As a dog owner, it is virtually inevitable that you will at some point have to leave your pooch at home alone.
This is because, as much as you would love to take your favorite companion everywhere you go, some destinations are not pet friendly.
For instance, few offices will allow you bring your Mastiff to work. The same goes for some schooling environments. And this makes it rather common for dog owners to leave their dogs alone for long hours.
The question, however, is whether these long hours of being home alone have any psychological effect on the dog?
In other words, how long is too long? How healthy is it to have your dog in isolation for long periods?
Many dog owners will not admit this but don’t be surprised to find out lots of them have left their dogs all alone for 12-28 hours.
Not too long ago, it was commonly acceptable to abandon your dogs for as much as a day or two.
This is especially the case when the dog owner travels for short trips. Most owners feel that once there is ample food and water, the dog will be fine. But is this the case? So once again we have to ask what length of time is not too long.
How Long Is Too Long?
Generally, leaving your dog alone for 12-24 hours is now regarded as too long. It should be noted, however, that the time suitable for dogs to be kept at home for long is dependent on breed, size and age.
Let’s look at this matter from the point of view of the age of dogs.
- Puppies should not be left alone for more than 2 hours a day. One of the reasons for this is that they pee more often and will require more attention.
Puppies are prone to developing separation anxiety if they are left alone for long hours at a very young age. Staying home alone is just something they are not used to.
- For adult dogs, these can be left for about 4-6 hours a day. Adult dogs are more accustomed to being alone for longer hours.
They will probably take naps when they know you are not around as they would have come to see your periodic absence as normal.
- When it comes to elderly dogs, this could be a bit tricky. If your elderly dog has health challenges, they will typically require more attention.
Therefore, leaving them home alone for more than two hours will certainly not be advisable. However, if the elderly dog is healthy, then it could be left at home for as long as six hours.
Bear in mind that these are only recommendations. Different dog breeds and their unique behavioral patterns will determine how long they can be kept at home.
Because dogs are different and will behave differently, you as the dog owner, are in the best position to know how your dog reacts to being left alone for long.
- Knowing your dog’s potty routine is another vital determinant to know how long your dog can be kept at home.
Irrespective of age and size, the more frequently your dog needs to relieve itself, the less advisable it will be to keep your dog at home for longer.
Keeping urine for long hours in the bladder could lead to urinary tract infection. This is what makes potty an important determinant in determining the length of hours your dog can stay home.
- Dogs are social animals. They love to interact. They love to be around people and in some cases, other dogs. Keeping dogs at home longer than they should be makes them lonely.
Yes, dogs get lonely. They don’t like to be lonely either. This means as much as possible, allow your dog time to mix with people every day as much as possible.
Be careful with puppies, especially. Puppies less than four weeks old should not be left at home all day.
At this very young age, puppies are socially sensitive. Therefore, they will benefit from lots of social interaction. It is important that very young puppies spend more time in the company of their families.
- One of the negatives of keeping your dog home alone for long hours includes the formation of bad habits.
Habits such as scratching, biting, chewing on furniture and clothes, binge eating and possibly getting lost are easily developed by lonely dogs. These are not habits you want to see in your dog.
Preparing Your Dog To Stay Home Alone
As we already pointed out, it is inevitable to have to leave your dog at home occasionally.
Leaving your dogs at home is not really the problem. It’s leaving them at home for long hours and doing this often that could become a problem for your dog.
So, you could train your dog to be ready to stay home alone. Here are some steps to take to prepare your dog for your absence.
- Wear your shoes and prepare to leave the house so that your dog is aware that you are about to leave.
If the dog starts to panic, ignore it. Do this repeatedly every day. With time, your dog will get used to you leaving the house. This helps to avoid the dog slipping into separation anxiety.
- When you return home, embrace your dog warmly. This trains the dog to know that your arrival is a normal occurrence.
With time, your dog will get used to your arrival and will not consider it a special event. It also learns to expect your return whenever you leave the house.
- After returning home, instruct your dog to go to its bed. When it obeys this instruction, relax it calmly and let it feel loved and warm.
- Before leaving your dog, something else you could do to make your departure easier for the dog is to tire them out before your departure.
This could be through some rigorous morning exercises or a morning walks. The dog is more likely to sleep off afterwards. This gives you the opportunity to leave the home without any issues.
- When you are away and your dog is left alone, consider leaving your dog small treats and fun toys to play with.
This can help prevent unwanted boredom behaviour like biting and peeing in inappropriate places.
However, be careful not to leave your dog with a dog treat or dog toy that could be chewed and swallowed.
- Restrict your dog’s access to only areas where they are comfortable especially when you have just started to leave them alone.
Only when they have become comfortable within this restricted space can they be left to be on their own and move around where they desire.
Alternatives To Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
Even though there is an inevitability of leaving your dogs at home for long hours, you can take certain steps to minimize the time your dog spends alone even in your absence. Here are a few things you could do.
Consider Dog Daycare
Look out for clean dog daycare centers with qualified staff who understand your dog and are capable of managing interactions between your dog and other dogs at the center.
Note, however, that dog daycare centers are not ideal for young puppies. As earlier said, this is the age they are socially sensitive and require more time with family than outsiders.
Hire A Dog Walker
As a dog owner, you probably already know about professional dog walkers available for hire.
Professional dog walkers could provide quick house visits, neighborhood walks or even training days. A training day is when a dog walker comes over to train your dog alone.
Now, while professional dog walkers could really help to keep your dog occupied and socially engaged while you are away, be careful when it comes to hiring them.
There are some terrible dog walking services around. Hire dog walkers from reputable companies who can guarantee your safety and who will take responsibility for irresponsible dog walkers.
Work From Home
When you can afford to, consider working from your home to spend time with your dog. Our dogs are our most loyal friends and, in some cases, our best companions.
Making the little sacrifice of working from home to spend more time with them is something our dogs deserve.
More so, you can now leverage technology and telecommunication gadgets to communicate with your office while you spend some more time with your dog.
Drop In For Lunch
You could make it a routine to always come home to have your lunch. This breaks the stretch of long hours your dog spends away from you per day.
And just like the sacrifice you could make for working from home occasionally, this one isn’t too much for your loyal friend.
Ask For Help From A Friend
If you know someone in your neighborhood, perhaps a friend, a dog lover or any buddy who is willing to help, you could ask them to help give your dog a walk around while you are away at work.
This will require a good degree of trust, though. Be sure you know whomever you will entrust the safety of your dog to.
Help your dog to also be comfortable around the person. And this could even be a cheaper alternative to hiring a dog walker.
Now that we can see that leaving your dog in isolation for long hours is not an advisable thing, we encourage you to do your best to spend more time with your dog as much as you can.
Better still figure out how to get your dog socially engaged while you are away from them. It might cost you more to get your dog active while you are away, but in the long run, it’s all worth it.
You want your dog happy, healthy and in a good state of mind. Also, you won’t want your dog picking up those annoying boredom habits just because you don’t have enough time with them.
Be ready to go out of your way to make your dog as comfortable and as productive as they can be even in your absence.
While you are out at work, at school or any other dog restricted zone, give your dog the opportunity to also stimulate their social nerves and be more socially engaged.
When you really look at it, it’s not too much of a bother to prevent your dog from getting bored, all alone and by itself.
So, whether it is for you to spend a little more money sending your pooch to a dog daycare or it is hiring a professional dog walker, know that nothing is too much to give your dog the best experience it can get as your best friend.