Most experts agree that dogs should not be left on their own for any longer than 10 hours at any one time, although this is reduced to just four hours if they are left alone on a regular basis. Some dogs become extremely anxious when they’re away from their owner for any prolonged length of time. This is a recognized behavioral problem known as separation anxiety.
What is Separation Anxiety for dogs?
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, become easily distressed when their owner is not around. There are marked symptoms of separation anxiety, which include undertaking destructive behaviours, like chewing household furniture and other items, and incessant barking.
What are the causes of separation anxiety?
There are lots of reasons a dog can get separation anxiety, but the reason is often emotional. Feelings of fear, over-attachment, or boredom in your pooch can all be the catalyst.
If your dog was not socialized much as a puppy, this can contribute to them having a lack of confidence when being left alone as adults.
This video shows you what to do about your dog’s separation anxiety
How long can I leave my dog alone for?
Four hours is the longest that dogs should routinely be left alone, however every dog is different, and some may be fine going it alone for longer than this.
Sometimes you may have to leave your dog alone for longer than usual, and there are several things you can do to make it easier for them if you are away for lengthy periods during the day:
- Make a short visit to your dog during the day, for example during a lunch break
- Ask a friend or neighbor to check on your dog
- Hire a professional dog walker to take them out whilst you’re busy
- Look into pet sitters or doggy day care in your area, that could spend time with your pooch while you’re out
Prevent Problems: Preparing your dog to be left alone
It’s never too late to get your dog socializing with other pooches. If your dog has issues being around other dogs, then don’t worry; socializing is not just about being around other pups, it’s also about being regularly exposed to everyday sights and sounds.
The more time they spend in different environments, the more relaxed they will become in new situations. Being left alone is one of the things your dog will need to learn is normal.
Important things NOT to do when leaving your dog alone
- Don’t say good bye to your dog when you leave. It may feel strange doing this but leaving calmly and quietly will mean that your dog will settle more quickly once you have left.
- Don’t become overexcited when you return home. Keep the atmosphere quiet and calm, so that your dog doesn’t feel that your leaving and returning is a big deal.
- Do not leave your dog in an open area of your house where they have access to things to potentially destroy. Leave them in a safe and secure area of your home, in a comfortable temperature, with an appropriate-sized bed to relax in, and with some chew and interactive toys to keep them busy. You can also give them an item of clothing with your scent on for them to snuggle up to.
- Don’t forget to give your dog the chance to go to the toilet before you leave and as soon as you return.
Training your dog to be home alone
You can train your dog to be left alone by slowly increasing the amount of time they are left alone. Start by walking a short distance away from your dog. If they stay calm, walk back and reward them, so they know you’re happy with their behavior.
Next, walk away from them again, but this time leave the room briefly. Walk back in and if they are still calm, reward them again. Keep repeating this, gradually increasing the amount of time you’re away from your dog.
When you’re successful at doing this inside, try leaving the house for a short time, building up to spending more time away. Remember to always reward your dog when you return home.
Being slow and consistent with training is the basis for successful dog training and is the best way to get them used to this new way of doing things, without triggering feelings of distress. Bear in mind this is a process that will take, so be calm and patient throughout their training.