How Long Should You Leave Your Dog Home Alone?
By far the most asked question we get is this: “How long should I leave my dog home alone?” It’s also one of the most common reasons we may not approve an application for one of our Maple Hill Doodles puppies. So, let’s address it here and now.
There are two basic factors to consider: How much time alone a dog ‘can’ endure, and how much isolation your dog ‘should’ endure. They’re not the same thing. Pat Miller explains the differences between isolation distress and separation anxiety in Whole Dog Journal. Well worth your time to read.
We understand that life has to be dealt with, and we get that. It means that sometimes your puppy needs to have some crate time while you have to be away from home. But even if you totally trust her not to get into mischief when she’s loose in the house, she’ll still be all by herself.
How Much Time Alone CAN Your Dog Endure?
Basically, this part is physical, limited by a puppy’s bladder. Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s only so long she can go before somebody has to take her outside to do her business. She’ll usually hold it (as an adult) if she must, but most dogs need to go outside 3 to 5 times a day. Most adult dogs ‘can’ wait 6 hours or more to relieve the pressure. But why should we expect it, and put them through that stress?
Puppies have even shorter times between business breaks. If they’re forced to stay inside for long periods of time, their potty training routine will be set back. Once a puppy has messed in the house, you’ll have to start over from the very beginning. We cover this and more in another post, about Puppy Housebreaking Tips.
And then there’s food and water. If you get hungry and thirsty, so will your puppy. Water is easy to provide in a crate, but then a little while later, she’ll need to potty again. Food is a bit different. Maple Hill Doodles uses the Prey Model Raw Diet feeding plan for maximum health, even for our puppies before they are adopted. Their first taste of solid food is the very same as their mama gets. That means you need to be there at mealtimes to ensure their food is fresh. No cheating with kibble.
Naturally, soon after eating and/or drinking, your dog will need to eliminate. It’s simple biology and non-negotiable. What goes in must come out. Even if you set up a pen indoors, with puppy pads to one side for accidents, it’s a bad habit to introduce. From the first few times in an indoor pen, free to pee and poop at will, a puppy will associate being in an enclosure with permission to eliminate indoors. Plus, the odor will be in the flooring. It’s an open invitation, X marks the spot.
How Much Isolation SHOULD Your Dog Endure?
Dogs are pack animals, and therefore very social. They not only want to belong to a group, they have to, for the relationships they crave. In times past, society in general didn’t understand that very well. There was no thought that dogs could be lonely. But think about what happens in the life of a puppy.
When a puppy is still part of a litter, separation from her little pack triggers anxiety, which is why she whines and yips. In the wild, this is a survival mechanism. Mama can easily find and rescue her baby. Even adult dogs who have no protecting pack are more likely to die, from starvation or attack. So, separation anxiety in puppies makes perfect sense.
We send along a nice, comfy blanky with your new puppy that has her mama’s scent on it. That should help to comfort her as she settles in with her new pack (you and your family). This bonding time is something we consider sacred. It must happen, and you need to be there for your new little family member. People call themselves ‘Dog Mama’ for a good reason. Your puppy will of course never forget her real mama, but you’ll be taking over that role.
Our puppies have the most rock solid, balanced approach to life that we can bestow on them. We begin ENS Training (Early Neurological Stimulation) when they are 3 days old. So, they’re able to handle just about anything. But it’s not wise to test the boundaries too much.
Doodles specifically are more family oriented than certain other breed groups, for instance livestock guardian dogs. Herding or working dogs (German Shepherds, Corgis, Border Collies) can be a little more aloof with humans, and therefore not as apt to miss you terribly. Often described as Velcro dogs, Doodles need to be around people.
Just as with human babies and toddlers, puppies need a solid, loving foundation to shape their outlook for the rest of life’s adventures. So, let’s answer the question, How much isolation SHOULD your dog endure?
Head Off Separation Anxiety
Take care not to leave your puppy alone very much during the first month after adoption. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should carry her around with you all the time. No, that wouldn’t be a good habit to teach.
Maple Hill Doodles puppies are already used to their crates and feel comfortable in them. Follow these links to learn Why crate train your puppy and the companion action, How to crate train your puppy (in 4 easy steps).
Life intrudes on our peace, we get that. And we know that sometimes things happen that require a puppy to spend some time by herself. If you find that you must spend a lot more time away from home, your puppy (or even grown dog) will get lonesome. And bored. How long is too long to leave your dog home alone? Please limit time alone to no more than 3 hours (2 hours is even better). When you don’t have the opportunity to nip back home to let her out to exercise and be with you for a bit, consider arranging for a trusted puppy sitter or dog walker.
Do Dogs Really Have Emotions?
You bet your socks they do. Dogs react to being alone just like children do. You know the old saying, When it’s too quiet in the house, they’re up to something. The same concept applies to your dog. Left to herself, she’ll find something to get your attention. It may be howling, messing on the floor or her crate, chewing on the furniture or destroying her stuffed toys. She’ll be after ANY attention, even if it’s unpleasant.
Learn more about all kinds of things your puppy does, or what you can do for her, by clicking the button.