“How long can you leave your puppy alone?” is a question many of us have asked ourselves, and the internet isn’t much help sometimes to be honest. There’s lots of contradictory information out there.

But don’t worry! We’re here to answer your questions and help you wrap your brain around it. In this article, we’ll be talking about: 

  • How long you can leave a puppy alone for per month of age
  • How to get a puppy used to being alone and that everything is AOK!
  • What you should do the first time you leave your puppy alone
  • Some handy tips and tricks from a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer

Puppies being able to feel alright when left alone is an important skill to have, and should be as much a part of training as toilet training, socialisation, and all those cool tricks we have for you in the Zigzag puppy training app – we don’t want you to get fined because of your puppy wailing endlessly while you’re out, and we want your puppy to be happy home alone too.

dog looking out of the window for owners to come home
Photo by Leohoho on Unsplash

How long can you leave a puppy alone?

The first thing to understand about leaving your puppy alone at home is that dogs and puppies are social creatures that just live for good company – human company! They also don’t come pre-programmed to cope with being on their own. We’re nowhere near superheroes, but puppies depend on us to survive so it makes sense that being without their beloved human companion can make them feel worried. Or like the world is ending…some puppy sounds can definitely sound like that. 

But let’s brighten things up. Leaving a puppy alone will definitely be possible in the near future – you just have to work your way through it. Remember that your puppy is a baby and will probably need a lot more company at the start, but they’ll manage just fine eventually. Here’s a good overview to answer all your “how long can you leave a puppy alone?” questions according to their age:

  •  2 months: An hour or less. Yep, puppies really need us at this age, and they also need to go for wees far more often.
  •  3 months: 2 hours tops – otherwise your puppy will likely leave puddles on the floor.
  •  4 months: At this point, how long a puppy can stay alone can start matching their age – so 4 hours. After 4 hours, your puppy will definitely need the toilet, so you might want to keep it at 3 just to make sure. They’ll likely want some cuddles too.
  •  5 months: 5 hours – this is how long any puppy could hold their bladder for too. 
  •  6 months: 6 hours – look at them growing up. Your puppy can start to hold their bladder for 5 – 6 hours at this age.
  • Over 6 months:  Most 6 months old puppies and dogs can hold their bladder for 6 hours without bursting, but any longer and you’ll need a dog walker or pet sitter to come in to give them some company and let them out for a wee. 

PRO TIPS:

  • While the outline is a ‘general’ rule it’s important to remember that every puppy is different, so some might need a little more time to figure it out. 
  • Make sure your puppy doesn’t wait too long to go to the toilet though…that can cause some nasty UTIs as well as smelly accidents, which just sets your toilet training back.
  • Nobody likes a crying puppy. If you leave them longer than they can emotionally handle, there’s a risk you might be setting them up for Separation Related Problems too…and we want none of that!

How to train your puppy to be alone

How to get your puppy used to being alone always works well when starting off with something that makes them tick…like food. We do have a full step-by-step program for home alone training in our Zigzag puppy training app (just putting that out there) but here’s a taster of what you’ll need to do:

You will need:

  • Stuffable chew toys such as Kongs, West Paw Toppls or Busy Buddy toys
  • Some of your puppy’s food

How to do it:

Step 1 

Pop the stuffed food toy in your puppy’s crate, playpen or safe area.

Sit near or next to the area, so that your puppy is comfortable as you’re close by but your puppy is focussed on eating the food, and not on watching you.

Repeat this for at least 5 days so that your puppy gets used to eating out of toys and you being close by.

Step 2  

Repeat the previous step, only that this time you’ll be walking around the area and maybe popping out of the room for a second or two before you come back in.

PRO TIPS:

  • Try to not make a fuss of your puppy when you come back in. They’ve noticed you go in and out already…they’re very perceptive, little puppies.
  • Do this for another few days until your puppy is comfortable with you leaving, and popping in and out.

Step 3

Fill that food toy with yummy treats and try leaving the room for 10 seconds while your puppy chomps it all before you return.

Did your puppy carry on eating when you were gone? Good job!

Step 4

Gradually increase the time by just a few seconds each day and start ‘flitting’ in and out, up and down the stairs for them to get used to you focusing on other things but them.

Build up the time so that you’re able to put the food toy down and be in another area of the house for a few minutes while they’re eating.

PRO TIP: It’s worth using a camera to monitor how your puppy is doing once you leave them for longer with the food toy. This will give you a good idea of how quickly you can progress and start leaving your puppy alone for longer. 

‘Slowly wins the race’ is definitely true for when you’re figuring out how to get your puppy used to being alone, so don’t feel like you need to rush things. Easy does it.

puppy waiting by window for owners to come home
Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash

Leaving a puppy alone for the first time

Here’s my top tips for leaving a puppy alone for the first time, and what to do to make it an easy process. Or easier process, shall we say.

1. Make sure that they have all their basic needs around them like water (and love), as well as:

  • A previous trip to the toilet before you leave them.
  • A good amount of physical and mental exercise that day so that they can use the time you’re gone to rest and relax, rather than getting angsty.
  • Somewhere quiet, warm and secure to snuggle in. Their crate, playpen, or whatever they’re used to sleeping in should do the trick – make sure to make it extra cozy with blankets and toys. Oh, and make sure to puppy proof the area, those shark teeth can chew on the craziest things!
  • Something that smells of you – they love us, let’s leave a little piece of us behind so they can keep us close.

2. Set up a puppy cam

When you’re in the learning process of leaving a puppy alone, a great way to keep an eye on the progress is by literally keeping an eye on them. With a camera, of course.

There are all kinds of apps and puppy cams on the market these days; from free to super-duper expensive, so find one that works for you and watch your puppy from your phone when you’re gone.

3. Don’t go for too long

If you’re leaving a puppy alone for the first few times, make them short and sweet. Maybe try some practice runs when you just nip out for a coffee close to home while you keep an eye on them. 

4. Avoid over enthusiastic hellos and goodbyes 

One of the main goals is that we want our puppies to think ‘Ok, you’re leaving, no big deal’ when you leave, and ‘Oh you’re back, barely noticed’. We’re not trying to get them to dislike you, trust us, they probably will still go all giddy. But we don’t need to encourage them too much – they already know we’re the best thing ever anyway. 

5. Try some calming music

When the house is empty, it can suddenly go very quiet. It can almost seem too quiet. Try leaving your puppy with the radio or some classical music on – it will help muffle outside noises as well as their internal dilemmas. It’s a great way to get a puppy used to being alone in an easy, smooth-ish way.

Leaving your puppy alone can be a worrying time for them and for us! Let’s be honest, it isn’t just puppies who get separation problems, wouldn’t we all love to be stay at home pet parents? 

But the truth is that we need to spend some time apart every once in a while, so it’s worth knowing how to train a puppy to be alone when they’re young and can easily absorb information so that we don’t run into trouble later on.

puppy on dog bed in the lounge
Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

If you’re starting the ride of leaving your puppy alone for the first time, why not download our app? It’s our way of not leaving you alone. Our wonderful team of Puppy Training Experts are here to help you 24/7 with any struggles you’re having or with any general puppy questions you just simply want some good, trusty advice on. Or a shoulder to cry on in case you miss your puppy so bad when you’re off to the pub.

Looking for more puppy training advice and tips? Check out our guide on how to crate train a puppy, next.