dog looking out window

Pet owners of this modern age are not only allowed to bring their pets to public places, they’re heartily encouraged to share experiences with their best buddies. Big box stores, hotels, and office buildings often roll out the welcome mat for pets, and owners are likely to travel with their pets than without them. 

Despite our preferences to spend every moment with them, there are some times we have to leave a pet home alone. This begs the question: how long is too long to leave them?

A Matter of Preparation

It can feel overwhelming to think about leaving your pet by themselves. Even if you’re both accustomed to some time apart, guilt may set in, or dread regarding what kind of mess you might find when you return.

The good news is that we can train pets to withstand some time by themselves, but it’s a matter of preparing them for it. An awareness of, and respect for, their limits is also essential.

Bathroom Breaks

If you’re beyond potty training you probably know exactly how long you can leave your pet home alone without an accident. Most adult dogs can go without a bathroom break for approximately 4 hours. At the most, it could be six hours (but that might be pushing it!). 

Senior pets, puppies, and those with certain health conditions may need relief after 2 hours. Extra consideration of their needs is critical to your success.

Baby Steps

Leaving your pet home alone may not have positive results at first, but with the following tips, you can work toward that goal:

  • To acclimate your dog to longer stretches alone, start slow. Leave them alone for a few minutes at a time and gradually increase separation when they feel confident and relaxed about your inevitable return.
  • Give them a treat when you leave (not when you return), to create a positive association with being left alone.
  • Crate training provides them with feelings of security and safety (especially if it has a shirt or blanket that smells like their favorite human).
  • Provide food puzzles or a peanut butter-stuffed Kong right before you leave. Don’t leave toys out that could be chewed up and ingested. 
  • Keep as calm and neutral as possible when you are reunited. This will help them learn that your return is no big deal.
  • Give them a good workout before you leave and when you return (a 20-30 minute walk). This will burn off excess energy, stimulate the mind, and curb undesirable behaviors.
  • Hire a pet sitter or dog walker to come and relieve your pet if you’ll be gone for longer than 4-6 hours.

What About Separation Anxiety?

Pets can experience intense stress when their owners leave them at home. Rarely, symptoms of separation anxiety improve without veterinary intervention, and can even get worse if untreated. If your pet is stressed or anxious, please let us know.

Leaving Your Pet Home Alone

Companion animals enjoy their human’s company, so it can be very difficult to leave your pet home alone. If you need additional ideas to support their well being in your absence, or you believe a behavioral consultation is necessary, we are here to help