Help us decide whether we'd make a good home for a li'l doggie
July 1, 2009 8:31 AM   Subscribe

How long is too long to leave a puppy alone each weekday?

We (man, wife, 5-year-old son) would like to get a Shih Tsu puppy. We declined about a year ago because the last one out of the house for work leaves at 8 a.m., and the first one back can be as late as 6 p.m. After e-mailing with the breeder, we feared that was too long to leave a puppy alone five days a week. But when the little guy starts school, the time alone for the puppy would be a little less than six hours. Do people feel that's reasonable, or unfair to the puppy?

Thanks for the input.
posted by troywestfield to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Any chance you could add a second shih tzu? They'd have each other during the periods you're out. In any case, as long as there's food, water, plenty of newspapers and a sufficient number of interesting toys in his area, six hours doesn't sound too unreasonable to me. Leave a radio on low, or get a clock that ticks loudly to keep near him so there's so some background noise.
posted by jquinby at 8:35 AM on July 1, 2009

I think the general rule of thumb is 1 hour for every month in the puppy's age, up to 8 hours. So, if it's a 4 month old puppy, they'll probably only be able to make it 4 hours before having to go out, but this will increase as the puppy gets older.

Do you have a teenager who's off school for the summer who could stop by at lunch to let it out, for a little bit of money?
posted by scarykarrey at 8:38 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

And now that I've reread, I'm thinking maybe you were wondering more about loneliness than potty breaks. Oops. That might depend on the individual puppy's attention neediness. Maybe see if the breeder has one that's a little more independent?
posted by scarykarrey at 8:41 AM on July 1, 2009

We've hired a pet sitter for a lunchtime walk for each of our puppies until they were 4-5 months old. That had more to do with weather (we got both in Dec/Jan, and they now are outside during the day except during temperature extremes) but also helped with training. It cost us $12-$15 a day IIRC.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:41 AM on July 1, 2009

I think 6 hours is okay. Try for some exercise in the morning before leaving, leave out lots of chew toys and water, leave a TV on for soothing sound. If you can get someone to stop by all the better, but if not I think you should feel no guilt over adopting this dog. I HATE the thought of good families not adopting dogs because they fear their situation isn't perfect...the fact is we all have to work and leave the house and can't be there 100% of the time but a good pack is a good pack.
posted by vito90 at 8:55 AM on July 1, 2009

one hour per month in terms of potty breaks...

two other things to consider... 1.) check into crating your puppy, a bored puppy left free in the house will be destructive... 2.) if your puppy is all by itself for 6 hours you'll want to give a lot of time and attention in the evening.
posted by HuronBob at 9:10 AM on July 1, 2009

I strongly encourage you to get either an older puppy (like 6+ mos.) or a dog. It is so unfair to leave a young puppy alone all day--they are hard wired to not want to be alone, because in nature, a puppy left alone = a dead puppy. The main thing they want is to be with you. You can still get a purebred, if you want--many breeders have older puppies and retired dogs available.
posted by HotToddy at 10:17 AM on July 1, 2009

Please consider getting an older dog - 1 year or so - from a rescue. We did, and she does great at home alone on exactly the same schedule you cite. Puppies just can't hold it that long, plus you'll be helping a dog that needs help, and not supporting the breeding of additional dogs when so many already need homes.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:46 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

N-thing that you consider a rescue dog. has lots of Shi-Tzu's available. (You can search on gender and age, as well as zipcode). I help out with a local rescue and I can tell you that the majority of dogs are surrendered because (a) they peed on the carpet ONCE when they were scared or confused about where to go and they were never given a second chance, (b) they were more effort to walk or groom than the owner was prepared for, (c) they were not self-training, or (d) they outgrew their cute puppy-ness. Most shelter dogs are between 1 and 2 years old, because that's when people get tired of them. They have plenty of bounce and fun left in them (they're still just big puppies) - and they are still very easy to train at that age.

If you're not at home for long periods, you'll find it virtually impossible to housetrain a puppy: they need training and reinforcement when they are ready to "go" (every 2-4 hours max). My own two dogs were both between 1 and 2 years old when adopted. So I did not have to deal with all the paper training, reinforcement, or coming home to pools of "stuff" over the rug. That's the real deal: both were already housetrained and only needed a little gentle indication about where to go. They were old enough to understand "sit," "stay" and "heel" type obedience. So they were very easy to train.
posted by Susurration at 2:40 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

6 hours will be too long at first, but not as it gets older. the suggestion to get a dogwalker to come by halfway through is a good one.

i definitely recommend crate-training your dog, both to help with potty training and boredom. when a dog is in its crate, it knows that's where he can chill out.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:22 PM on July 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input. I actually asked this question a year early; we're looking at getting a dog next summer, not this one. I will pass these thoughts on to the breeder, who I trust a great deal, and make a decision from there. I thought pretty much everything everyone said was valid, so no 'best' answer here, but for what it's worth, my first choice after reading all of this advice would be to have the breeder hold on to the puppy until it is 6 months old, if it can time out like that.
posted by troywestfield at 11:08 AM on September 2, 2009

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