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What to Do If You Have to Leave Your Dog Home Alone

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

This guide will share some ideas to potentially avoiding leaving your doggy friend alone at home, while also providing some tips and tricks for making their experience the best it can be when you just don't have any other choice.

This guide will share some ideas to potentially avoiding leaving your doggy friend alone at home, while also providing some tips and tricks for making their experience the best it can be when you just don't have any other choice.

Leaving Your Dog Home Alone Is Hard

Probably everyone has to leave their dog alone at times. You should not just put your dog in a cage and make her wait for you to come home . . . even prisoners are allowed to use the toilet in their cell. Doesn’t your dog deserve to be treated as well as a criminal?

There are things you can do to make the time pass easier, but even if you try most of them, the days will still be hard for your dog.

Alternatives to Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

  • Take Your Dog to Work
  • Doggie Daycare
  • Dog Walker
  • Doggy Doors, Enrichment, etc.
There are things you can do to help your dog when you leave her alone.

There are things you can do to help your dog when you leave her alone.

Can You Take Your Dog to Work?

“Take your dog to work day" is a once-a-year event that started in the UK back in 1996, but it doesn’t seem to happen nearly often enough. How about taking your dog to work every day?

It really depends on if you are self-employed or are serving a big boss. Some companies like Google and Amazon let their employees bring their dogs in and have found that it benefits both the owner and the dog. (According to one report 17% of US offices allow dogs in the workplace.) If you do not work for one of the dog-friendly companies, it is up to you to point out how a dog at work will make things better. Be sure to tell your boss:

Dogs make employees happy and workplace performance improves.

Workers cooperate with each other better when there is a dog involved; many who never talk to each other will find a reason to chat and share ways to improve productivity when there is a dog involved.

  • There is improved company morale when an employee can take his dog to work.
  • Dogs lower stress in the workplace, according to a study done by the Virginia Commonwealth University. Cortisol levels were tested to evaluate this, and those with dogs had small increases during the day as compared to those who did not bring their dogs to work.
  • If your office has customers, point out to your boss that the company´s reputation will be better if dogs are allowed to come to work. If the company sponsors a local animal shelter and gives out handouts at the office, their reputation will be even better.
  • Explain that all dog owners will follow the rules. Dogs will be leashed to prevent them from running off, bothering anyone with allergies, or annoying any customers not interested in dealing with a dog.
  • If nothing else works, at least suggest your boss allow dogs in the workplace on Take Your Dog To Work Day, June 22. Maybe one day will be enough to change his mind.

What to Bring With You If You Take Your Dog to Work

A bright leash, a cool bandana, or a good dye job will make even more people interested in your dog. Be positive! Things will work out, and when they do, be sure to remember:

  1. Water bowl
  2. Dog food and bowl
  3. Treats and toys
  4. A favorite blanket or small bed
  5. A camera, of course!

Don’t forget to wash your dog the night before. If you have a breed that normally goes to the groomers, be sure to take him in for a trim. Sometimes a special haircut of dye job will enthrall even the most anti-dog office worker.

Instead of leaving your dog alone and incarcerating her in a small prison cell (the dog crate), which too many people think is okay) you should find a way to take her to work and allow your dog to enjoy her time as a social animal.

If you are not able to work from home, and have to leave your dog alone, there are options that you need to think about.

Best part of all? Dogs are happy to go to work!

Best part of all? Dogs are happy to go to work!

How to Keep Your Dog Happy When Home Alone

  • Walk her before leaving
  • Install a doggy door
  • Hide treats around house
  • Leave toys around house
  • Leave a Kong toy stuffed with frozen peanut butter
  • Feed her in the morning

Tips for Keeping Your Dog at Home

If you have to leave your dog alone:

  1. Walk her before you leave her: This might require you to wake up an hour earlier each day. Guess what? Your dog is worth it. Not all dogs require the same amount of exercise, but all will benefit from a walk.
  2. Install a doggy door so that your dog can go out in the back yard and sit in the sun: I know this is not possible in all places because some dogs are stolen from their own back yard. If you can, however, it can really help. She will not be forced to hold her bowels and urine, and may just sleep most of the day.
  3. Leave her a few treats hidden around the house: Alexandra Horowitz, in her book Inside of a Dog, told about how her dog would wait for her to come home before running around and eating all of the treats. Obviously hiding the treats around the house won't work for all dogs, but it might help.
  4. Leave her favorite toys around the house, but hidden in a place where she will find them (like under pillows).
  5. Buy her a Kong or another toy that can be stuffed with food (frozen peanut butter will last for several hours) and give it to her when you leave the house.
  6. Feed her a heavy meal at the time you are leaving: This is not a good idea for every dog. Some dogs are prone to obesity, some dogs have GI problems, and those breeds prone to GDV should definitely not be fed if the owner is not around. Dogs with a full stomach, especially if they are already tired, will sleep for hours, and may not even notice they are alone.
Working from home is another good option for some people.

Working from home is another good option for some people.

More Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Cracker on April 16, 2020:

This is cute

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 12, 2013:

I can believe it; in fact, I tell my parrot "Be good and eat all your veggies or I will make you go live in Massachusetts!" My Tegus quake everytime they think about it.

Bob Bamberg on March 12, 2013:

In MA, and I thought in NY also, guarding behavior can be a death sentence. If a rescue organization cannot adopt out a dog because of guarding behavior, it is often euthanized. Also in MA, your genet is illegal and would be confiscated. A lady in a neighboring town had a serval confiscated back around Y2K. I'll bet DrMark has a hard time believing that :)

Melissa A Smith from New York on March 12, 2013:

LOL, but she doesn't really demand we be there, she just prefers not to eat unless people are home. I don't know, the guarding to me seems normal. My spotted genet has this x200. Sometimes domesticated animals conserve wild instincts, I don't know if all dogs should behave the same. I'm sure the not eating when no one is home has something to do with that, but she has conflicting behaviors.

Bob Bamberg on March 12, 2013:

I've had a problem answering comments on one or two of my hubs. I completed the comment and it just disappeared into cyberspace somewhere.

I don't know how big the cat was in that incident (the owl was a Great Horned), but it was a Pomeranian that was carried off by a coyote right before the owner's eyes. Urban wildlife tends to be bold and demanding, increasing the danger to both pets and their people.

I think Melissa's dog...that demands you be in the room while she eats, but growls at you for looking at a bully. I'll bet a lot of folks recognize their ex's there! I'd do something to address that guarding behavior, though.

Melissa A Smith from New York on March 11, 2013:

I also wanted to say wow that is so true about dogs waiting for their owners to come home to eat. I do not understand what inspires this behavior, as I also get growled at when I look at my dog while she eats, but she will not chew on a bone or eat her food when no one is present. It just makes no sense.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 11, 2013:

This is my third try answering this! I dont know if it is my ISP or HP.

An owl can carry a lot more, but I doubt 100% of body wt. How big was the cat? Did she know what kind of owl it was? I am sure a hawk could come down and stay on the ground to feed, but would probably fly off if its talons were not able to kill they prey.

I treated a Cocker Spaniel with a flail chest in the US. It had lost a fight with a coyote. Good reason to have a large dog!

Bob Bamberg on March 11, 2013:

Interesting hub, and even more interesting comment thread.

I agree with Melissa's concerns regarding wildlife dangers. I wonder if hawks can, in fact, carry off prey heavier than themselves. I've read that owls do so...and are the only animals to prey upon skunks. The skunk can spray all it wants...the smell will just be come a stinky "vapor trail."

Once, when I was training a saw whet owl to accept a jess and perch on a hand, I was surprised to feel the owl rhythmically squeezing my hand, trying to penetrate the glove. I wondered if they do that, even when their talons penetrate, in order to deliver organ-piercing stabs.

Even if the hawk can't carry a small dog off, the puncture wounds caused by the talons can certainly be fatal. I had a customer who witnessed an owl flying off with his cat. At about 40 feet, either the cat struggled free or the owl lost its grip, and the cat plummeted to the ground. It survived the fall but had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries.

I had another customer who lost her dog to a coyote while the dog was 20 feet away from her. Witnessing that traumatized her considerably. She still can't lose the guilt.

I was glad to see you recommend hiding treats and toys. I gave similar advice to indoor-cat owners. I suggested they leave pinches of various herbs hidden around the house for the cats to explore.

Thanks for another good hub and robust discussion. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 10, 2013:

I had to see if I could find hawk info in one of my old books, and found out red tail hawks weigh 4-6 pounds and can only carry about a 1/3 of their body weight, so unless the hawk tried to eat the dog in the yard, I doubt this would happen.

Where I live there are Harpy Eagles, which are large enough to carry off a dog, but I have never heard of them trying this since raptors usually feast of rodents and other small creatures that do not bite back, like a canine would (or should, at least).

I have read almost all of your hubs on exotics, so I understand when you comment that they are treated pretty rough. Except dolphins, which are sort of like honorary humans!

Melissa A Smith from New York on March 10, 2013:

Haha, well actually I don't know if that matters. If you aren't present then a hawk can just take their time butchering your dog and hopefully flying away after having done some damage. In another video a dog was dropped a few acres away with a broken leg.

Honestly, compared to what exotic pet owners have deal with dogs are honorary societal members, so I can't say I'm complaining too much unfortunately.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 10, 2013:

I haven´t worked with raptors for years, but I am talking about whether the bird would even have the strength to pick up a dog.

I wouldnt trust wiki answers. Anyone can make up stuff on that site. My ISP is too slow for videos but I can watch it after about the 15th when it speeds up. (Internet service here is really bad)

Coyotes are a different matter; they are easily big enough to handle a lot of dogs. Foxes? Maybe a teacup Chihuahua or Yorkie, but not much else.

Nantucket too? That is really sad. Bob Bamberg has told me about some of the restrictions on dogs in Massachusetts. I would not want to live there.

Melissa A Smith from New York on March 10, 2013:

I know it has happened so it's not a myth:

But there are also other animals to be concerned about, especially coyotes, if one manages to dig under the fence. It just seems like an easy target to me, chihuahuas are the preferable size for most predators, even foxes. I live in a suburbs (north of NYC) next to the city and I see these animals. I've only seen a coyote once, staring at my dog when I stepped away for about 1 minute and she is only a tad smaller than them.

It sounds more that where you live must be dog-positive, for most places this is all normal. Nantucket was touted as a dog friendly town but even there I felt there were many restrictions on the beaches and outdoor dining.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 10, 2013:

The open toy jar sounds like a great way to keep Joe busy, tirelesstraveler, but I am curious--does he return the toys to the jar when he is finished playing with them?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 10, 2013:

Hi Melissa I have heard that (about the hawks) but what is the weight that a raptor is actually able to carry? Dont you think this is one of those urban/internet myths? I realize you have to be careful of dog thieves in some areas, and of course a doggy door wouldnt work in an apartment. It is an option, but definitely not for everyone.

Are you in the city or upstate? It sounds pretty dog-negative. I wouldn´t have a job that would not allow me to take my dog, but back when I was a student I didn´t have much to say in the matter.

I liked learning but I do not miss those restrictions!

Judy Specht from California on March 10, 2013:

I really like the idea of leaving treats hidden. When leaving the dogs home I frequently leave their toy jar on the floor.( Costco sized plastic cookie jar) Not big enough for Joe to get his head stuck. They love emptying it.

Melissa A Smith from New York on March 10, 2013:

Wow um, about the person allowing their small dog out while they aren't present, they should know that small dogs are very vulnerable to predation. Hawks can swoop down and get them. I don't think I'd be comfortable leaving any dog out except the most independent, largest breeds. Dogs can also be stolen. I like the ideas of hiding treats and using kongs (although I have heard horror stories of dogs tryign to swallow them, so I'm be considerate of leaving them alone with large things like this), but I'm very certain most people can't take dogs with them to work. My dad is now retired, but before that he worked fixing large computers at several locations, and my mom works at a court house. I'm not sure if take your dog to work day exists around here, pet ownership is generally looked down upon and they are banned from parks, stores, many restaurants even outside. I'm a student, I'd love to take my pets everywhere but at this point it is an unreachable fantasy. I am the neighbor that walks another person's dogs, but it won't work in reverse.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 09, 2013:

Sorry to hear that, Cathy. I hope she is okay as soon as you come home.

I mentioned that book from Alexandra Horowitz in the hub. She said her dog would go around and find all the hidden treats but would not eat them until she came home. It gave her a good excuse to rush home after classes, and not spend time hanging around chatting.

Ms. Immortal from NJ on March 09, 2013:

Great suggestions, when I leave my dog she won't eat or even chew her favorite bone. It's very sad :o(

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 09, 2013:

My dog goes with me everywhere, including work, so when I leave her alone a few times a week she is always glad to see me. They act like it has been ages!!!

Baby is lucky you are there for her most of the time. How is the treatment of her KCS going?

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on March 09, 2013:

I'm retired and a homebody, so I rarely leave my dog alone for longer than two or, at the most, three hours. I leave soothing music playing for her with a CD on loop. When she was younger, she was anxious. Now, I think she sleeps until I return. She's always glad to see me, though!

Voted Up++ and shared


WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 09, 2013:

I'm going to build a floating aluminum ramp and cover it with a thin carpet that she can just walk out on. Even labs can drown if they don't know where and how to get out. I taught both of mine where the steps were.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 09, 2013:

She is really fortunate that you are thinking about the pool, too. A Chihuahua shouldnt have any trouble swimming, but make sure you build some sort of ramp for her to get out if she does fall in. My dog has no trouble getting in and out but a few years ago a Chow Chow fell in my pool and could not get out (because of all the wet hair). My dog at the time let me know--if he had not alerted me the dog would have drowned.

The radio is a good idea too. I just give my dog a big meal--it is not for everyone but fine for her.

Thanks for commenting.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 09, 2013:

I have to leave our Chihuahua Lily alone at times, but I let her have the run of the house. We put down pads for her to use. Although we do have a dog door, we also have a pool, and I want to wait until summer so I can teach her how to get out should she fall in.

I also leave a radio on a talk station so she can hear a human voice, and I make a big deal out of it when I come home, including treats. But if it's for more that a couple of hours, we take her to a friend who loves to have her.