Not everyone has the luxury of being able to stay home all day with their new puppy. Understandably it is worrisome to leave a new little baby at home all by himself. When someone must go to work or school all day and leave an untrained puppy in the house there are lots of questions and concerns:
- At what age can I return to work and leave the puppy alone for a full day?
- Can I leave the puppy in a crate or in the kitchen or have the run of the house?
- How often do puppies need to potty?
- Will leaving ruin all our progress in house-breaking?
- Will leaving my new baby cause separation anxiety and an unhappy puppy?
- What if he barks and/or cries all day? My neighbors sure wouldn’t appreciate that!
- Is it even right for someone who can’t be home all day to own a puppy at all?
These are all valid questions, so I will address them each
Returning to Work
I have no issues personally with leaving a puppy home alone for a normal work day. Most people must go back to work almost right away. I find that most people are fortunate enough to take 1-2 weeks off before going back to work. Working families are often thrilled when they get to wait until their pups are 9-10 weeks before going back to work. That’s a fabulous thing to do if you can.
**I think waiting until 9 weeks of age to leave puppy alone during the day is fantastic, a great goal and a blessing when possible**
But we have to be realistic. People need to support their families and a pet dog is not a luxury exclusive to the wealthy, it is something that anyone can enjoy.
Well-bred puppies are emotionally sound and adaptable little things. As long as you stick with a good breeder for a dog that will mature to be at least 15 pounds as an adult then you won’t need to worry about needing to work.
**Toy breed puppies must be fed round the clock when they’re small and can’t be left alone until at least 14 weeks of age**
Plan Before You Purchase
Plan the very best you can.
- Try to bring a new puppy home during a time of year that you can take as much time off work as possible.
- Try to bring a new puppy home during a time of year that a close friend, neighbor or relative will be able to come over and check on the puppy once in the middle of the day.
- Find out if your boss will allow you to combine breaks with your lunch, and pop home during that time to let the puppy out and check on him. Pack a sandwich and you can eat on-the-run. Then everybody wins.
- Find out if your boss will allow your new puppy to come to work with you for the first two weeks you go back. You’d be surprised how many companies are pet-friendly and willing to accommodate new pet-parents. It never hurts to ask and you could pave the way for a new company policy that benefits the lives of all your co-workers and their pets.
**I know that it is hard to hold off doing something that you really want to do, I’m human too and an incredibly impatient one at that. Please be aware that you will guarantee disaster if you do anything “instant gratification” style when it comes to getting any pet more complex than a goldfish. Find ways to help you wait until it is best for both you and the dog!**
Alone Puppy and Housebreaking
- Your puppy will need to eliminate about every 2-3 hours (at 7 weeks of age) and after every meal or sip of water and immediately upon waking from a nap.
- Puppies need to potty often. They have tiny little bodies and tiny little urinary bladders and they don’t know what those funny “you gotta go” feelings mean until they’re urgent and “going” is virtually imminent.
- If you get a well-bred and properly reared puppy (another reason to go to a good breeder) the housebreaking process will have already been well under way by the time you bring your puppy home.
Most importantly your breeder will have been careful to protect your puppy’s natural instinct to avoid soiling his den. You must be careful not to extinguish this important behavior. A well-bred and raised puppy is very different from the mill-raised or back-yard bred puppy in a lot of subtle but highly important ways. Your well-bred puppy will be much easier to housebreak than his mill-bred counterparts.
A puppy old enough to be left alone (9 weeks of age as my personal suggestion whenever possible) will need to eliminate every four to five hours.
- There is nothing you can do short of dehydrate and harm your puppy that will change this biological fact.
- Smaller puppies need to eliminate more often.
- Each puppy is an individual and physically matures at his own pace. This is just an approximation.
If you are unable to get home to let the puppy out to relieve himself you will have to train your puppy to eliminate both outdoors and indoors in appropriate locations. You will also need to allow your puppy enough space to eliminate a good distance away from where he is spending his day, chewing toys and taking naps. Taking these steps will protect all the progress you and your pup’s breeder have made in house training your baby dog.
Naturally you’re going to worry about your puppy being upset about being alone all day. Work carefully with your breeder to select a puppy with the right temperament suited to being alone during a work day. Consider ways to comfort your home-alone puppy during the day.
Your puppy should not cry and be anxious while alone during the day. If barking and crying occurs you will need to take steps to alleviate this problem. You shouldn’t anticipate this problem with a well-bred and properly cared for puppy. Some breeds are more susceptible to these kinds of problems than others. This is one of those talk-with-your-breeder kinds of things. The average puppy is perfectly suited to a normal, working family lifestyle.
There is no reason why a working family shouldn’t own a pet dog. I’ve been a single mother before and I understand how hard it already is to work when you want to be home with a baby (person or dog) and I would never suggest that a single parent or a newly-starting off young adult or couple or an empty-nester would be irresponsible for getting a pet dog. That would leave pet dogs to be exclusively for the retired elderly or the very wealthy or the fortunate-enough-to-have-a-stay-at-home parent family.
This is my opinion, however, and every dog professional is going to have their own opinion. I respect the input and opinions of my peers and all new puppy-parents are certainly entitled to their own opinions as well. There are few “wrong answers”. Here is one:
- There is plenty of information to support the knowledge that leaving many breeds of dog (adult or puppy) alone for a long period of time in the absence of proper training and socialization is extremely damaging.
But if you’re taking the time to read this post I’m pretty sure you’re not one of those people.
If you actually want a dog then you’re not one of those people. Those people are the “instant gratification” types that turned out to not like the responsibility and work involved with a pet dog but have been too lazy to find a suitable new home for the poor animal. That or they’re just an outright crazy person or inhumane (and evil) sort of person. Take your pick.
Worry less and enjoy your puppy more. If you work or go to school all day your puppy will adapt and everyone will be just fine. You should already be prepared, when getting any new dog or puppy, to hire a behaviorist (a decent sort of dog trainer) in the event there are any problems anyway, so you know you’ll have help and resources if you hit any bumps in the road.
**To look for a dog trainer in your area that I recommend please visit the Pet Professional Guild and use their awesome (and free) trainer-search feature.**