Is it Right to Have a Dog if You Work Full Time?

Updated on January 31, 2015

Can You Leave a Dog Alone While You Work?

This question is often asked on dog forums, and the person posing it is normally shot down in flames with the response that dogs need their humans available 24 hours a day, and leaving a dog alone for more than a couple of hours would amount to animal cruelty.

So it would appear that dog ownership should be left in the hands of the unemployed, the stay at home housewife or househusband, people who work from home, or the rich who have independent means of support.

The poor person who must work all their lives to earn a living has to wait until they are in their sixties and retired before they can own their own pooch – and at that point may not even be able to enjoy or cope with the antics of a puppy (and may be refused a rescue dog).

But many people do work full time, and have well behaved beloved and cared for pets – although they might whisper this as though it's some secret habit that has to be hidden.

English Setter

English Setter who thrived whilst his owner was out at work
English Setter who thrived whilst his owner was out at work

The Facts

So what are the facts?

  1. Dogs Can Grow Accustomed to Solitude It is true that if you adopt a dog which has been used to its owners being around 24/7 it is unlikely to take well to being left alone for long periods, and may become destructive. But on the other hand, if it’s all the dog has ever known he is likely to be quite accustomed to his alone time during the day.
  2. A Dog Left Alone Regularly Will Often Sleep. A dog who is accustomed to being left alone will probably just sleep during the time his owner is working and have his waking and active periods when you are at home. As long as you make sure to give the dog plenty of stimulation and exercise when you are together, the dog will be happy to nap when you are gone.

Dogs left alone will often just sleep during the quiet hours.
Dogs left alone will often just sleep during the quiet hours. | Source

My Story: How I Became a Single, Working Dog Owner

I had to address the question of whether it was right to work full time and own a dog when my partner of 9 years moved out, leaving me alone. As a lifetime dog lover who grew up with dogs, I’d always wanted one of my own, but my then partner didn’t like them at all. Rather than being alone in the house, I chose to get a dog for company and security reasons.

Bending the truth a little to the breeder about how many hours I worked, I bought a gorgeous English Setter puppy. For the first few weeks I took extended lunch hours so that he could be fed and let out at lunchtime, but after that I started being out the whole day. And he very soon got into the pattern of either playing with his toys and chews (vetted to make sure they were of the type that he could play with unsupervised) or sleeping until I came home. In the evenings he was active and playful. I walked him before work and in the evenings, and he was happy, well balanced and healthy. He didn’t bark or whine – the neighbours kept me informed that he was quiet when I was out. He lived to a healthy old age.

I’ve had two other dogs since who’ve also been left alone. As long as they know nothing else, I’ve found that they accept and adapt to it quite easily.

You'll have to come home during lunch for the first few weeks to let your puppy into the garden.
You'll have to come home during lunch for the first few weeks to let your puppy into the garden. | Source

Tips on Caring for a Dog While Working Full Time

So you can certainly have a dog and work full time, but there are some things you need to consider, especially at the beginning when your dog or puppy is still getting adjusted to their new home.

  1. Take long lunch breaks: It’s best to start with a puppy, but young puppies cannot go 8 or 9 hours without being fed or being let out into the garden, so for at least the first few weeks you will need to be able to come home at lunchtime or have a neighbour pop in.
  2. House-training will require patience. House-training will take longer, as you are not going to be there to spot the signs and take the pup promptly outside. That's OK. Be patient and don't get discouraged.
  3. Make sure your dog is comfortable. Your dog should be left with adequate space to play: for example, a kitchen or larger utility room. If you are using a crate it should be available so he can sleep in it, but NEVER leave a dog crated during the day. Being confined in a small place is definitely cruel. And it goes without saying water should always be available.
  4. Spend time with your dog. If you are single and get a dog to keep you company, you’ll need to take into account that he will be relying on you to amuse him when you are at home. It would not be fair to get a dog and then spend all your evenings out with friends! You will need to make an effort to make your dog part of your life. This can be restrictive when you meet a potential partner, as your four legged friend will have to come along too.

Conclusion: If you work full time but want a dog, go ahead, but make sure to proceed with care. Try to get a more independent breed, the younger the better, or a rescue that’s used to being alone. Plan how you’ll spend quality time with him, and be prepared to justify yourself to anyone who has the luxury of not having to work. You work hard; so reward yourself with your canine dream.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      K9 rescue volunteer 6 weeks ago

      I know the author is trying to provide useful information. Maybe I'm just too sensitive but as a RESCUE volunteer I feel this article encourages people to BUY a PUPPY when they are not ready to take care of him/her. This is why we work so hard but still have to watch so many dogs die in streets or shelters. For the ones who are not sure if they should get a dog. I suggest to foster a few and you will know what you want.

    • profile image

      Get real 2 months ago

      First of all, no one "owns" a dog. You have the pleasure of its company.

      Second, come on, people, adopt some underdogs, stop the breeding business. It's bad for the species (lowers the genetic pool and leads to A LOT of genetic anomalies in the shape of diseases).

      And be prepared to give up a lot more stuff in order to give the poor dog some REAL atention. It's not an accessory of your house ¬¬.

    • profile image

      Hristina Z 3 months ago

      Me and my partner recently got a French bulldog puppy, got it when he was 4 months and now he is 9 months. Doing my research and reading all the forums about how bad it is for a dog to be on its own for a full working day, I was quite worried knowing our schedule. But now as a proud frenchie owner I totally disagree, that a dog can not be left on its own for more than 4 hrs.

      In the first 2 months we had someone coming and walking Rocky in the middle of the day, but now he is left for 8-9 hours for 4 days a week and he does well. He has plenty of toys, water, and food, I also hide some treats around and leave the radio on. I think he sleeps most of the day and he plays with his toys as I find them all over the flat. I give him the whole run of the flat and I have never crated him. He gets a walk in the morning and when we come home in the evening, also we spend all day in the park in the weekend.

      He is a very happy pup, very well socialised and behaved and well adapted to our lifestyle, we still use training pads at home, because we are aware that he can not hold for the whole day.

      So whoever says you can not have a dog and work full time, you are totally wrong, I get that it's not the perfect situation, but dogs are smart and can adapt to any life style.

    • profile image

      Virginia 3 months ago

      I must say, this article is perfect timing, I'm a para-transit driver working 10-14 hour shifts, six days a week. I was stressing worried about my 9-1/2 year old pittie/lab being stuck alone indoors for such long stretches. My furkid was rescued out of a snow bank at only 3 weeks old ditched middle of the night in a crate.

      The next issue I also worry about is her loving to BARK at everything.. Living in an apartment complex, not exactly the best situation for a hyper-vocal pooch.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 3 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Very helpful :) my partner and I are thinking of getting a French bulldog next year but both work full-time. Not sure if this info will apply though since they're supposedly needy.

    • profile image

      Nicole 3 months ago

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and giving advice!

      My husband and I just separated and our dog stayed with me. Due to the circumstances I had to start working full time instead of only part time. My dog is good at staying by herself because she does not bark or whine but it took some time for her to get used to the new schedule.

    • profile image

      Bitty 5 months ago

      I really want a dog because I love dogs so much and feel that a dog would help me a lot with my anxiety.

      I do work full time... but it's a fairly relaxed environment that wouldn't have a problem with me going for an extended lunch or even home early some days. But I'm just so scared it would be unfair to the dog. I want them to be happy too, of course.

      This article has helped me quite a bit.

    • profile image

      CJW 6 months ago

      Thank you for your article, I work at a school and which although it seems like we get lots of holiday I still have to be there alot in summer and Easter.

      My partner is also a full time worker.

      We really want a dog but there is no way we could afford to take time out of work to train as some might be able to. We are in love with a Springer Spaniel which does worry me but I want it to be used to lunchtimes, evenings and weekends full of exercise and attention.

      After reading articles about puppy training it has left us feeling like we should not get a dog or that we are being cruel to it.

    • profile image

      Rohit N 8 months ago

      Thank you so much! I needed this.

    • profile image

      Sal 11 months ago

      At last some common sense!

      Suddenly we find ourselves in a position where my daughter and I will be at work all day. We rescued her about 6 years ago and believe she must be about 9. Probably selfish but we couldn't bear to part with her but are thinking about another friend to keep her company.

    • profile image

      wtF 14 months ago

      Pit bulls are worst

    • profile image

      Nancy 14 months ago

      Thank you very much for your article. I have a new job and have a daushaund. He occasionally wakes me at night. I realize I need more time with him. It's an adjustment! He is so sweet. Thank you again!

    • Trish Haill profile image

      Trish Haill 2 years ago from Essex, England

      There are so many dog breeds out there that it's hard to say. Some dogs, particularly those bred to work with humans (gundogs, sheepdogs for example) have the innate yearn to be with their owners. Some breeds are far more aloof, and content to spend time on their own. Then there's the retired greyhound who's content to sleep for most of the day on the couch! Before taking on any dog it's important to find the right breed for you taking into account size, cost (ongoing such as vet's fees, food and insurance rather than the initial cost), whether you have children in your household, how much exercise you're prepared to do and, if you work, whether it's a breed that can be left on it's own for periods of time.

    • profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago

      What would you say is an independent breed?

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      When I left my dogs home because of work or highschool waaaaay back when, they slept most of the time. But I also spent more time with my dogs after work than most.

      Dogs are social creatures and must have lots of contact, but learning how to be alone is a good skill, too.

      Maybe the dog is being left home more than it should. But what human gets the attention they probably should get? A few do but not many.

      A dog can still be healthy and happy from a small amount of neglect. Like poison. We can handle a small amount of most poisons, but the more you take, the worse it gets. And it gets bad fast.

      If you do leave it at home, be ready to spend time with it when you can. That makes up for some of it and the dog can have a reasonably happy life.

      It has worked for me. Except for this last one. Wow! What a busy little gal. Keeps me young tho :)

    • Trish Haill profile image

      Trish Haill 5 years ago from Essex, England

      Thanks, and Absolutely! That's why I stressed having to give up some of your spare time to be with him.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Good article. My problem with the interet is that there are all sorts of sites saying it it okay to get a dog if you work, just leave him locked up in the crate all day so he does not get into trouble. Wrong, and cruel. I think you can go ahead and get a dog if you work, though you may have to rearrange your lifestyle somewhat for your new companion.

      Voted up.