How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone?

If you isolate your dog for an extended time, she may suffer emotional stress and/or develop behavioral problems. Leaving your dog alone for long periods of time can create two kinds of problems. The first is the physical discomfort and emotional distress dogs experience when they have to relieve themselves but know they are not supposed to, plus the added stress of having an "accident" and knowing they might be punished for it. The second derives from the dogs need to socialize with people or other dogs.

It is best to introduce a young puppy into your home during your vacation time or when someone can be with her for her first couple of weeks at home. Puppies need to relieve themselves every two or three hours, or more often, until they develop proper muscle control. If you have to leave a young dog alone all day, be sure to provide her with water and a small area covered with newspapers for elimination. Do not lock her in a cage without access to these basic necessities. It is appropriate to restrict her to a small area portion of the house, such as the kitchen.

Coming home at lunchtime or hiring a dog sitter to let your puppy out during the day are good ideas. This prevents messes in the house and gives your puppy a chance to socialize -- an important part of her learning and growth. Experts recommend spending several hours a day with your puppy and introducing her to other people when she is between 7 and 12 weeks old. At that age, she is developing the capacity to understand and adjust to new situations. She also needs to learn to play with and obey humans so she wont be skittish as she grows up. Leaving her alone for extended periods will hamper this socialization process.

You can leave older dogs alone for longer periods than puppies but you should try not to be gone for more than eight hours. Your dog needs a routine: to know exactly when shell be fed and when shell be let out. If you fail to establish a schedule and stick with it, she will experience stress and anxiety and you might find a mess by the time you get back.

If you work and have an older dog at home, its still a good idea to return on schedule or have a sitter exercise your dog during the day. If you have to go on an extended trip, take your dog to a kennel where she will be fed, exercised and played with on a set timetable. Alternatively, you could enlist a neighbor or pet-sitter to spend time with your dog each day.

It is important to make-up for lost hours by spending lots of time with your dog on weekends and your days off. If you dont do this, she is likely to develop behavioral problems like chewing, incessant barking or having accidents in the house. Unacceptable behavior can usually be corrected by spending the appropriate amount of time playing with and exercising your dog when you are home.