of trying to get my point across that I would not take on a dog that would be home alone. These people would respond with "people do it all the time"! Well, I am not one of those people. Seven years ago I got offered a 14 month old male golden retriever (FREE) through a mutual friend. I was over the moon with excitement as I was just at the point where I could afford to leave work and stay at home. When my boy came to me it became known that he had been crated all day and the only exercise he got was from the babysitter with a short walk around the block. The family that gave him up said that he would not stop jumping up on their handicapped daughter so they were willing to give him away. They told their son that the baby sitter took the dog to the vet and the dog died. First red flag. Keep in mind that this is a very young dog!! These people had said that the dog loved his crate but when I left him in there to go out one morning I could hear him howling when I got in my vehicle. After 15 minutes I returned to the house. The next time I left him for 30 minutes and so on. Eventually I left the crate door open and he had free reign of the house. The maximum amount of time I have ever left him in the past 7 years has been 6 hours. The crate was packed up two years ago and sold. He gave up going in there for naps when I took his pillow out to wash it and had put a temporary one in there. He refused to go in there and even after his usual bed was put back in place he still refused. Would not consider ever getting a crate again and would never get a dog unless I could dedicate my time to him. Just my opinion!

Posted by: MissMyZiggy | May 6, 2018 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for this relevant article. It is imperative that we, as owners and guardians, begin to take seriously all the facets of our dogsí daily requirements. Indeed, enrichment, WALKS, social (human and canine) interaction, play time, even training are crucial to the fabric of their lives. Although people have good intentions when bringing home a dog, at times, they fall short. Consequently, the faithful companion suffers dearly. This can open up, as Nancy eloquently describes, a whole host of new issues, and I would add depression. Yes, dogs are sentient creatures that suffer from sadness too. When I left for work, I caged my beloved Greyhound in the first few days of having adopted him. He was beyond miserable and nearly tore out his canine teeth. It is only when we observe, listen and modify accordingly that we afford our dogs a healthy, happy and complete life.

Posted by: Houndz6 | May 6, 2018 12:36 PM    Report this comment

I totally agree with your article. Having rescued two dogs 4 years ago, I vowed never to leave them home alone all day. I have the benefit of flexible working hours and only a ten minute commute so manage to work my day around going home at lunch time to go for a half hour walk. When I can't get away from work I use a dog day care facility. Although my two dogs have each other, they both crave attention from their humans more than anything else in the world. I would love to work from home or be able to afford more days at day care for them as I still hate to leave them for 4 hours. Couldn't imagine leaving them all day.

Posted by: CSM21 | May 6, 2018 12:32 PM    Report this comment

I rescued a two year old, male Collie, last year. The rescue and owner that was surrendering the dog, insisted that he have his crate, I must put his crate up, he loves his crate. I got home and put the large crate in our bedroom. My dog never stepped foot in that crate, the first night or any day after so I took "that crate" and donated it. I also figured out why they had that crate. They worked all day and were never sure when they were coming home, so an 80 lb Collie stayed in a crate all day, until hey got home. (I'm screaming, right about now) I also discovered that they would grab him by his collar and make him go int he crate. (screaming again) When I would go to pet him or get close to his head he'd go lower to the ground and cower down. I took his collar off, hoping that would help, that he'd understand that now, no one could grab him by the collar and it has helped. He's not destructive in any way and I can leave him alone during the day, if I need to. He loves his new home and can sleep and lay where he wants, now. If u have a dog and your work all day and keep it in a crate. STOP I can't think of anyone who would want to put in a crate all day. That's not a life. It's a prison sentence. If u don't believe me, get in a crate and stay there for 6-8 hours or more. Good luck!

Posted by: dorothyj111 | May 6, 2018 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for this article. You're going to get a lot of rebuttals, mostly from people who work all day and are getting defensive! I often wonder why people get dogs, and then leave them along most of the time. You have to do what's right for the dog, and if you can't spend a lot of time with him, don't get a dog!

Posted by: BaristaLady | May 6, 2018 11:16 AM    Report this comment

My two German shepherds are in-and-out dogs, meaning they essentially live in the garden but may come in occasionally (only as far as the hall). I train and work with them on a daily basis. They have absolutely no problem being left at home, even when we go away for a few days and the person responsible for feeding them AND playing with them comes only once a day. There are a few tricks to it. First of all, I tire them as much as I can, by teaching and practicing tricks, preparing for exams etc. (Same applies to anybody dogsitting for us). An hour of really intensive work (and not only walking) can knock them out for the rest of the day. The other trick is that there are two of them, so if they are really bored, they can entertain each other. The third trick is living outside - they receive a great deal more stimuli there than in an apartment (and of course they can relieve themselves whenever they want). The reason why I know they are OK with being alone is that they do not damage anything, do not dig holes and the neighbors never complain about barking (while other dogs in the neighborhood sometimes bark hours on end...)

Posted by: tre | May 6, 2018 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Hmm, so during the night, when I am asleep, I need to set an alarm to wake up at 4-6 hours to let the dog out? Should you leave your dog alone for the amount of time most normal people work (and can't come home to let them out) and not exercise them? No. but please don't tell people they can't leave a dog alone for normal working hours (about eight for those who are wondering), we already have a problem getting dogs adopted in the US. Since most people work, don't install this fallacy in their mind that they are a bad dog owner if they can't let their pooch out every 4 hours.

Posted by: erikamc | May 4, 2018 11:29 PM    Report this comment

Thank you so much for this excellent article addressing this issue. I have been horrified in recent years to learn that it seems to be common practice among many to cage their dogs like lab animals for extended periods of time, although they use the euphemism, "crate." It's a cage. I have never and will never cage my dogs. They are part of the family, and this is their home. I work from home full time now, but when i did not, my dogs always had free run of the house and a dog door leading to a large fenced back yard so they can relieve themselves whenever they wish, get some fresh air, or play. If you are concerned about undesirable activity during the day, you can set up some webcams that allow you to check on your dogs and even speak to them during the day.

Posted by: BJG | April 30, 2018 7:31 PM    Report this comment

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