How long can a dog be left alone?

Author picture Katy  - updated: 03/11/2019

How long can a dog be left alone?

Experts agree that adult dogs shouldn't be left alone for more than 4 hours. At most, and only if there is enough food and water, a comfortable place to sleep and they had a long walk in the morning, dogs can be left alone and unsupervised for up to 8 hours at a time.

But still, bear in mind that most dogs are not happy to be alone at all and it should remain the exception rather than the rule. Most adult dogs can go 8-10 hours without urinating, but this depends on their age, sex, body size, and overall health. Smaller and younger dogs need to urinate more often than older larger dogs. If you find that you’ll need to be gone regularly for long stretches at a time you should consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker.

In any case, every dog must have the proper training to stay alone. You can slowly build up the alone-time schedule from 5 minutes to an hour, up to 3-4 hours. Really take the time for this process and during the first 2-3 months: make sure that someone can accompany your pooch at all times.

dog staring out the window

Do dogs get lonely and sad when being left?

Dogs don't complain very quickly, so even if it seems that a dog is happy to be alone, they may still feel miserable and eventually end up being depressed. Descended from wolves, who live and work in groups, dogs are pack animals -  social beings - and just like us they get lonely when they spend too much of their time alone. Most dogs also have a drive to work, usually alongside their owner, and enjoy mental stimulation and social interaction. Being left alone for long hours without anything to do can take a toll on their well-being. You can read how to deal with separation anxiety here.

Legal considerations

Aside from the social and mental health implications of how long you can leave your dog alone, there are legal considerations. In the UK and increasingly other countries dog owners now have obligations to provide for their pets' welfare under the Animal Welfare Act, with the PDSA clearly stating that if you leave them for more than 4 hours at a time, you are compromising their welfare.

Can you combine work and a dog?

Yes, dogs require a lot of time and effort, but if you can manage to involve a dog in your daily life, a dog won't ever feel like a burden. With a full-time job, it may seem impossible to have enough time for a dog. Nevertheless, it is still possible in some situations. Talk about your plans for having a dog. Can you make agreements about working from home or flexible hours? Maybe it is even possible to take the dog to work?

Pets at work improve social contacts on the work floor, increase productivity and reduce stress. How could any employer resist that? Yet not every work environment is suitable for dogs, and not all employers and colleagues are as fond of dogs as you (think of allergies, dangerous situations for both people and your dog, etc). Also, some dogs don't like being around 'new people' at all. But in any case, talk to your employer and colleagues about your plans, so that they can support you in your new life as a dog-parent.

What to do if I have to leave my dog for a long time?

Even if you're really motivated, it's an illusion that you can always provide 100% care for your dog 24/7. Situations will come up that you just can't take care of your dog for a while. Think of hospital visits, holidays, weddings, and parties where dogs aren't welcome, and of course work. Provide a few good backup addresses from early on. Ask your friends, family, and neighbors if they're interested in looking after your dog every once in a while. It really gives peace of mind to have a great second home in your address book with people that you trust and where your dog feels at ease. Of course, you can always find a pet sitter in your area via Pawshake.

How do you know you are ready for a dog?

So how much time do you really need to take care of your dog? The truth that it differs per dog. Yes, a dog will always ask a lot of your time and energy. But if you are willing to put that in, it is so worth it! The dog will become part of your life and not a 'chore' you have to take care of every day.

Dogs whose needs are met are happy, balanced dogs. You can prevent problem behavior such as boredom, aggression, and even depression by giving your dog what he needs. If the dog gets enough exercise, if he gets clarity, lots of love and if his brains are put to work, the dog stays quiet, healthy and easy going. With this, you have a friend for life!

How to find a reliable dog minder?

It is difficult to understand how a dog influences your life until you experience it yourself. As long as you have a plan and understand the commitment of having a dog, it's a truly joyous thing. If you find that you need to leave your best new furry friend alone for longer periods of time than you expected hiring a pet minder is always an option. You can find an experienced and fully vetted dog sitter at Pawshake. It's as simple as searching, contacting and then booking the sitter. And all bookings are covered by The Pawshake Guarantee.

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