What you need to know about leaving your dog home alone

Photo Credit:Adrianna Calvo via www.pexels.com

We all feel guilty when we close the door on our dog, knowing that they are going to be in the house by themselves until we return.

However, dogs can be perfectly happy with this – as long as they have been trained to be alone and you consider a few things first:

How long can dogs be left for?  

Puppies: 2 hours

Adult dogs: 4 – 6 hours

Elderly dogs: 2 – 6 hours

If you must go out longer than the above you should arrange for your dog to stay with someone or for them to pop into your home. They can let your dog out to go to the toilet and if you are going to be significantly longer, take them for a walk or just spend some time with them.

Why can’t dogs be left too long?

Unless you have trained your dog to use the toilet (which is unlikely!) they won’t be able to go until you return. They may be able to hold their bladder for a while but you don’t want them to have to cross their legs all day.

Puppies will need to go to the toilet more than adult dogs which is why the time they can be left for is significantly shorter. They are also not used to being on their own and can get separation anxiety.

Adult dogs can be left alone slightly longer because they will have become used to it. Elderly dogs are, of course, similar to adult dogs but may need you there more regularly if they have health issues.

As well as needing to go to the toilet, dogs are also social creatures – they enjoy your company and can get lonely when you are not around for long periods of time.

What to do before you go out:

  • Take your dog for a long walk so they have had exercise and may well sleep while you are gone
  • Make sure they have access to fresh water, food, toys and their bed
  • Ensure they have had a chance to go out to the toilet just before you go
  • Do arrange doggy daycare or for a dog walker or friend to pop in if you are going to be out for a long time.

What not to do before you go out:

  • Don’t give them free rein of the house – especially at the beginning
  • Don’t make a fuss about leaving (or coming back!)
  • Don’t get them excited, you want them to be as calm and relaxed as possible
  • Don’t give into whining and howling – however hard it may be.

How to deal with separation anxiety:

Some dogs, particularly puppies and rescue dogs, can get separation anxiety. This is when they become stressed as soon as you are not around and can result in destructive behaviour.

Dogs need to be left alone as soon as possible, to teach them that this is ok and to avoid them developing anxieties about it. But, if they already have separation anxiety, leaving them becomes even harder. You don’t want to see them distressed but also, you do not want to return to find they have been to the toilet in your house or chewed your furniture.

So, how do you deal with separation anxiety?

  1. Increase the time your dog is left alone for gradually. Start with a few minutes of you just in the other room and then start to build it up from there.
  2. Begin by using a gate, so they can get used to being alone while still seeing and smelling that you are there.
  3. Make the space safe and comfortable – you can get items, including beds that have been designed specifically for anxious dogs.
  4. Don’t punish your dog for any destructive behaviour while they have been alone
  5. Sounds help – again, many things have been designed for dogs with separation anxiety including DogTV, My Dog’s Favourite Podcast on Spotify and playlist on YouTube – apparently dogs like soft rock and reggae best!
  6. Speak to an expert – if you can’t deal with the issue alone then speak to an expert – they’ll be able to offer help and advice specific to your dogs needs.

Remember, every dog is different and you’ll get to know and understand your own quite quickly. Some may never have an issue being left alone while others could take a long time to get used to it. But, follow the above and you’ll soon find you can leave the house safe in the knowledge that your dog is quite happy to be on their own for a while.

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