To leave a dog alone for eight hours:
- Build up to it gradually
- Consider the breed, age, and character of the dog
- Walk them first to tire them out
- Make sure they are safe
- Leave them some interactive toys
- Go home at lunch if you can
- Consider asking a friend or relative to pop in
You probably have times when you need to leave your dog home alone. It is essential to know how many hours you can safely leave them for. Even if your dog is well adjusted and happy to be left alone for a few hours, you need to know the limits.
If you work full time, you may be wondering how to manage your dog at home alone. You might wonder if eight hours is too long, and what you should do about it.
I have researched this topic in depth and discovered there are lots of things you can do to make sure your dog is healthy, happy, and content to be alone. If you need some answers to this thorny topic that everyone seems to have a different opinion on, you are in the right place to get them.
Ideally your dog should be left alone no longer than four hours
If you have a puppy, you should reduce that time to two hours. If you are thinking about bringing a puppy into your home and you work full time, this may not be the best time to do so.
All dogs, regardless of age, breed, size, and character, should be able to go to the toilet every four hours, six at most. You need to think about that as the baseline – the most important element to consider when leaving your dog alone.
However, you probably cannot afford to stay home all day or go part time in your job. So, you need to come up with a plan to allow you and your pooch to manage those eight hours or so during the day.
I’ve put together some solutions for you, gleaned from extensive research and personal experience. Together, they’ll give you the knowledge you need to make sure your dog is safe and happy for the time they’re on their own.
Consider arranging visits to break up the day
Lots of people work full time out of the house. You may do too, hence why you searched for information on leaving your pooch alone for eight hours.
If your job requires you to be out of the house for eight hours or more, you need to think about breaking up that length of time. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Going home for lunch to see your dog and let them out in the garden
- Asking a friend, relative, or neighbor to pop round once or twice
- Hiring a dog walker to take them out for you
There are a couple other possibilities too. Doggy daycare is available in many cities and rural locations. This gives you the chance to drop your pooch off before work and pick them up afterward.
The downside to this is the cost. If you did this every day you were at work, the costs would soon mount up.
Another option is to take your dog with you to work. However, unless you own the business or work somewhere laid-back enough to allow your pet to regularly accompany you, chances are this isn’t an option.
Finding someone to come and visit your dog if you cannot do it yourself is the best bet. However, you should consider the responsibility you are placing on someone else to do this. Find someone you know you can trust.
If you use a dog walking service, do your due diligence and research to find someone with a good reputation. There are online services that match you with dog walkers and sitters in your area. Some require the walkers and sitters to be checked before theyprovide the service.
Make sure your dog is tired from a walk before you leave them
I don’t know about your dog, but our Bichon is bouncy in the morning. Super bouncy. After a belly rub first thing, she’s ready for a decent morning walk.
If that morning walk didn’t happen, I’m certain she would be a fluffy bundle of boundless energy looking for something to do. If she gets her walk – anything between two and four miles, mostly – she’s fine. She snoozes for hours afterward.
So, if you are going to leave your dog alone for anything approaching eight hours, make sure you have worn them out through a long walk first. If you don’t commit to this, you are much more likely to have destructive behavior waiting for you when you get home.
Now, this could mean you end up needing to get up an hour or so earlier than you normally would – all year round. But consider the alternative. The possibility of an anxious dog with lots of energy to expend,and they are going to find a way to do that in your home.
I must admit, I love the 6am walk Freya and I have together. It’s quiet, we don’t see too many people, and it’s a great time for us to bond. It’s beneficial for me too – not just for her.
Look for other ways to keep your dog entertained during the day
There are lots of ways you can do this, such as:
- Leaving the TV or radio on if your dog likes that (our Bichon loves watching the tennis, especially Wimbledon!)
- Investing in some good quality dog toys they can play with
- Finding some toys that are designed to be filled with peanut butter or something similar
- Buying a challenging toy that requires your dog to figure out how to get a treat out (the Kong Wobbler is perfect for this)
Freya has a Kong Wobbler. We put her kibble in it sometimes. It is weighted at the bottom with sand (sealed for safety), and she must nose butt it to wobble it enough for the kibble to fall out of the holes.
Top tip – if you try one of these, keep your feet off the floor or put some steel toe-capped boots on while your dog is using the Wobbler. Freya picks hers up and throws it on occasion. Believe me when I say you don’t want one of those landing on your toes!
I also read an interesting tip from Dr Marty Becker DVM, who mentioned that it is important to choose an appropriate radio station if you try this idea. I hadn’t thought about this, but he’s right – some relaxing classical music is way better than a radio station where people become combative with each other.
If you find it relaxing to listen to, chances are your dog will too.
The idea behind all these suggestions is the same, though – you are giving your dog challenges, ways to keep themselves occupied. If they’ve had a long walk before you go out, they’ll likely sleep for hours… but when they do wake up, you want to know they’ve got things to do that are safe and enjoyable.
Consider getting an interactive camera with two-way audio
These modern devices are superb. Many of them work with smartphones, so once you have the software installed, you can check in on your dog during the day. If they bark, you get an alert.
If you have a relative or friend close by, they might also be willing to keep an eye on your dog from their home using this method. If they are happy to help you, they might then pop round to see your dog if they see the dog is restless.
If you do end up asking a friend or relative to help and they are genuinely willing to get involved, make sure you reward them too. A bouquet of flowers, some chocolates, a cash payment… work out what seems best in their case. Don’t let their help go unnoticed, though.
Some of these interactive cameras come with a dispenser that you can pre-fill with treats, too. You can speak to your dog, get their attention, and praise them for being good. And yes, you can then get the camera unit to dispense a treat for them to eat.
Some breeds are happier to be left alone than others
Typical examples include:
- Miniature poodle
That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. You’ll notice a commonality with those breeds too – they’re all small. Some large breeds are better able to adapt to being alone for a while, but they need more space.
I did spot the Bichon making it onto some of those lists too though. I disagree with that, as many Bichon owners, groomers, and breeders I have spoken to say they do love company and aren’t as keen being alone for ages. Our Bichon wouldn’t be keen on it, that’s for sure! A short time, maybe, but not eight hours.
Top tip: Do your research if you haven’t got a dog yet and you’re unsure which breed to get
Look at reliable sources of information such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) site. If you want to get a dog, this is your chance to choose a breed that is more suitable for those who work each day.
Some dogs are naturally happier to spend time alone too
Be aware that it’s not just the breed that determines how likely it is your dog will be fine on their own for a time.
Our Bichon Frise, Freya, much prefers to come with us wherever we go. We work from home though and have done so all the time we’ve had her. Even then, she gets a long walk first thing in the morning every day.
That’s our routine. She’s then happy to snooze for a while. She’ll take herself off for some peace and quiet too.
If I get up to do something though, she’s there – she is just incredibly nosy.
We wouldn’t leave her for eight hours – and usually not more than a couple. She either comes with us, or we take her to a local kennel for the day if we need to go out. It’s a great place – safe, comfortable, and she has known everyone there since she was a puppy.
Opting to take your dog to a kennel every day wouldn’t be ideal though. Fortunately, I have plenty more solutions to help you if you’re trying to find a way around this situation with your own dog.
Dogs with separation anxiety are much harder to leave alone
If your dog hates you to even leave the room, much less the house, you should consider professional dog training to help resolve the issues.
If you find yourself in this situation, you are going to have an upset and anxious dog – perhaps even frightened – if you leave them for eight hours. It takes lots of training and repeated sessions of leaving your dog for just a few minutes and working up to longer separations to resolve this problem.
How to make sure your dog is safe when left at home
Consider the layout of your home. A friend of ours had a tiled kitchen, and she left her dog home alone in there when she went to work. She had a dog gate up, so her pooch couldn’t go anywhere else in the house.
If he did pee on the floor (he never did), it was easy to clean up. The only things in the kitchen were his bed, his water, some toys, and a blanket to sleep on. Nothing he could get into trouble with.
She worked locally too, so she would drive home every lunchtime to let him out for a run in the garden while she ate lunch. She then returned to work, knowing that he was fine for the afternoon.
She would also arrange for her sister to pop in once a week on her day off, so her pooch got a longer walk that day too. It’s a great example of how she put a few of the tips in this article together to create a solution.
Consider whether a crate might be safer
The bottom line is this – if you use a crate, do not leave your dog in it for eight hours. Four would be the maximum in this instance. Even then, it would likely only be an option if you have previously crate trained your dog, and they see it as a safe place to be.
If your home doesn’t have a safe area to work with, a crate can give you that area. Make sure you get a crate that is large enough for your dog to stand up and move around in. It should also have room for their bed and some water and their favorite toys.
However, even a large crate is not going to provide tons of room for your dog. If you choose this option, you should make sure you can return home during the day or have someone else look in on them to let them out.
See if you can split your time between working from home and being at your workplace
Worth mentioning, even though this cannot be done in every line of work. If you’re a police officer, you can’t do this, nor could you if you worked at a mall.
However, if you work in an office with a laid-back attitude to a work-life balance, you might be able to adjust your hours to spend half the day at work and half at home. It might be worth asking if it is a possibility.
Build up to leaving them for eight hours if you must
Let’s suppose you got a rescue dog and spent two weeks getting them settled into your home. If you then went back to full days at work, it would be a surprise if your dog felt cool with that from the start.
Easing them into being alone for eight hours or so is vital.
With Freya, my partner and I started by putting her in her crate when she was a puppy. We walked around the block, which took us about 10 minutes. We didn’t acknowledge her before we left or when we got back. We made sure we didn’t make a big thing of going out.
We didn’t have a camera, so we set up one of our iPhones to record her while we were out. We could then watch the footage when we got back.
To start with, she howled a bit (that always surprised her as she clearly wondered who was making the noise!). We made sure we went out every day. After a few days, it didn’t bother her anymore.
When she was a bit older, we left the crate door open, so she could still use it as a safe place to curl up. We also extended our trips out – first to 30 minutes, then to an hour, and then slightly longer.
Going from spending your time with your dog to disappearing for eight hours straight is going to be tough. Work on extending that time gradually if you can.
Leave them something with your scent on
I sacrificed one of my old t-shirts for this purpose. I wore it for a couple days (I know, it sounds stinky), and then gave it to Freya. She loved that t-shirt.
I think we ended up with a couple of t-shirts we used to rotate. She’d always have one in her bed and the other in the wash. I’d then wear it again for a bit or just rub my face on it for a while before giving it back to her.
It’s a neat trick – maybe not obvious, but it does help.
Leaving them to work a night shift could present different issues
Dogs are daytime animals, so they usually sleep through the night. If you work nights, leaving your dog for eight hours may not cause as many issues as it would if you worked the usual 9am to 5pm shift.
Some experimentation would be needed here, though. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, they’re not magically going to settle for you going out, just because it’s night-time, and they are ready to sleep.
Similarly, if your dog tends to howl or bark occasionally when you are out, you’re going to have some annoyed neighbors if you go out to work at night.
Think about talking to your neighbors if you are in this situation. Ideally, you might be living with someone who will be there at night anyway, so the home alone scenario wouldn’t arise.
The good news is that adult dogs should be able to go through the night without needing to pee or poop. That means you could let them out to the bathroom before you go to work, then be safe in the knowledge they should be fine until you get home.
Your dog can be happy alone for a few hours
That’s the bottom line. Just don’t assume it happens by magic. If you work at it, using the solutions I have presented you with here, you should find it is a lot easier than it might otherwise have been.