Lonely or Just Alone? What to Know About Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

We all know that dogs are our best friends – after all, they are hard-wired to want to be with us all the time. And many of us would love to take them everywhere we go. Unfortunately, there are times when our dog pals can’t accompany us. Work, social functions, and other obligations sometimes dictate that we leave our dog home alone.

Leaving your dog home alone doesn’t a bad pet owner make. But there are some tips and tricks we can use to make this time spent alone more enriching for our dogs. Keep reading as Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates shares our best tips. 

Duty Calls

The most basic question dog owners ask when it comes to leaving their dog home alone is how long can the dog go without a bathroom break? 

For most healthy adult dogs, the answer is somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. Puppies, sick dogs, and older dogs need to go out more often. Keep in mind that every dog is an individual, and you may need to go through some trial and error before striking the right balance.

Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

Every dog should be able to stay home alone without destroying the house or falling apart, but this may require some training. To start, make your dog his own den or cozy spot, where he can relax and feel safe. You can use a separate room, or, if he’s trustworthy, give him the run of the house with his own bed and essentials nearby. A crate is a great training tool, but it’s generally accepted that crates are too confining for long periods of time. However, a crate with an “open-door policy” may be just the answer!

Practice leaving your dog home alone for a few minutes at first, and gradually increase the amount of time you’re away. Offer a treat when you leave, but not when you return, and he’ll learn good things happen when you leave. Try to leave and return nonchalantly, so that your dog learns it’s just a normal part of the day. 

If your dog is experiencing a great deal of anxiety, or is destructive when you are gone, he may have separation anxiety. Give us a call if this is the case. Separation anxiety rarely gets better on its own and often worsens with time. A consultation with a veterinary behaviorist or a certified professional dog trainer can get you started on the right path. 

First, Exercise

Regardless of how long you leave your dog home alone, all dogs need daily exercise. Just how much depends on breed, age, and lifestyle. But benefits abound for all. 


  • Lubricates the joints
  • Stimulates the mind
  • Maintains a healthy weight
  • Expels excess energy
  • Prevents boredom

Most dogs need about 60 minutes of exercise a day. If you can give your dog a 20-30 minute walk in the morning before you leave, it will go a long way toward keeping him happy and relaxed while you’re gone.

Try to have another 30 minute romp in the backyard or a walk around the neighborhood when you get home. 

Social Life

Dogs were made to be with people, and needs social interaction to thrive. Your dog needs to interact with people at least several times a day. 

So what’s a busy but responsible pet owner to do? Dig deep and get creative: 

  • Doggy day care
  • Hire a dog walking service
  • Come home for lunch
  • Work from home on occasion
  • Arrange for a neighbor or trusted friend to visit your dog midday
  • Take your dog to work with you

A Busy Dog = A Happy Dog

Dogs were also made to work, and most dogs will be happiest with a “job” to do during their time alone. Mental stimulation can prevent boredom and avoid destructive behavior.

  • Use a puzzle feeder to engage your dog
  • Fill a Kong with treats or freeze with peanut butter and give to your dog before you leave
  • Hide toys for your dog around the house
  • Consider adopting a second dog (if your dog is social)
  • Try out games like a Bob a Lot or a Furbo
  • Give your dog her own “den” and fill with her favorite treats and toys, and a t shirt that smells like you 

Make sure any toys you leave alone with your dog are indestructible. You don’t want anything she can rip apart and swallow. Ingesting toy parts can cause a foreign body obstruction and emergency surgery.

The bottom line with leaving your dog home alone is that every dog is an individual. But, every dog needs exercise, social time, and mental stimulation to thrive. Give us a call if you have any other tips or if you have questions or concerns.