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How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Home Alone? Important Facts to Considere

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

beagle puppy sitting on sofa

Puppies are very popular. They are small, sweet, and adorable. Many people long to own puppies hoping that they will bring them joy. But puppies are a lot of work. While puppy snuggles and face licks are a dream come true for many, the time and attention that these young dogs need to thrive might not be. Puppies are great, but many people also have other obligations in their life, like kids, jobs, and familial responsibilities, that might make it difficult to care for a puppy. That raises the question, how long can you leave a puppy home alone?

Most puppies cannot be left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. The exact time that a puppy can be left alone will depend on the age of the puppy, the maturity of the puppy, and the size of the puppy. Here is how long you can comfortably leave a puppy home alone.

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Puppies Need Frequent Attention

Young puppies need frequent time and attention in order to thrive. Puppies have very small bladders, get scared easily, and need to eat regularly. If they are really little, they will need milk from their mother or from a bottle. Those needs mean that you cannot leave puppies alone for too long before they need to be tended to. Leaving puppies alone for too long can cause anxiety, accidents, and hunger to crop up.

In order to ensure that puppies get the proper care they need, the American Kennel Club (AKC) released official guidelines for puppy care. Since the AKC is one of the foremost experts on dog breeding, they have a lot of experience with puppies of all types.

The AKC recommends using a puppy’s age in months as a general rule of thumb for how long to leave them alone. For each month a puppy is old, you can leave them for one hour. For example, if you have a three-month-old puppy, you can safely leave them for three hours. If you have a five-month-old puppy, you can leave them for five hours.

american pitbull terrier puppy
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Official AKC Guidelines

Age: Maximum Alone Time
Under 10 weeks 30 – 60 minutes
10-12 weeks 2 hours
3 months 3 hours
4 months 4 hours
5 months 5 hours
6 months 6 hours
7 months and older 6 – 8 hours

Be aware that these are general guidelines, and some puppies will need more care than this while others might be more independent. Small breeds will need to be let out more often as they grow because they will have smaller bladders than larger dogs, especially when they are young.

Checking in on your young puppies regularly has many benefits. Preventing them from having accidents inside will make potty training the dogs easier. Similarly, ensuring that your puppies are getting enough attention and play time will help them socialize faster than dogs that are frequently left alone with no company.

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Tips for Leaving Puppies Alone

Try not to let puppies be alone and have free reign of your house. Puppies are young, playful, and inexperienced. Puppies are more likely to make a mess, damage things, and potentially even harm themselves than adult dogs. If you leave puppies unattended, make sure they are in a crate or in a safe cordoned-off area where they cannot get into anything they should not.

At first, try not to leave your puppy for long periods without warming them up to being alone. Like human babies, puppies do not like being left alone. They get anxious and will even start crying. Start by leaving your puppy in the other room, out of sight, but within earshot. Then pop in and show yourself periodically to let the dog know that they are not entirely alone.

Lastly, you will want to make sure that puppies have access to small amounts of food and drink if they are going to be alone—especially young puppies. You will also likely want to put puppy pads down in their area to catch any accidents. There will likely be accidents when you leave young puppies alone. Giving them food, water, and puppy pads will ensure that they have everything they need for their alone time.

If the puppies are young, do not leave them with any toys or bones that they could chew up and potentially swallow. Puppies need to learn how to chew and how not to eat things they shouldn’t, so remove any temptation from their pen when you leave them.

puppy in crate
Credit: Vellicos, shutterstock

Adult Dog Guidelines

The guidelines from the AKC end at six months. For adult dogs or dogs older than six months, they recommend not leaving your dog for more than eight hours at a time without breaks. Some pet advocacy groups say that you should not leave any dog alone for more than four hours at a time, but for many people, that is simply an unrealistic proposition. Adult dogs need to be let out periodically in order to use the bathroom, but not everyone can tend to their dog every four hours.

If you find yourself coming home to accidents in the house, you might be leaving your dog alone for too long. You might need to try to let them out more frequently in order to prevent accidents from occurring.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Puppies can be a lot of work, and speaking of work, that is where most people need to be on a regular basis. If you are feeling anxious about trying to care for your puppy and juggle your regular obligations, you might need to ask for help. See if a friend, family member, or neighbor can check on your puppies at times when you cannot.

If you are using a breeder, you can usually work out a date when you can get the puppies when they are older. If a breeder wants you to take the puppy at sixteen weeks old, you can try to see if they will hold your puppy until it is older. Some breeders will work with you so that the puppy enters the household in the best possible situation.

Image Credit: Richard Potvin, Shutterstock

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Puppies should not be left alone for long periods of time. Puppies need food, attention, and bathroom breaks in order to grow and thrive. The AKC recommends not letting your puppy stay alone for more hours than they are months old. If you are struggling to get back to your puppies in a timely manner you might need to ask for help. Ensuring that your puppies are well cared for in their earliest months will help the puppies learn, grow, and adapt much better than if they are frequently left alone to their own devices.


Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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