3 min read

How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone?


As all dog owners know, having a dog means having a schedule. You arrange work hours, social outings, and errands based on when you can get home. If you’re like most people, you sometimes skip a night out because you feel guilty leaving your dog home alone. All dogs are different, and some can handle more alone time than others. But every dog needs periodic potty breaks, exercise, and mental simulation. If your work schedule means your dog spends most of the day home alone, consider hiring a trustworthy professional to stop by and give your dog a break.

Consider Potty Breaks

The first question most people ask about leaving their dog home alone is: how long can my dog last without a bathroom break? According to National Geographic, dogs generally need to pee between three to five times a day. But the timing of potty breaks varies from dog to dog, and puppies and seniors need more frequent breaks.

How long can a dog “hold it” before needing a potty break? Here are common time limits for dogs of different life stages:

  • Puppies: one hour per every month of age (so a three month old puppy can wait three hours to pee)
  • Adult dogs age one year and up: up to eight hours, but ideally no more than six
  • Senior dogs age eight and up: depending on size and health, anywhere from two to six hours
Of course, the above estimates vary depending on a dog’s size, health, and habits. But any dog forced to hold their urine for too long is at risk for urinary tract infection, stones, or crystals. Plus, holding urine for too long is just plain uncomfortable, and can lead to accidents in the house.

For safety and comfort’s sake,  provide a potty break ever four to six hours. Standard work days are eight to ten hours long, so if you can’t swing home at lunch to take the dog out, hire a dog walker for worry-free care.

A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

Beyond potty breaks, your dog needs physical activity during the day. Whatever your dog’s energy and fitness level, exercise helps them:
  • Stay healthy
  • Digest meals
  • Stimulate their mind
  • Burn calories
  • Avoid boredom (and boredom-induced destructive behaviors)
Individual exercise needs vary depending on your dog’s age, breed, and health level. Herding and sporting dogs often require more intense and lengthy activity; lower-energy breeds and older dogs can do with significantly less. But every dog needs to stretch its legs a couple times a day.

In general, healthy dogs need about 60 minutes of moderate activity every day, but it doesn’t have to be continuous. Before you leave your dog home alone for a length of time, spend 20-30 minutes taking them for a brisk walk or play session. Tire them out so their alone time will be more relaxing. Then, a midday romp (with you or a dog walker) will help break up the day, and of course, spend quality time together when you’re home for the night!

If your dog acts anxious or destructive after spending time alone, it’s possible they need more frequent and intense exercise. Speak to your vet to determine an ideal fitness routine for your pet.

Keep Them Mentally Stimulated

Kong is King

The simplest use is to stuff one of these hard rubber toys with peanut butter and leave it out for your dog. For a more time-consuming use of your KONG, mix up a concoction of kibble and wet dog food and put that inside, and place the KONG in the freezer overnight. Before you leave for work, put it out for the dog and allow him to eat his meal slowly while he works on getting the food out as it thaws.

Doggie Pops

To follow the trend of homemade entertainment for your pet, you can create a doggie popsicle. Pour some chicken broth into a Tupperware container and toss in some pet treats. I like to drop a couple dollops of peanut butter into the broth too. You can also put in a few baby carrots or your dog’s favorite treat.

Once you have created this concoction of canine happiness, put it in the freezer overnight. Before you leave the next morning, run some warm water over the Tupperware to loosen up the popsicle and pop it out.

Giving this to your dog is a fun way to keep him hydrated and is best given outside on a warm day. It is particularly good to give your dog this treat if he has any degree of separation anxiety. Frequently offering your dog something like this when you leave will help him create a positive association with your departure.

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