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Leaving Your Dog Home Alone: A Practical Guide

Leaving Your Dog Home Alone: A Practical Guide

Many of us would take our dogs with us wherever we go… And it’s relatively easy to do in our fair city. But there are some instances where we can’t take our best fur pals along, as work, social gatherings, and certain restaurants may not allow pets. 

Leaving your dog home alone doesn’t make you a bad pet owner. But there are some guidelines for how to do so successfully, as well as how long our dogs should stay home on their own (hint: it’s not as long as they can). 

Schertz Animal Hospital explores the hotly debated topic of leaving your dog home alone. 

Nature Calls

The most basic question to ask when it comes to leaving your dog home alone is how long can they go without a bathroom break? 

The answer varies depending on your dog’s age. Young puppies, sick pets, and older dogs need to go outside more often. Adult dogs can typically last from between 4 to 6 hours, but every dog is an individual so there may be some trial and error before you know how long your dog can go.

House Training

Aside from the call of nature, you’ll want to train your dog that staying home alone is safe and normal. Give him a spot of his own with his bed, toys, and a t-shirt that smells like you. You can start with a small room, such as a mudroom or laundry room, or, if he’s trustworthy, he can have the run of the house. A crate, though a valuable tool, is generally believed to be too small for leaving a dog home alone for many hours.

Practice leaving your dog home alone for a couple of minutes at first, and gradually increase the time you’re away. Give him a treat before you leave, but not when you return. Leave and return without making a big deal, and he’ll learn this is just a normal part of the day. 

Every dog should be able to stay at home alone without destroying the house or falling apart. If he is, you may be dealing with a dog with separation anxiety, and behavioral training may be warranted. Separation anxiety is complex and rarely gets better on its own, so seek professional help from a veterinarian or certified professional dog trainer. 

Start With Exercise

The old adage “a tired dog is a well behaved dog” could not be more true. Every dog needs daily exercise, and getting the “ya ya’s” out before you leave for the day is a smart move. Benefits of exercise include: 

  • Aids digestion
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Avoids boredom
  • Expels excess energy
  • Maintains a healthy weight

Most dogs need about 60 minutes of exercise a day. Try to give your dog a 30 minute walk in the morning before you leave, and another when you return for the day. 

If you can’t give your dog the exercise he needs during the day, consider boarding him with us. He’ll get exercise, TLC, and plenty of social time while you’re away from home. 

A Social Situation

Dogs are social creatures and need our attention and engagement to thrive. They can feel isolated and bored if left home alone all day, every day. They need to interact with people at least several times a day. 

So what’s a responsible (working) pet owner to do? Here are some ideas. 

  • Doggy day care, if your dog enjoys other dog company
  • Work from home on occasion
  • Come home for lunch
  • Hire a dog walking service
  • Arrange for a neighbor or friend to visit your dog at lunchtime
  • Take your dog to work with you
  • Board your dog with us a few days a week

Busy Dog, Happy Dog

Mental stimulation for dogs is just as important as physical exercise. Without it, they become bored and sometimes destructive. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Use a puzzle feeder, increasing the difficulty as your dog plays
  • Fill a Kong with peanut butter before you leave
  • Give your dog a Nylabone to work out body and brain
  • Use games like a Furbo or a Bob A Lot
  • Consider getting a second dog, if your dog likes company

Make sure any toys you leave at home with your dog are indestructible. You don’t want any thing your dog can rip apart and swallow. Ingesting toys or small parts can cause a foreign body obstruction and possible emergency surgery. 

Your Dog Home Alone

The bottom line is that every dog is an individual, but every dog needs exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation each day. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us for help. 

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