You can leave an adult dog home while you’re at work during the day, but a young puppy shouldn’t be left alone for more than a few hours at a time. Adding a puppy to your family is a long-term commitment. Make sure you’re ready to give your new puppy lots of attention, especially during his first few months at his new home. If your lifestyle requires that you be away from home for long hours every day, it might be best to wait until life is less hectic before getting a puppy.
Puppies Can Develop Separation Anxiety
Dogs are social animals; they want to be near their humans as much as possible. If you leave your puppy alone for long periods of time he may develop separation anxiety, which causes behavior problems such as:
- Constant barking and howling
- Chewing woodwork, furniture or his own paws
- Eliminating in his crate
- Digging and scratching around doors and windows
When you return home, in addition to finding a frantic animal and a messy house, you’ll notice that your puppy will follow you around, unwilling to lose sight of you. He may become visibly upset or depressed when he notices your preparations to leave the house. Separation anxiety is easier to prevent than to overcome.
The Comforts of a Crate
Teach your pup to be comfortable in his crate. Convince him that it’s a place he wants to hang out by putting treats and special toys in it when you leave. Don’t leave your puppy in his crate longer than he can hold his bladder or bowels. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests the following time frames for leaving a puppy in his crate:
- 8 to 10 weeks old -- up to one hour
- 11 to 14 weeks old -- up to three hours
- 15 to 16 weeks old -- up to four hours
- 17 weeks or older -- up to five hours
Before you leave your puppy in his crate, take him outside for some fresh air, an exercise session and a potty break. Train your puppy so that he’ll be able to stay alone with full access to the house while you’re gone. His crate is only a temporary solution -- it’s too restrictive to house him for a full workday.
Bored Puppies Create Havoc
A young puppy shouldn’t be left alone in a room that hasn’t been puppy-proofed. He can quickly destroy valuable items, ingest poisonous plants or injure himself by chewing on exposed electrical cords. A puppy left alone in the yard may destroy plants, dig up the lawn or wiggle through the fence.
When you must leave your puppy for more than a couple hours, put him in his crate or a safe room. Provide him with some toys and make sure he has plenty of water.
Get Help While You Work
Ideally, you won’t need to leave your puppy home alone for more than a few hours. If you have to be away all day, arrange for a dog walker or caretaker to stop by and take him out to go to the bathroom, feed him lunch and enjoy a play session.
Once he’s fully vaccinated, send your puppy to day care where he can socialize with other dogs and run around all day. He’ll come home exhausted and ready for snuggles.
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.