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.**
Hi, you make a good point about waiting until you have two weeks off work to bring home a new puppy. That is exactly what I want to do, over the Christmas/Holiday shut down at work. However, I am uneasy about waiting until a week before that to search shelters and find “the one” in fear that we will not find him. And, most shelters I have looked up online will NOT hold a dog for more than 48 hours. How to I time meeting the perfect dog on the perfect day? My worries are 1) meeting the dog I love too soon and having to take him home well before I can take vacation, going back to work immediately. or 2) waiting until a few days before my vacation and not being able to find the dog I want at that time. It took me 6 months of searching to find a house to purchase, I am worried it may take weeks of visiting shelters to meet the dog that clicks with us. Any advice?? Thanks!
I hope you found your baby! It has been a long time since you posted this comment 😦
This is one of the biggest problems when it comes to “rescue”. Unfortunately you just can’t plan in advance when taking a rescue dog in. It is one of the reasons that I prefer getting your dog from a responsible breeder.
Rescue is a gamble of love, faith, devotion and heart. And it does mean risk. Risk of things not being smooth and easy. Risk of getting injured (or sued). Risk of getting your heart broken more than anything else. It entails a good amount of risk.
That said if you decide to go for a rescue and you have your eyes wide open about the pitfalls then you will be ready to take the rough parts along with the lovely bits.
You just won’t be able to plan it around a set holiday. You will just be unable. You’ll be searching rescues for a while to find “the one” and you’ll have to be committed to that process.
Don’t be too put off by that, though. You’ll be waiting a long time for a well bred puppy too. There is just nothing instantaneous about bringing home a really good, “forever” dog.
Rescue is a beautiful thing. And I find that when it is right it just works out. I don’t know how or why, it just does.
I hope you found your love!!!
Thank you this was really helpful and alleviated a lot of the guilt I have been feeling. My husband and I love our puppy soooooo much but have to go back to work next week. She will adapt and she is the centre of attention as soon as we return home 🙂
Very refreshing! I just got accepted into a PhD program I had been hoping for, and it left me worried that I would not have enough time if I got a puppy three months before the program started.. I totally agree. If working individuals or those who have school full time could not have dogs, it would only leave the elderly and those who work at home who could have a them..
Great read. I enjoyed your input.
It bothers me that going to a breeder is encouraged in this article. Breeders for the most part should be banned. Suggesting that a ‘breeder’ dog is much better than a rescue dog is ignorant and unfounded. Why are you paying money for someone to sit at home and be a pimp?
A pimp? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If breeding is banned then you will basically be joining the ranks in PETA saying that all companion and working animals should be ‘banned’. Which is a little nuts.
If you really think that breeding is just sitting at home and watching dogs mate and whelp then you’re very sadly mistaken. You have absolutely no idea the amount of work that goes into raising a litter safely and properly.
WELL BRED PUPPIES ARE SUPERIOR TO RESCUE DOGS!!!
Just be real!!! The only problem generally is that well bred puppies are very hard to get. But responsible, hard, working breeders do exist. And when I’m training their dogs I have a lovely time. My dog training is fully employed with rescue dogs that come from puppy farms and irresponsible owners who are never ever sold a puppy from a responsible breeder, by the way.
Lumping responsible breeders in with puppy farmers and the impulse and uneducated lot of dog owners is a foolish and uneducated thing to do. You’re showing how very, very little you know about dogs.
Rescuing is a beautiful thing to do. It is also a ton of work. I’ve worked twenty years in rescue and I’ve never EVER had a dog come through from a responsible breeder’s kennel. Ever. I mean ever.
I’ve trained a whole lot of dogs and puppies. Well bred dogs have owners that have been well prepared for the training ahead of them (by the breeder).
Educating owners and vetting good homes is only one role of responsible “dog pimps”. lol
What a stupid thing to say. What an unfounded thing to say. The saddest part is that I’ve actually heard it before.
Do not get upset because someone is speaking the truth. Well bred dogs are, AS A GROUP, less prone to behavioral and health problems than are rescue dogs. Does that mean you’re going to get a sick or dangerous rescue dog? Of course not. Don’t be silly (or difficult). Does that mean that every well bred dog is going to be perfectly tempered, well behaved and healthy? Nope. Doesn’t guarantee that either.
But if you snag 10 completely random rescue dogs and 10 completely random dogs from quality breeders and I absolutely guarantee you that the well-bred dogs will be superior as a group. By a long shot.
Thank you so much for this article. I work full time and was agonizing about how I could care for a puppy at the same time. Really appreciate the tips!
Thank you for writing this post. I really want a puppy and have been thinking about it for awhile. I saw one I liked just the other day and was ready to go in all guns blazing and buy him but as you said I thought, wait! Hold on. I need to get a puppy at a time I’m not at work 3 days a week! Thank you for your tips, really helpful! I’m currently trying to research as much as possible about what I need to be able to do and be prepared to do. So far I’ve considered toilet training, crate training, having someone come twice a day at first then once a day, daily schedule, socialisation and getting the pup out and about safely, teaching bite inhibition and praising good behaviours and it seems mostly ignoring bad behaviours. If there are any specific things I’m missing it would be great to hear your suggestions.
Thanks once again for a great Informative post!
So have you made the decision to buy a puppy? If you have I would love to hear how it is going!!
You sound like you are so very ready to get going and you sound like your puppy-to-be (or current pup) is going to be more than well cared for.
I recommend carefully considering where you get your puppy and avoiding pet stores and consider foods. Hit up Dog Food Advisor (website) to get great food info.
Let me know how it is going!
This is so refreshing – I have been researching cockapoo breeders, initially in Los Angeles where I live, then all of California, then surrounding statues, and then the entire country – I can honestly say that you appear to be the most knowledgeable and dedicated one that I have come across so far.
Many breeders, especially in the LA area, specifically say upfront on their websites that they will not consider releasing a puppy to anyone who works full time. It almost made me want to cry – how can someone expect a 28 year old (which is more than old enough to have a dog) be in a position to stop working, especially in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I truly appreciate this realistic, no bullshit point of view. Cheers!