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Q&A: Can I Leave My Dog Outside When I Go to Work?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

With proper access to water and shade, certain dogs are able to stay outdoors for up to 12 hours at a time.

With proper access to water and shade, certain dogs are able to stay outdoors for up to 12 hours at a time.

How Long Can I Keep My Dog Outside When It's Hot Out?

"I have a rescue dog (a lab mix) that I got at about 6 weeks. She turned a year old on March 1st. I have worked remotely since early 2020. Now they are calling us back 2 days a week. The drive is an hour and 15 minutes one way with no traffic and then an 8-hour work day, so I'd need to leave her outside for approximately 11–12 hours a day 2 days a week.

I can't leave her inside for that length of time, no relatives are close, and I can't afford to board her 2 days a week. She has a little swimming pool and a really nice dog house, but it terrifies me to leave her outside. Today it's 97˚F with a heat advisory. We're in west Tennessee. Will it hurt her to be outside as hot as it is?" —JoAnn

Ensure You Have a Proper Backyard Set-Up

There are more cases of heat-related illnesses in dogs now, but your dog should be okay to stay outside while you're at work as long as you follow a few simple steps.

Most dogs—unless they are obese and have a short snout (like a bulldog) and do not have access to shade and water—will do just fine outside even in the summer. Although some sites will tell you that you cannot leave your dog unsupervised outside, the reality is that many of us have to and set up our yards so that our dogs will be okay.

All-Day Shade Is Critical

Do you have a shade tree in the backyard that has shade all day long? If not, you may need to build a run that has plenty of shade and make sure you are at home to check it out all day long before leaving your dog alone.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Water to Play in Is a Big Plus

Since she is a Lab mix, she probably loves the water so if you already have or can purchase another wading pool and set it up in the shade, she will most likely spend a lot of time there during the day. Here are some other tips on keeping your dog cool in a hot environment.

How to Tell If Your Dog Has Heatstroke

Since she is going to be alone during the day, make sure you look her over well as soon as you get home. Make yourself familiar with the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs:

  • Fast heart rate (measure this a few times in the afternoon when you have been home all day and you will have a baseline for what is normal for her)
  • Confusion
  • Muscle tremors
  • Collapsing when she gets up to greet you
  • If she has seizures, squats but is not producing urine, or is unconscious, she needs veterinary care immediately; it is an emergency. (1)

Watch Out for Separation Anxiety

It may be difficult, but try not to worry about her when you are at work. Heatstroke is uncommon in a backyard with water and shade, so she probably will do just fine, although she will miss you!

Here are some tips on how to keep her from getting too sad when alone. Labs are one of the breeds known to develop separation anxiety, so look for the signs and do your best to deal with it early or prevent it from happening in the first place.


  1. Hall EJ, Carter AJ, O'Neill DG. Incidence and risk factors for heat-related illness (heatstroke) in UK dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016. Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 18;10(1):9128.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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