The Best Breeds of Dog for Leaving Alone

In an ideal world, dog owners are home 24/7 to play with their furry friends. In reality, many dogs must entertain themselves during the workday so their people can work, earn cash and buy kibble. If you’re considering adding a dog to your busy family, choose a breed that is independent, sedentary and well-suited to being left alone.

sharpei portrait
Close-up of an older Chinese Shar-Pei on porch.
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Small Dogs

Norfolk Terrier
A small Norfolk terrier dog.
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If you’re looking for a tiny companion who will greet you at the door at the end of a long day with a well-adjusted wag of the tail, try the Norfolk terrier. He weighs in at a mere 12 pounds and stands only 10 inches tall at the shoulder. He’s an affectionate, independent little guy who is happy as long as you leave him some toys while you’re gone. He doesn’t tend to bark much, but he does love to dig so he’ll do best if left indoors while you’re gone.

The miniature schnauzer weighs in at only 11 to 20 pounds, but he thinks he’s a much bigger dog. He’s spunky, intelligent and quick to train. The schnauzer originally was bred as a rat dog. He shouldn’t be left alone in homes with pet rodents. This breed likes his exercise, though if your home or yard is big enough, he can be happy running around on his own. He’s patient with children and protective when strangers are around.

Medium Dogs

Shar-pei dog puppy portrait
A Chinese Shar-Pei dog sitting on the grass.
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Some call him lazy, others prefer more flattering terms such as “laid-back.” The basset hound is a medium-sized breed whose idea of the perfect day includes napping on the couch, getting up for a sip of water, then taking another nap on the floor. He’s not hyper enough to tear up your furniture or get into the trash, but you might consider getting a second dog to keep him company during the day, as he’ll howl if he gets bored.

The sturdy Chinese Shar-Pei is independent, so much so that it’s important to socialize him with other pets and humans when he’s a puppy. He’s content to hang out at home, as long as he’s in a climate-controlled space; he tends to overheat easily due to his short snout. He needs little grooming to stay clean, which is an added bonus for a busy family.

Large Dogs

Labrador retriever
Close-up of Labrador Retriever.
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While it might seem as though the largest of dogs need the most exercise, that isn’t always the case. The bullmastiff can grow to as much as 130 pounds, but requires only minimal workouts. He’s calm and sensitive and can be used as a therapy dog. He’ll be happy enough confined in an apartment and will love outdoor access if you have a fenced yard. His short coat requires little grooming, but be prepared for some sloppy kisses.

If you’re willing to consider adopting an older dog, opt for a Labrador retriever. While Lab puppies tend to be hyperactive, older dogs calm down considerably and can be left to their own devices during the day. Access to a fenced yard is ideal, but a Lab can be happy settled into the house as long as he’s left with some toys. Labs are highly intelligent and enjoy “smart” toys such as Kongs or other puzzle toys that dispense treats with manipulation. They’re easy to train, affectionate and don’t tend to bark.

Though both of these breeds enjoy being outdoors, the ideal situation is a home where they can hang out both indoors and out. A doggy door, fenced yard and plenty of access to water gives them the opportunity to get fresh air while still affording the protection of the indoors.

Considerations for Busy People

Man walking multiple dogs
A professional dog walker with a large group of dogs, walking down the street.
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If you want to add a dog to your busy family but won’t be home much, consider waiting until your schedule allows you to spend more time with your canine companion. Though the breeds listed here can do well left on their own for hours, they still need the love and affection of an invested owner. Consider hiring a dog walker to give your dog a walk and some human interaction during the day. Another alternative is dog day care, where you can drop your pup off on your way to work and let him play with other puppy friends while you’re gone. Finally, consider adding a second dog to your family. While dogs certainly need their humans, the companionship of another canine keeps them from suffering from loneliness while you're at work.