Dogs may not be able to tell how long their owners have been away from home, but research shows that they are affected by the duration of time they are home alone. When dogs are left on their own for long hours each day, they can suffer from isolation distress, which can lead to a host of behavioural problems if left unchecked.
In your absence, your puppy can develop stress-induced behaviours like scratching, biting, barking, howling, or nervous peeing. Whilst it’s difficult to tell how much isolation your puppy can endure, it would be safe to say that anything longer than 4 hours is too long for your puppy to be alone.
Since it’s impossible to spend every waking moment with your new puppy, you must make his alone time less stressful. Here are some preparation tips before leaving your pup home alone.
Create a safe zone
If your puppy has not been left alone before, you cannot expect him to immediately adjust to you being away for long hours. Before you leave him to his own devices, you must first teach him how to relax when he is left home alone.
After your puppy has been crate-trained, you can begin to designate a safe puppy zone. This is a confinement area where he can feel relaxed and safe whilst you’re away. To make your puppy associate this safe space with a positive experience, you can put his favourite toys inside the crate.
Leaving a piece of your clothing in your puppy’s bed will boost his sense of security. You can also leave a radio on and tune in to a talking station at a moderate volume, or play music for dogs to lend some background noise, which could help cover certain outdoor sounds that may frighten your puppy.
These happy associations will entice your puppy to come to the safe zone when he is home alone. However, it’s important to assign different safe zones around the house because leaving your puppy in the same area every time you leave the house might make him associate the place with isolation.
Play with your puppy before leaving
Exercise helps to calm your puppy down. Ensure he gets ten minutes of exercise before leaving the house. Leave the toys your puppy loves to play with so that he can continue to entertain himself whilst you’re gone. It’s best to avoid using toys with treats inside them as these can increase the risk of untimely defecation.
Let your pup relieve himself before you go
Puppies cannot hold their urine for too long that’s why they have “accidents” in the house when you’re away. In general, puppies can only hold their bladder for an hour per month of their age. This means that a two-month-old puppy, for example, can hold it in for up to two hours.
Here are the time limits based on different ages of the puppy:
- 8–10 weeks – <1hr : One hour or less. Puppies need to relieve themselves within an hour.
- 10–12 weeks – <2hrs: Puppies need a toilet break after 2 hours of holding it in.
- 3–6 months – 3hrs: At this age, puppies can hold their urine a little longer than 3 hours.
- After 6 months – <6hrs: Older puppies can hold it in for 6 hours. They should never be made to hold their urine or faeces beyond this and it is advised to leave your dog alone no more than 4 hours at a time.
Holding their bladders for too long is uncomfortable and even painful for puppies. Pushing it beyond the limits makes your pup relieve himself in inappropriate areas in the house. He also faces the risk of having crystal formations in his bladder or a urinary tract infection.
Let your puppy do his business before you leave. The command ‘hurry up’ is a popular phrase people use when telling their dogs to tinkle.
Professional Helping Hands
If you worry about leaving your pup alone in your house, consider hiring a pet sitter or a dog walking service. You can also enrol your puppy in doggy daycare.
If you have a pet-owning neighbour or a friend with time on their hands, you can arrange to have your puppy stay with them. You can return the favour by taking care of their pet should they need a pet sitter.
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Are you still contemplating getting a puppy and wondering how you can manage one even if you’re away from home most days of the week? Choose from a list of dog breeds that require less stimulation. Such dogs are more likely to be happy spending a few hours by themselves without causing much trouble. The following breeds are your best bets:
Should you consider getting a second pup to keep your current pet company, use the compare breeds tool and find the best breed suited to your lifestyle.