It may shock you to hear this, but there's a lot of conflicting information on the internet. And somewhere among that conflicting information is the answer to the question, "how long can you leave a dog home alone?"
The real answer is that it depends on a number of factors.
Important disclaimer: When leaving a dog home alone for any amount of time, always make sure they have access to water!
It would be unfair for racing dogs such as a greyhound to be forced to be indoors with no exercise all day long. A high energy dog like a Dalmation or Labradoodle might develop negaative behaviors such as separation anxiety if they don't get to use up their energy. Dog owners often choose family dogs like a golden retriever, but they too are active dogs who need long walks. Even a small dog like a Maltese needs regular short walks.
A dog's age can determine how frequently they need to use the bathroom.
Overall, dogs shouldn't be left alone for more than 8 hours. How long your dog can wait to go to the bathroom depends on their age.
- Puppies: a good rule of thumb is "one hour per month." So a two-month puppy can "hold it" for two hours.
- After 6 months old: most dogs can hold it for six hours or even longer (but preferably not longer).
- Senior dogs (age 8+): these dogs need bathroom breaks every 2-6 hours, depending on their exact age and other factors.
However, bladder control isn't the only factor to consider. One question to ask yourself is, "how much damage is my pooch likely to do when I'm gone?" If you have a puppy, the answer is probably, "a lot." For their sake and the sake of all your possessions, it's wise not to leave your puppy alone for more than a couple hours.
If you have to be gone for long periods of time, for instance if you travel a lot or work full time outside of the home, consider getting a dog sitter or dog walker. A helper like this can take your furry friend to the dog park or for long walks, so by the time you come home, your dog may be more interested in lounging.
Some dog breeds need more exercise than others.
Though age is a bigger consideration than breed, some breeds require more exercise than others. The breed of dog does make a difference on whether they are couch potatoes or not. Big dogs like a bullmastiff need more exercise than small dogs, like a Dachshund.
If you have, for example, a young border collie, you're looking at a pretty energetic dog who will require more exercise (and thus less time alone) each day. Long hours sitting at home with nothing to do will be difficult for this type of dog.
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If your dog is a middle-aged greyhound or other lower-energy breed, they'll more likely be a low-maintenance dog who requires less exercise and is more likely to chill on the couch while you're gone. (This is a generalization, however: all dogs have different personalities and life experiences, and you can't base anything on breed alone!)
The size of your home matters.
If you live in a house with a safe, fenced yard and a doggie door, you can, obviously, leave your dog alone for longer than city dwellers with no outside space. Similarly, if you live in a large apartment with more space for your dog to roam around, you can leave them for longer than you could in a small apartment.
Crated vs. Free Range
If your dog is crate trained and stays in their crate while you're out, they're less likely to be destructive, but they're in a restricted space. Puppies under 6 months old should not be crated for more than 3-4 hours, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Adult dogs can generally be crated overnight and for about half a day, provided their needs are being met when they're out of the crate. This includes physical needs (bathroom, food,) as well as social and mental stimulation. On the flip side, if your dog is "free range," they might get destructive if they're left alone too long, and no one wants that.
MORE: How To Crate Train A Puppy
If you crate your dog, make sure they have access to water. A great solution is a dog water bottle that attaches to the side of their crate.
Be sure to provide mental stimulation to dogs who are left home alone.
All dogs need mental stimulation, and young dogs need more of it. Not only that, but too much napping can lead to obesity. Make sure your dog stays stimulated while you're gone by providing enriching toys, especially ones that you can hide food in, like treat puzzles, snuffle mats, or Kongs. This stimulation will prevent boredom and ward off destructive behaviors (at least for a period of time).
Dogs have different needs.
All dogs' needs are different. The amount of time you can safely leave your dog alone will depend on the dog's age, breed, energy levels, and various other factors. Puppies and seniors will need to go out to use the bathroom more often. Beyond those guidelines, you can always ask your vet or trainer for advice for how long is best to leave your specific dog at home — they'll be able to give you some tips based on their knowledge of your dog.
Read More About Various Dog Breeds
Read about some common small dogs
Read about some common medium and large dogs
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.