Having a dog and a 9 to 5 is possible for a lot of families, but raising a puppy when you work full time away from the home is a bit more of a challenge. Fortunately, there are things you can do to successfully bring a new furry baby into your home happily and safely whilst holding down your career. It will probably involve a lot of paid help, from dog sitters to creches, or if you are extremely lucky friendly family members, as well as a careful set up at home. Play pens, baby gates and plenty of toys will come in helpful too, along with those all important puppy pads.
Today I’ll share how to bring your new puppy home at 8 weeks old, and keep your job as well as your cool.
You’ll find great tips and advice, and you can use the links in this article to get more in-depth information on each topic. We’ll even help you decide if this is the right time for you to get a puppy.
Why keep a dog when you work full time?
More than a third of all households in the USA include a dog. That so many people adore dogs won’t be a surprise to you. There are benefits to dog ownership that go beyond companionship and love.
Benefits to dog ownership
There is no doubt, for example, that owning a dog can be a major factor in getting people outdoors and moving around An Australian study showed that dog owners walked on average 18 minutes a week more than non-dog owners. It isn’t a huge amount, but every little counts!
Dogs are family
Of course, the primary reason we want a dog in our lives is because we love them and appreciate the shared bond between us. In a British study published in 2005 over 90% of pet parents regard their dog or cat as a valued family member.
Dog ownership is not something to be taken lightly of course and the love you will feel for your dog is a double edged sword. Bringing both pleasure and responsibility in equal measure. While it would be great to spend all day and every day with our dogs, most of us work!
Leaving A Dog Home Alone While At Work
The days where every home contained a full time stay at home Mom are long gone. So it’s inevitable that many dogs live in homes that are empty for part or all of each working day. Some people feel that this is wrong or cruel. Others feel that hard working folk should not be punished by being deprived of the joys that dog ownership can bring
There is no doubt that when managed badly, pet ownership by working pet parents can result in sad, neglected pets. Managed well however, it can work out happily for all concerned. It’s all about setting up a support system. This is especially important when it comes to puppies.
Can I Have A Puppy When I Work? Would That Be Wrong?
Leaving a small puppy alone while at work is something you’ll probably be concerned about, and rightly so. Caring for a puppy is more involved than caring for an adult dog.
Puppies don’t stay puppies for long. But while they are little, they need a lot of attention. They need companionship, frequent meals and potty training. It is possible to work and provide these things. For most working pet parents that means paying for some help. Let’s look at what’s involved.
How long can you leave a puppy alone?
The number of hours you can leave a puppy for will depend on his age, potty training stages, and whether or not the puppy is crated during that time. Here are some guidelines to help you figure out what kind of help you are going to need at each stage.
Can I leave my 8 week old puppy home alone?
The new puppy needs a lot of attention and companionship. For the first few days your home is a stranger’s home. And they may will not feel safe there. If you leave a puppy alone too soon and for too long, they may get very distressed, make a lot of noise and have a very upset stomach.
You need to either arrange for time off work to be with your 8 week old puppy for much of the day, or for someone else to look after him whilst you are at work.
How Often Does A Puppy Need To Go Out?
Your new puppy needs to be taken out to a toilet area at very frequent intervals, every hour or so for the first few days. Then gradually accustomed to waiting longer between potty breaks. Puppies also needs to be taken on lots of outings to ensure they are properly socialized. This is vital, and difficult (if not impossible) to cram into evenings and weekends.
How long can a puppy be left alone from 10-12 weeks of age
Your puppy’s bladder capacity is increasing but they may still be unable to last the four hours until you come home at lunch time.
If you crate your puppy, you’ll need to arrange for someone to come in and let them out mid-morning. Or the equivalent for an afternoon or evening shift. If you leave them alone for four hours, you’ll need a puppy pen to keep them safe and out of mischief.
Put his night crate at one end with the door open, so that he can empty his bladder away from his sleeping quarters.
How long can puppies be left alone from 3-6 months of age
By the time he is six months old, your puppy will probably be able to last three to four hours without a pee. And he may be happy to sleep those four hours away in a large adult sized crate.
It is important here to consider the journey time to and from work. People often say “I only work four hours” but in reality, the dog is left a good deal longer than that because of the travel time involved.
Setting Up A Puppy Zone
If you are going to leave your dog any more than four hours, then he really would be better off with a puppy pen arrangement. You’ll need to create a puppy zone where you can leave your puppy safely and where the puppy can take potty breaks if they need to
A puppy zone can be a puppy proof room or a playpen that is big enough to contain a sleeping area and a separate area for potty breaks. You’ll need to put puppy pads (or newspaper) down on the floor to absorb any liquid. Playpens to contain a puppy in your absence need to be sturdy. Hazards to keep free from the zone include loose wires and choking hazards, plus anything you don’t want your puppy to chew!
A puppy proof room
Many people just leave the puppy in their kitchen, because, sensibly, it has a washable floor. Depending on your home, even this arrangement may not be ideal. Unfortunately, many puppies left alone for hours on end, will chew things up.
This includes the cable on your refrigerator, the kitchen towel you left trailing over the edge of the unit, and the Puppy Pads* you put down for him to pee on. So you can see you will need to ‘puppy proof’ your chosen room quite carefully.
Some puppies are ‘extreme chewers’ and may destroy table legs, floor covering, and even the skirting boards which you thought were firmly attached to the wall. For this kind of puppy, you’ll need a better solution. Which brings us to puppy pens.
Puppy pens and barriers
These come in sections and can be assembled to fit most rooms. You will need one in addition to your crate. The flimsier ones are not robust enough for older puppies to be left in unsupervised.
There is plenty of room here for the puppy to stretch his legs, and empty his bowels and bladder away from his sleeping quarters. This helps to preserve his natural instincts to keep his den clean. Later, your whole home will be his den, so we want to keep this instinct nice and strong.
Bear in mind that some six month old pups can jump quite high, so if your pup starts escaping the puppy pen you will have to re-think. Bear in mind also, that this is the age at which some dogs become very destructive, especially if they are bored. So you probably will not want to give your puppy the run of the house just yet.
These are broad guidelines of course, and every dog is different. Do be prepared to ask for support and advice from your vet, breeder and other experienced dog professionals, if you are concerned about how long to leave your puppy at any particular stage in his development.
How to potty train a puppy when you work
If you leave your puppy alone for longer than the puppy can wait to pee, they need to be kept in a large area with access to puppy training pads. The principle of potty training this way is to teach the puppy to pee and poop on puppy pads first.
Later you can move the puppy pads by stages outdoors. But for now you’ll want to cover the entire area that the puppy has access to in pads, then reduce the area gradually over the next few days until your puppy is pooping in one small area.
If you only work part time, or have a friend calling in to be with your puppy, then as your puppy grows, you can start leaving them in a crate while you are out.
Home Alone Puppy – What Can Go Wrong?
I am often asked questions in the comments section, by new puppy owners that are leaving their puppy alone in the house all day. They are not sure what to do with their puppy while at work. They are having problems with house-training. Or problems with him chewing stuff, and with barking or howling while they are gone.
Sometimes the puppy will cope for a few months then start wetting in the crate out of the blue. Let’s look first at some of the problems that can arise, when people attempt to combine a full-time job with a puppy. And at how we can help you to avoid them.
Labrador puppy bed wetting or peeing in the crate
A common problem in home alone puppies is ‘bed wetting’. The owner has read that crate training is a good idea, which it is, but has not read the part about the puppy’s bladder capacity.
During the day, many 8-10 week old Labrador puppies have a tiny bladder capacity that can hold around an hour’s urine, maximum. Of course, there are some that can last much longer. But they usually belong to someone else. Some puppies will last not much more than twenty minutes at certain times of the day during the first week or so.
As you can see, it is not possible to leave a brand new puppy in a crate for longer than an hour at most (during the day) without risking accidents.
If the bed wetting starts later, at 4-6 months it’s tempting to think that the puppy is being naughty.
But the fact is, many things can influence how long a dog can go without emptying his bladder. And a puppy or dog whose bladder is constantly being overfilled is likely to be more prone to bladder infections etc. Or may give up when the effort of waiting becomes unbearable. This doesn’t mean you can’t crate train a puppy when you work, and we’ll talk about that in a moment.
Does it matter if a puppy wets his bed?
Does it really matter if the puppy wet’s his bed at this age? Won’t he just grow out of it? Well, yes it does matter, because once a puppy has wet his bed a few times, he’ll stop minding. He’ll also stop trying to hold on for a bit longer.
How Long Can A Dog Stay In A Crate?
Obviously, it’s important never to crate a dog for longer than their bladder is able to cope! But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to crate a dog for increasingly long periods of time when they can last several hours without a pee.
A good rule of thumb for dogs over six months is never to crate a dog for more than four hours in a row. Your dog needs to stretch their legs, move around freely and above all, they need company. So if that’s the case, what are you supposed to do with your dog while you are at work?
Where to leave a puppy while at work
Leaving a puppy in a crate while at work is something that many new puppy owners consider doing. If you are out at work for several hours, you can’t leave your puppy in a crate because of the whole bed wetting issue. Nor can you give your tiny puppy the ‘run of the house’. He’ll pee and poop everywhere, and chew up your things.
This means you’ll either need to puppy proof a safe room for him, or provide him with a puppy zone as described above.
Howling and barking
Puppies get lonely if left on their own for too long or too soon, and before they feel safe in your house. Puppies that are lonely will often howl, and scream. Small puppies have surprisingly large voices.
Unless your home is separated from your neighbors by a good 50 yards, they will be able to hear your puppy screaming. And they won’t like it. The answer is to limit the time your puppy spends on his own to a reasonable and appropriate amount for his age. And to provide him with entertainment.
If you want to know whether your dog is potentially making a nuisance of himself to your neighbors, or getting upset whilst you are away, you can consider investing in a monitoring system.
Pet Monitors use your WiFi signal to send video of your pet to you on your mobile device or to your computer at work.* You can then make sure that your pet is okay at home. Some have motion detecting, so it only switches on when your dog is moving around.
More comprehensive models even have a two-way microphone so that you can talk to your dog at home. Other’s are fully interactive with treat dispensers and even games.
The first few weeks
Small puppies need help with toilet training and socialization, and can become very distressed if isolated for long periods of time in a strange place. Separation anxiety can be very hard to cope with. You need to remember this if you’re raising a puppy when you work full time.
It is important that a puppy is introduced to solitude in a gradual manner, and after he has settled in to his new home. This means you will need to arrange more help in the early months of your puppy’s life, than you will when he is older.
Crate training a puppy when you work
You can still crate train your puppy when you work full time, but you’ll need to do the training when you are at home to begin with. This is because early crate training involves leaving the puppy for very short periods of time, and because a small puppy can’t hold his bladder for very long.
So if you left the puppy in a crate while you were at work all day, they’d soon learn to mess in his crate, which is not what you want to happen. Check out our full length guide to crate training for more information.
Keeping your puppy company when at work
All puppies are different. Even puppies from the same litter. So raising a puppy when you work full time won’t be the same for everyone. And you won’t know what your puppy’s temperament will be until you get to know them. However, all Labrador puppies have in common a strong need for human company.
As you can see, if you work full-time when your puppy is very small, you will need someone else to be there in your place. At least for part of the working day.
This is both to establish good toileting habits, and to introduce him to the concept of learning to be alone for longer periods. There are lots of options for arranging this kind of care, and we look at them in our Day Care Options For Labradors article.
Entertaining your puppy when you work
Bored puppies are often noisy puppies. This can be a problem if you’re raising a puppy when you work full time. One of the best ways to occupy a puppy whilst he adjusts is with food filled frozen puppy kongs.They help to relieve boredom, sure. But they also give your puppy comfort and something to chew. And make the whole crating procedure a lot more pleasant for the dog
Looking ahead to your older dog
It may be unavoidable in an emergency, but it is not reasonable, to leave any dog alone indoors for the entire working day, on a regular basis.
Depending on their temperament, some adult dogs may cope with the isolation. But many will become distressed, or bored, and get into mischief. And it is never pleasant being denied access to toilet facilities for hours on end.
So, if you have to work full-time, you really do need to arrange for someone to visit your dog. And to take him out for some fresh air and exercise, at least once during the middle of the day. For the rest of his life.
That is quite a commitment but it can be done. Working pet parents that have a good support system get just as much pleasure from their dogs as those who are able to spend more time at home. So it’s worth putting in the effort to make this happen
Your dog care back up
It is worth considering that things can change. Dog creches can close, dog walkers get sick, etc. So you really do need a back up plan if you’re raising a dog when you work full time.
You need a friend or relative who will step in if your arrangements are interrupted or if someone lets you down.
Combining work and dog ownership can be done, with thought, effort and often not inconsiderable expense.
Although dog welfare is sometimes compromised in homes where everyone works, this does not need to be the case. With proper arrangements put in place, and with provision made for emergencies many dogs live happy and fulfilled lives with working pet parents
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website