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How long can you leave a dog alone?

Dogs are social animals that love being with their human companions. Unfortunately, work and other activities that are not dog-friendly often mean there are times your pooch must stay home alone. Today, our Rainbow City vets offer tips and tricks for keeping your dog happy while you're away and discuss how long you can leave a dog home alone.

Leaving a Dog Home Alone 

In general, it is recommended that 4 - 6 hours is the maximum time a dog should be left home alone but unfortunately, that doesn't line up with the 8-hour workday... so what's a pet parent to do? Many dogs seemingly can adapt to being left alone for 8 hours provided they have ample access to fresh water and somewhere to go to the bathroom, but it doesn't mean they enjoy it.

If at all possible it's always best to stop by or have a friend or family member pop in at least once during the day to check on your pup, refill water, let them out, and give them a quick bit of attention. 

Keep in mind you should never leave your dog in a crate for more than a few hours (bedtime aside) as it can create feelings of stress and neglect. You should also never leave your dog outside unsupervised, especially in the warmer months when heatstroke could quickly cause your dog to become severely ill. 

And, if you have to be away overnight, outside care is a must. Have a friend stay with your pup or bring them to a boarding facility for professional care. 

Consider Doggy Daycare

A great option for pet parents who have to be away during the day is doggy daycare. There are many boarding facilities and programs that offer a safe, entertaining, and enriching place for dogs to go during the day. 

Be sure to find a reputable daycare and have your dog do a short stint as a trial run to ensure it's the right fit. Once you settle on a daycare you'll likely find your dog excited to be dropped off in the morning knowing they get to play with other dogs while enjoying the attention from trained professionals. 

Puppies, Senior Dogs & Dogs with Medical Conditions 

While a healthy adult dog may be able to stay alone for 4 - 6 hours, the same is not true for puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with medical conditions.


Puppies have smaller, weaker bladders and need to be let out more frequently. A puppy should be left alone for 2 - 3 hours at the most and it's best to build up the time you're away bit by bit so they get used to it. Start with small 30 minute - 1-hour trips away to see how your puppy reacts. Another risk with leaving puppies alone is that it could cause them to develop separation anxiety. 

Senior Dogs

As they age, senior dogs also may find they have a harder time holding their bladders and you may find you cannot leave them home alone for as long as you did when they were younger. 

Dogs with Medical Conditions

If your dog has a medical condition that requires specific care on a schedule or requires closer monitoring than an average adult dog you will have to plan around this and be sure you're home to give your pup the care they need. 

Keeping Your Dog Safe While You're Away

When you can't be home, you want to make sure your house is safe and sound for your pup. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Close doors to rooms you do not want your dog in.
  • Put their food and treats well out of reach - while eating a bag of food won't necessarily hurt them, it will leave them feeling unwell.
  • Safely secure cleaning products and other household chemicals so there is no chance your dog could get into them.
  • Know your plants - some common household plants, such as lilies, are poisonous to pets. Even if your dog doesn't eat them while you're around, they could get bored and decide to try something new so it's best to remove anything toxic from the area your pup will be staying in. 
  • Keep the house at an ambient temperature. If you don't have air conditioning in the summer months try leaving a fan on for your pup. 
  • Always supply lots of fresh water. 

Keeping Your Dog Entertained While You're Away 

Regardless of how long you're going to be gone, there are some things you can do to keep your pooch contented while you're away. Try leaving them a fun and stimulating puzzle toy that they have to work at to get treats out. Not only is it good to challenge your pup, but it'll help keep them entertained and distracted while you're gone. 

There are also technologies available now that let you see and communicate with your pet.  Allowing your pet to hear your voice may help to soothe them and some systems even have an option to reward your dog by giving them treats. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you going away for the night? Let Central Valley Animal Hospital be your dog's home away from home with our professional boarding services. Contact us today to learn more or reserve a spot for your pup!

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Central Valley Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Rainbow City companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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