How to Leave Your Dog Alone While You’re at Work — and Not Feel Guilty

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Marissa Taffer363
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Okay, maybe the title of this article is a bit of a stretch. As a dog mom, I always feel a little guilty when I leave my baby boy home and head out to work. But, I really shouldn’t. My dog has a very comfortable space and some things to do while I'm gone. If you have a full-time job and are considering getting a dog, you might be wondering how to leave your dog every day and go to work. While I mostly work from home, there are plenty of people who work in offices, restaurants or factories and have dogs. Here are some tips for leaving a dog at home while you work to keep your pup happy, safe and comfortable during the day. 

How to leave your dog alone.

1. Keep your dog safe.

For puppies and younger dogs, this may mean using a crate when your dog is home alone. Puppies can chew, dig in the trash or otherwise make a mess. While the same may be true for older dogs, they can usually be trained enough to be left alone without needing to use a crate. You might still decide to give your dog dedicated space either in the kitchen or a bedroom with the help of a pet fence, so your pup can’t get into things they shouldn’t while you’re at work.  This is also to help keep your pet safe from electrical wires or things that might hurt them if eaten.

2. Turn on the TV for some white noise.

This tip is especially helpful if you live in the city. If you’ve ever been home alone and felt it is too eerily quiet, feel free to put the TV on for your dog. My dog loves to watch The Gilmore Girls on Netflix or a good movie on Disney+ when I head out for the day. I don’t let him watch anything too scary like 101 Dalmations, but I'm a crazy dog mom!  

3. Keep your dog entertained. 

No, the TV is not going to be enough entertainment for your dog, especially a puppy. You can give your dog a kong toy filled with something delicious to work on while you’re out. Try filling it with peanut butter, freezing it with kibble suspended in a dog-friendly bone broth or some cream cheese. Avoid giving your dog a bone or rope toy as these can be a choking hazard and/or cause intestinal blockages if too much is ingested while you’re not there to supervise. You can also find interactive puzzle toys for older pups to give them some enrichment while you work. 

4. Ensure your dog gets a bathroom break and some attention mid-day.

Most dogs can go about six hours without a potty break. If you have a puppy, a senior dog or a dog with a medical condition, they might need to go out more frequently. If you work an eight-hour day and have a 30- to 45-minute commute each way on top of that, you’re looking at too many hours for your dog to be alone and not get a bathroom break or a meal and drink.  You can hire a reputable dog walker to come in at lunchtime or ask a neighbor to take the dog out at lunch. Alternatively, if you have children, they may get out of school early enough that they can care for the dog until you get home. 

5. Ensure your dog is getting adequate exercise.

If your dog is going to spend the majority of the day in a crate or even just home alone, you want to make sure they're getting adequate exercise. Just like people, a lack of exercise can cause depression, obesity and just plain boredom. Try to wake up extra early so your pup can get in a longer walk before you leave. Even if you’re tired after work, you also want to get your pup out for an evening stroll. It will be just as good for you to get out and get moving as it is for your dog. For rainy days or extreme temperatures, you may need to limit outside time, so you can try to find a game your dog might enjoy playing in the house. This could include fetch or just running around the house together in an unstructured way. 

What do you do with your dog when you leave it alone.

You might still not be sure where's best to leave your dog when you go to work and have to leave them alone. Here are some suggestions as well as things to consider to keep your dog comfortable.

• Use a crate.

Pick a crate that's safe and sturdy. Your dog should be able to comfortably stand up and turn around in the crate. You can get a crate pad to make it feel more like a bed and a crate cover. Some dogs feel safer in a covered crate.  You’ll want to start crate training slowly if your dog is not used to being in a crate. Let them go in and check it out. Give them lots of treats and praise. Once the dog has decided the crate is a fun place, you can close the door with them inside the crate. Don’t leave them alone just yet. After doing this a few times, start by leaving the room for a few minutes, then come back and let the dog out. After a few more times, you can leave the house for a few minutes. As your dog builds confidence in the crate you can leave them for longer and longer periods of time. Do not leave your dog’s collar on in the crate. There is a risk of the collar getting caught and choking the dog. You can leave the collar near the crate in case of an emergency. 

• Pick a room of the house for your dog

If your dog isn’t comfortable in a crate or you don’t want to use one, but you also don’t want your pup having free run of the house while you’re out, consider making up a room just for them or penning off a portion of your room with a pet fence. It could be a bedroom, the kitchen or a guest room. Don’t leave anything on the floor they can chew or destroy, and avoid leaving rawhide bones or chews that require supervised chewing to prevent them from choking or swallowing pieces that are too big. You can leave a water dish for your dog so they can get a drink if they need one.   

• Consider daycare.

If you have a particularly social pup or a dog that gets destructive when home alone, you might want to consider daycare. While it can be costly, daycare provides social opportunities and supervision for your pup. You could also consider only sending them to daycare a few days a week and letting them relax at home on their days off.

How long can you leave a dog alone in the house?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. How old is your dog? Do you have a large or small dog? What breed are they? How active are they? The answers to these questions will determine how long your specific dog can be alone each day. Puppies can generally hold their bladders for about an hour per month of their age. For example, a 4-month-old puppy can hold its bladder four about four hours, unless they're active, nervous or stressed. This system only works until puppies are about six months old. Most dogs can’t hold their bladders during the day for more than six hours or they risk a bladder infection or another medical condition. 

In addition to needing a break to go to the bathroom, your dog should have an opportunity to have a drink of water. You also need to consider that dogs are social creatures and like to spend time with other dogs as well as people.

While it's very possible to have a dog and a full-time job, it's important to make sure your dog is well cared for while you can’t be at home. This might mean getting up extra early to make sure your dog gets plenty of time with you and some exercise. However you make it work, the benefits of owning a dog are numerous. Your pet can be a great companion, reduce stress and help you keep your weight down because of all the exercise they need.

This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

The founder and president of M. Taffer Consulting, Marissa Taffer helps busy leaders grow and scale their businesses through project management, business development strategy and content creation. 

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for how to help your pet adjust to your absence from home while you work? Leave your thoughts in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members.