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How Long Can Puppies Be Left Alone? A Quick Guide for Busy Pup Parents - PawSafe
Dog Training

How Long Can Puppies Be Left Alone? A Quick Guide for Busy Pup Parents

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how long can puppies be left alone

It can be hard to go through the day when you know you have a cute four-legged companion waiting for you at home. It’s also natural to wonder how long we can leave our puppies alone without causing any distress.

As much as young dogs require love, attention, and time to adjust to their new environment, life can get busy, and we can’t always be around. Understanding our dogs will not only help us make informed decisions but also ensure that our puppies stay safe and calm while we are away.

In this article, we consulted Dr. Michael Fox From the University of Washington who has done extensive work on puppy development.  With this and other expert sources, we explain more about how long puppies can be left alone and what factors can influence their well-being when home alone.

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Puppies left alone for extended periods may experience anxiety or behavioral issues. When you are not available for an extended period, arrangements such as hiring a pet sitter or using doggy daycare can be beneficial for both and their well-being.

It’s essential to keep in mind that every dog is different, and despite their breed or temperament, all dogs are affected by the duration of time left alone. For example, some puppies from more independent breeds are generally okay with being alone for longer than more dependent breeds like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Having toys, treats, and a comfy spot to relax will surely help in reducing the stress your puppy feels when alone. 

Remember: The key to a happy, well-adjusted puppy is to consistently meet their needs while slowly acclimating them to being home alone.

Understanding Puppies’ Needs

It’s essential to understand a puppy’s needs, particularly when it comes to leaving them alone.

When discussing the time a puppy can be left alone, age is a significant factor. Generally, the younger the puppy, the more frequent the need for attention, food, and potty breaks.

Use this simple breakdown for reference.

Here’s an updated table showing how long you can leave a puppy alone, including different weeks and months:

AgeMax Time Alone
1 weekNot recommended. Should stay with mother dog and littermates.
2 weeksNot recommended. Should stay with mother dog and littermates.
3-4 weeksNot recommended. Should stay with mother dog and littermates.
5 weeksNot recommended. Should stay with mother dog and littermates.
7 weeksNot recommended. Should stay with mother dog and littermates.
8 weeks (2 months)2 hours
10 weeks2-3 hours
3 months3 hours
4 months4 hours
5 months4 hours
6 months4 hours

Bear in mind that these are general guidelines and can vary depending on the individual pooch and breed.

Other Factors Affecting How Long You Can Leave a Pup Alone

In addition to age, some key aspects to consider when leaving a young dog home alone are:

1. Proper Crate Training 

A well-trained pup in a comfortable crate will feel more secure when alone. We should ensure the crate is a positive space and not a punishment area.

2. Adequate Physical Exercise

Take your young canine for walks if they are ready and provide them with enough physical activity to help them feel relaxed and get rid of any pent-up energy. Tired young dogs are less anxious and are more likely to rest when alone.

3. Mental Stimulation

Offering puzzle toys, chews, or a treasured item in the crate will keep the young canines busy while we’re away and can help prevent feelings of isolation.

4. Potty Habits

A puppy’s ability to control their bladder and bowel movements is crucial to determine how long they can stay alone. Remembering not to leave a puppy alone for more than what they can manage without a potty break is essential.

As we consider these factors, we can make informed decisions about our puppy’s time alone, ensuring their health, comfort, and well-being.

Development Stages of Puppies & Response to Isolation

It is essential to consider our puppies’ development stages. In the paragraphs below, we’ll provide a brief overview of the various stages of a puppy’s life and how their independence evolves as they grow to give an idea of how being left alone can affect them.

Young dogs go through multiple stages of development, each with its own unique needs and challenges. Let’s break it down to make it simple:

1. Neonatal Stage (0-2 weeks)

At this stage, puppies are highly dependent on their mother for survival. They can’t see, hear, or regulate their body temperature and need constant care. Dogs are an altricial, meaning they are born completely helpless and rely completely on their mother for survival. If their mother leaves the whelping box for brief periods, they seek comfort and warmth by huddling with their littermates.

It is very dangerous in this critical period for puppies to be isolated from their litter. And puppies who don’t huddle with the rest of their siblings may have fading puppy syndrome. This means they simply grow weaker over time, and pass away from cold, lack of nutrition, or an infection.

2. Transitional Stage (2-3 weeks)

Pups begin to open their eyes, gain hearing, and start to crawl around. They begin to lap up liquids but still primarily rely on their mother’s milk. This is also the stage where they begin teething and are taught to be independent from their mother. However, they still need to stay together as a litter as they feel safe together.

3. Socialization Stage (3-10 weeks)

 During this critical period, pooches learn social cues from their littermates through playful interactions, as Sunil Kumar Pal says. They also start to learn about their environment and develop vital survival behaviors. Puppies aged 4 to 6 weeks will cry loudly if they find themselves alone and separate from their litter. Being isolated under the age of 6 weeks will cause a puppy incredible distress and can cause anxiety issues later in life.

From seven to eight weeks old, puppies become far more independent. At this stage they may not be happy about being alone, but they can cope for short periods. This is also when they usually leave their litter for their forever home. At 8 weeks, they can be okay alone for short periods, but if you need to leave for longer, than it’s best to get a petsitter or family member to care for them.

Practicing crate training can also help pooches feel more secure at this stage. See our article on how long a dog should stay in a crate.

4. Juvenile Stage (3-6 months)

At this stage, young canines become more independent and energetic. Their curiosity grows, but they still need guidance and supervision. If they are isolated for long periods, they can become anxious, bored, or destructive. This is critical stage of puppy development, when you are investing in their training and raising them to be lifelong family members. 

For this reason, it’s not ideal to go to work and leave a puppy to their own devices for 8 hours.

5. Adolescence (6-18 months)

Adolescent canines become more rebellious and may start to challenge boundaries. Consistent training is essential during this stage to establish and maintain good habits even as adults. 

At each stage, a young dog’s ability to be left alone varies greatly. They require constant care and attention from the bitch or caregiver. It is best to gradually increase the duration, ensuring that they’re comfortable being alone.

Remember that no two dogs are the same, and individual factors such as breed, temperament, and physical needs may impact their tolerance for being alone. So, we must keep an eye on their behavior and adjust accordingly. 

How Long is Too Long for a Pup to be Home Solo?

As a general guideline, very young puppies, such as those under three months old, shouldn’t be left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. After three months, you can add an hour for every month. So a three month old puppy can be left alone for up to three hours, provided they are in safe and appropriate environment. A four month old puppy can stay alone for up to four hours, but after this, it’s better not to leave young dogs alone for longer than four hours.

At 6 to 8 months, leaving the puppy alone for longer than 6 hours is generally too long and not fair on the puppy.

Typically, a young canine can be left alone for more extended periods as they mature and as their ability to hold their bladder increases. However, it’s essential to consider their individual needs, such as exercises, and make adjustments accordingly.

Remember to puppy-proof the environment – eliminate any hazards that might pose a threat to your little one.

Factors Affecting Duration of Alone Time

Puppies left alone is something they face at some point. Since every situation differs, the duration of alone time for a puppy may vary. Let’s discuss some factors that can affect this.

1. Age

Age plays a significant role in how long a dog can be left alone. The younger the puppy, the shorter the alone time should be. Here’s a quick reference showing the appropriate durations:

As your dog grows older and becomes more self-sufficient, they can handle more extended periods of alone time.

2. Breed

Some breeds are more prone to separation-related behaviors, while others are independent by nature. For example, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers tend to handle alone time better than breeds like the French Bulldog or the German Shepherd.

3. Housetraining Progress

The progress of your pup’s housetraining is another factor. If they are consistently able to hold their bladder for extended periods, they can tolerate longer stretches of alone time. Keep in mind that smaller breeds typically have smaller bladders so they might need more frequent potty breaks.

4. Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Ensuring your small canines have had enough exercise and mental stimulation beforehand can help them cope better with alone time. Adequate physical activity and interactive toys or games can contribute to a relaxed young dog willing to rest or play independently while you’re away.

5. Environment

The environment in which our puppy spends their alone time matters, too. A comfortable and familiar space with their bed, water supply, toys, and a safe area for eliminating can help lower stress levels during this time.

6. Previous Experience

If a dog has had negative experiences when left alone, they might develop anxiety, affecting their tolerance for being by themselves.

Remember: Every puppy and situation is different, and it’s up to us to monitor and adjust our puppy’s alone time based on these factors and their unique needs.

Potential Risks of Leaving Puppies Alone

Leaving small dogs alone can result in a number of different issues, both short and long-term. To help you better understand these risks, we’ve outlined some of the most common concerns below.

Accidents and Injuries

Young dogs are curious creatures and might get into all sorts of mischief if left unsupervised. They could chew on electrical cords, swallow toxic substances, or injure themselves while exploring. Keep this in mind when planning how long to leave your puppy alone.

Separation Anxiety

Poches can develop separation anxiety, which affects 14% of the canine population when left alone too frequently or for extended periods. Signs of separation anxiety may include:

  • Excessive barking or whining;
  • Destructive behavior;
  • Inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating in the house); and
  • Panic or escape attempts.

To prevent separation anxiety, it’s essential to gradually accustom your puppy to being alone and create a positive association with alone time.

Understimulation

Dogs need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to grow into well-rounded and emotionally healthy dogs. When left alone for too long, they may suffer from a lack of stimulation, leading to boredom and potential behavioral issues.

Make sure to engage your pup with playtime, training, and socialization before and after they are left alone.

Incomplete House Training

Leaving a young dog alone for too long may cause accidents in the house, hampering their house training progress. This is because young dogs have small bladders and need to go outside to eliminate them frequently. 

Dogs thrive on a routine, and maintaining a consistent bathroom schedule is crucial for successful house training.

Failure to Monitor Health Issues

Young pups are more vulnerable to health issues, and leaving them alone makes it challenging to monitor their well-being. Early detection of health concerns is crucial for timely veterinary intervention.

Failure to Provide Proper Nutrition

Puppies have specific nutritional needs, and leaving them alone may result in inconsistent feeding schedules or improper portion control, impacting their growth and development.

By being aware of these potential risks, we can take the necessary measures to ensure that our puppies stay happy, healthy, and safe even when they have to spend some time alone.

Finding Balance: Companionship vs. Independence

We get the guilt associated with leaving our puppies at home while we attend to our daily responsibilities. However, we also understand that teaching our pup companions to be independent can be beneficial both for them and us.

So, let’s find that balance between keeping our puppies company and helping them learn to be self-sufficient.

Tips for Promoting Independence

Promoting independence in puppies is an essential aspect of their development, helping them become well-adjusted and confident dogs. Here are some tips to encourage independence in puppies:

Gradual Alone Time

Start with short periods of alone time and gradually increase it as your puppy becomes more comfortable. This helps prevent separation anxiety and builds confidence.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement to reward calm behavior when your puppy is alone. Offer treats, praise, or a favorite toy to create positive associations with being independent.

Establish a Routine

Set a consistent daily routine for feeding, bathroom breaks, playtime, and alone time. Predictability can help puppies feel secure and confident in their environment.

Desensitize to Departures

Practice short departures and arrivals to desensitize your puppy to your comings and goings. Avoid making a big fuss when leaving or returning, as this can contribute to anxiety.

If your puppy displays attention-seeking behavior, like whining or barking, avoid reinforcing it with attention. Wait for a moment of calm before giving attention or rewards.

Vary Activities

Rotate toys, water bowls, and activities regularly to prevent boredom. This keeps your pup engaged and encourages problem-solving skills.

Remember that promoting independence doesn’t mean neglecting your canine companion. It’s about fostering their ability to be comfortable and secure when alone while maintaining a solid bond with you.

Solutions for Keeping Puppies Occupied When Along

Keeping our pooches occupied and engaged most of the time is essential. Here are some ways to help them stay entertained.

Interactive Toys

Providing pups with various puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys has broad benefits, such as keeping their minds active while we’re away and preventing behavioral issues. Some examples include the Kong Classic Dog Toy and Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Puzzle. It’s essential to choose toys that suit our pooches’ size and temperament.

Establishing a Safe Space

It’s crucial to create a comfortable, safe space for our small dogs when we’re not around. This can be achieved by using a playpen or crate. A cozy setting with a soft bed, some toys, and a water bowl creates a pleasant haven for them to relax and play. 

Remember to introduce the space gradually and positively to ensure they relate positively with the crate and feel secure.

Here are some tips when preparing a safe place:

TipPreparation
1Ensure the safe space is big enough for your pup
2Place their bedding and favorite toys inside
3Add a water bowl for hydration
4Train in short sessions, gradually increasing the duration

Provide Mental Stimulation

Mental exercises can make a huge difference in our dogs’ well-being and behavior. Try practicing obedience commands or trick training before leaving them, as it’ll help them feel more engaged and stimulated.

Physical Exercise and Socialization

Ensuring the pups get enough exercise and socialization is essential for their overall well-being. We should aim for a balance of both before leaving them alone. This could involve a walk around the neighborhood, a playdate with a neighbor’s dog, or playing tug of war.

Feel free to mix and match these suggestions, and most importantly, remember to provide lots of love, praise, and quality time with your canine companion.

Hiring a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

It’s essential to acknowledge the time commitment involved in adequately caring for our pups, especially during their early months. If our schedules don’t allow us to be home as often as needed, we should consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker.

Here are some points to consider when making this decision:

  • Determine the need: Young dogs generally need to go potty breaks every hour for each month of age. For example, a 3-month-old dog will require a potty break every 3 hours. This schedule will help us understand how frequently we need to be around.
  • Professional services: There are many professional dog walking and pet sitting services available, which usually include benefits like trained personnel, insurance, and emergency protocols.  
  • Finding the right person: Personal referrals from friends, family, or neighbors can be a great way to find a trustworthy pet sitter or dog walker in our community. In addition, there are online resources like Rover and Care.com, which can connect us with local professionals.
  • Trial run: Once we’ve found a potential candidate, it’s essential to have a meet and greet with our puppy. During this time, we can observe how well they interact and if it is a good match. Moreover, we should provide our sitter with a list of important information, including emergency contacts, care instructions, and our puppy’s schedule.

By doing some research and taking the time to find the right pet sitter or dog walker, we can ensure our pup remains happy and healthy even when we’re not around.

When to Seek Professional Advice

It’s essential to seek professional advice to ensure your fur baby’s well-being. Let’s break down a few scenarios where you should consult a professional.

Changes in Behavior

If you notice that your pooch exhibits unusual behavior after being left alone, such as excessive barking, growling, or destructive tendencies, it might be time to speak to a professional. This could be a sign of separation anxiety or boredom, which a trainer or behaviorist can help address.

Puppies with Medical Conditions

If your pup has any medical conditions or requires medication, it’s crucial to consult with your vet on the best way to manage their needs while you’re away. They can provide guidance and help create a plan to ensure the safety and comfort of your pup during your absence.

To make it easier for you, here’s a list of possible professionals you can consult with when it comes to your puppy’s alone time:

  • Veterinarian: For health-related concerns and creating a schedule that works with your pup’s medical needs.
  • Dog Trainer: They can help address any specific behavior issues and ensure your pooch stays mentally stimulated while alone.
  • Dog Walker: A dog walker can help by providing exercise and companionship during the day while you’re away.

Remember: Whatever your situation may be, asking for help and advice from professionals can make a big difference in the quality of life for your beloved puppy. They can offer personalized guidance tailored to your pup’s unique needs, making this journey significantly smoother for both of you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When can a puppy stay home during the day without supervision?

We recommend waiting until a puppy is around 4-6 months old before leaving them unsupervised for short periods during the day. At this age, they’re beginning to learn independence and can better handle being alone. However, every puppy is unique, so some may need more time than others to adjust.

What’s the maximum time for leaving a puppy overnight?

Young dogs can be left overnight when they are three to four months old. This is because young dogs have smaller bladders and need more frequent potty breaks. If leaving your puppy alone overnight is unavoidable, consider hiring a pet sitter or asking a trusted friend or neighbor to help.

Is it okay for a young dog to be alone all day?

It’s not ideal for a young dog to be alone all day, as they require monitoring, socialization, attention, and stimulation. In the early months of a dog’s life, they should have plenty of interactions. If you have to leave your dog alone for extended periods, consider doggy daycare, a dog walker, or arranging playdates with friends or neighbors.

When can puppies hold it without needing a break?

Young pooches can generally hold their bladder for one hour per month of age plus one. So, a three-month-old puppy may be able to hold it for about four hours. This guideline, however, varies based on the individual puppy and breed. It’s essential to give your puppy plenty of opportunities for potty breaks, especially during house training.

How long can a puppy go without food and water while alone?

Pups should always have access to water, even when left alone. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues. As for food, young dogs need to eat more frequently than adult dogs. Aim to feed a puppy under six months old 3-4 times per day.

If you’re unable to be present for meal times, consider an automatic food dispenser that will release food on a schedule. Keep in mind that it’s crucial to provide your pup with proper nutrition and not to skip meals.

Conclusion

Canines need a lot of attention and care, especially when it comes to leaving them alone. It’s important to remember that different breeds and ages have varying needs. Establish a routine to reduce anxiety, gradually increase alone time to help them adjust, and ensure access to water and a comfortable sleeping spot.

Remember to consider crate training, which can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your pup. Also, invest in some entertaining toys to help pass the time and offer mental stimulation.

By following the guidelines and showing a whole lot of love and patience, we can ensure our fur babies cope well with being left alone and grow into well-adjusted, happy dogs.

References:

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.