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How many hours a day can a dog be alone?

Leaving a dog home alone for long periods of time is unfortunately a reality for many pet owners. However, dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship and can suffer if left alone for too long. So how many hours is it acceptable to leave your dog by themselves? There is no single answer, as factors like age, health, breed, temperament and prior conditioning must be considered. But generally speaking, a healthy adult dog should not be left alone for more than 4-6 hours at a time.

How long can puppies be left alone?

Puppies require near constant supervision and care. They have small bladders and high energy levels that demand frequent potty breaks and activity. Puppies also need socialization and training during their developmental months. As a general rule, puppies under 6 months should never be left alone for more than 2-3 hours at a time. Puppies 6-12 months can gradually be left alone for slightly longer periods, but no more than 4 hours maximum.

How long can adult dogs be left alone?

Adult dogs can typically be left alone for 4-6 hours at a time, as long as they are conditioned appropriately:

  • Healthy adult dogs that are 1-6 years old and properly house trained can be left alone for 4-6 hour stretches.
  • Senior dogs 7-10+ years old should not be left alone more than 4 hours at a time.
  • Dogs with health issues or separation anxiety may only tolerate 2-3 hours alone.
  • High energy breeds like huskies or herding dogs fare better with another dog at home or dog walker visits if being left over 4 hours.

Exceeding a 6 hour alone time on a regular basis can cause stress, boredom, and destructive behavior in dogs. Every dog has an individual threshold, but it is best to keep time spent alone under 6 hours whenever possible.

How long can dogs legally be left alone?

There are no federal or nationwide laws that dictate how long dogs can legally be left unattended. However, some states and cities do have statutes around this:

State/City Legal Time Limit Alone
Illinois No more than 10 hours per day
Ohio No more than 12 hours per day
Pennsylvania No more than 9 hours per day
Texas No more than 10 hours per day
Kentucky No more than 10 hours per day
California No statute
New York City No more than 12 hours per day
Dallas, TX No more than 10 hours per day

These legal limits provide humane minimum standards. But just because a certain alone time may be legal in your state, does not mean it is ideal for your dog’s welfare. The social and physical needs of the individual dog should still come first.

Factors impacting time dogs can be left alone

There are many variables that factor into how long a dog can comfortably be left unattended, including:


Puppies and senior dogs need more frequent care and potty breaks. Healthy adults can go longer between potty breaks and are easier to condition to alone time.


Some breeds like labs or retrievers are more prone to separation anxiety. High energy breeds like huskies also need more activity. Low energy or independent breeds like greyhounds can do better with longer alone stretches.


Dogs with medical conditions like diabetes, incontinence or arthritis will need potty breaks more often. Ill or injured dogs should not be left for long periods.

House Training

A dog that is fully potty trained can logically be left for longer than one still learning. But even house trained dogs need access to potty breaks about once every 8 hours.


Nervous, anxious or destructive dogs can benefit from being left alone for shorter periods and given more attention upon return. Confident dogs that are conditioned to the routine usually do better.

Prior Conditioning

Dogs that are gradually conditioned to spending time alone from a young age will be more comfortable than those thrust suddenly into long alone stretches as adults.

Providing for dogs left alone

If it is necessary to leave your dog unattended for 4-6 hour periods, make sure their basic needs are provided for:

  • Plenty of fresh water
  • Access to potty/dog run if not house trained
  • Comfortable, climate controlled environment
  • Chew toys like frozen kongs to prevent boredom/destructiveness
  • Soothing music or TV can help anxious dogs
  • Baby gate rather than crate if dog becomes distressed
  • Consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker for mid-day break

You know your individual dog best. If they exhibit stress or destructive behaviors when left alone, they likely require more companionship and activity than other dogs.

Alternatives to leaving dogs alone

Here are some alternatives to leaving your dog home alone for long periods:

  • Daycare: Drop your dog at doggie daycare for social play and care while you are away.
  • Pet Sitter: Hire a pet sitter or dog walker to provide potty breaks and play time.
  • Take to Work: See if your workplace allows dogs and take them with you.
  • Remote Work: Work from home as much as possible to keep your dog company.
  • Boarding: Utilize overnight boarding when you take long trips away.
  • Dog Friend: Leave your dog with a family member, friend or neighbor when possible.
  • Training: Teach recall skills so your dog can be outdoors more when supervised.

Making use of alternatives whenever you can will allow your dog to spend less time alone at home.

Signs a dog is stressed from being left alone

Look for these signs that indicate your dog is struggling with time spent alone:

  • Excessive barking/whining
  • Pacing
  • Destructive chewing
  • House soiling
  • Escaping confinement
  • Self-injury
  • Depression upon return
  • Aggression with caregiver
  • Hiding/trembling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/inactivity

Dogs exhibiting multiple distressed behaviors may suffer from true separation anxiety and need intervention from a veterinary behaviorist.

Training a dog to be left alone

If your dog struggles with being left unattended, here are some tips for conditioning them to accept alone time:

  • Begin with very short departures and absences working up to longer over time.
  • Provide food toys like stuffed kongs for distraction.
  • Keep departures/arrivals low key to avoid reinforcing anxiety.
  • Create positive associations with your absence by providing treats upon departure.
  • Use calming aids like DAP diffusers, calming music, and exercise beforehand.
  • Ensure your dog has pottied shortly before you leave.
  • Crate train your dog incrementally if showing destructive behavior loose in home.

With time, patience, and positive reinforcement most dogs can learn to become comfortable spending reasonable periods of time alone at home.


At the end of the day, most healthy adult dogs can be left alone for 4-6 hours at a time if properly conditioned from a young age. However, factors like breed, age, health and temperament can all impact how long is reasonable for an individual dog. Puppies and senior dogs require more frequent care and supervision. Exceeding 6 hours alone on a regular basis can cause stress in dogs. Also be aware of your state’s legal limits on unattended dogs, usually around 10-12 hours. While occasional long days may be unavoidable, it is ideal for dogs to have companionship the majority of the time.