Lone Wolf, the early years
August 20, 2012 4:14 PM   Subscribe

What should I do for my new puppy when I have to be away for long periods?

I am adopting a two month old female German Shepherd. I have never raised a puppy before, and I have lots of questions. I have two books on puppy training, I'm being given a puppy shower, and I'm very excited to raise a well-behaved best friend.

She will primarily be an outdoor dog, though this is meant to include occasional indoor visits and a proper room of her own (the bedroom-sized laundry room which is off the rear of the house). So, as a puppy, her time will not be spent mostly in the house. When she is in the house, she will be with me, on leash. The rest of her time will be spent with me outside, on adventures, or crated in her room.

Here's the problem: the semester is about to begin and I will need to be away at school for two days per week, 8 hours each day. Since I'm spending that time as the TA in a college class, I don't think I can take her with me in a crate, even to the office, since I won't be able to visit her and take her out for play every two hours. Each class runs for 4-5 hours.

What I can do is build a puppy-safe run at home, outside in the yard, with water, toys, and a house in the shade. It would be about 10 by 40 feet. I live in one of the most temperate places on Earth, fortunately, so weather is not a worry here.

Can I leave a two month old puppy alone, with interactive food toys and such, in a safe place, where she is allowed to potty for that long? Say, 7 hours? If not, how often should I arrange for her to be visited? Can this be a job for the neighborhood kid, should I seek further to leave her with a family member or friend every time (an imposition, to be sure, though hopefully a fun one) or should I employ a professional? My understanding at a glance of doggie day care is that she may not be eligible, plus it's $30 per day, and if that can be avoided, yay.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, and this is assuming that you live alone, which you didn't indicate, this may not be the best time to get a dog, sounds like your plate is pretty full.

My gut feeling is that a puppy left alone for 8 hours that often is not going to be a happy dog. My personal philosophy is that, if you can't spend as much time with a dog as you would with a child, you might be making a mistake.

My advice, wait a bit on the puppy.
posted by HuronBob at 4:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

8 hours alone is way too long for a puppy at that age. Are you sure you can provide for the needs of a baby animal at this stage of your life?
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would wait to bring home a puppy that young until you have the time to be home with her. It's not fair to a puppy to to be left alone for that long.
posted by Requiax at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's a long time for a puppy to stay alone. Two days a week -- find/pay for someone to look after her those two days?
posted by trip and a half at 4:36 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anybody feel like answering the question? The puppy is adopted. She's coming home after surgery. I'm trying to get at the best petsitting option for two days a week until she is old enough for that to pose less of a problem.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2012

I'll answer your question. On the days that you can't be with the pup all the time, you should hire someone to come in and take care of it. Many kennels won't take a pup that young, you'll probably want to bring someone in.
posted by HuronBob at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can I leave a two month old puppy alone, with interactive food toys and such, in a safe place, where she is allowed to potty for that long? Say, 7 hours?

No. I'd say 3 hours is about it, and even then she may be miserable or destructive.

If not, how often should I arrange for her to be visited? Can this be a job for the neighborhood kid, should I seek further to leave her with a family member or friend every time (an imposition, to be sure, though hopefully a fun one) or should I employ a professional?

You'll need to hire a professional. Otherwise there will be a day where your friend doesn't show.

My understanding at a glance of doggie day care is that she may not be eligible, plus it's $30 per day, and if that can be avoided, yay.

No reputable doggie day care will take a puppy before it has had all it's shots. Usually at about 6 months of age. You might be able to find a dog walking service to come and socialize with the dog for 30 minutes to an hour per day. That will probably cost about $30 per day. Less if you prepare in chunks.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rule of thumb: at two months, she should go out about every 2 hours. At three months, up it to 3, four months 4, then stay there til she's about a year old.
posted by ella wren at 4:48 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Puppies can generally hold their bladder for one hour for each month of their age. I highly recommend kennel training and having someone check in on the pup a few times of day. The longer you leave the pup alone, the longer it will take to housetrain.

A kennel won't take a pup that young mostly due to not having all of their shots yet.

I've successfully had a new puppy while working 8-hour days by paying a responsible neighbor teenager to come let it out and play with it a bit twice during the work day.
posted by rhapsodie at 4:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I completely understand how frustrating it is when you ask a question and no one seems to be willing to answer the damn thing and instead just gets all judge-y. I feel like when that happens to me, I get upset because everyone is probably right.

I don't want to make you upset or hurt your feelings, but please don't get a dog if it can't live inside, all the time. I swear I'm not a super-animal-freak or anything, but dogs are really smart and can get out of fences, even really well-constructed ones. Losing a dog is so painful, and I would hate for you to have to go through that. Also, other animals can get in, and people can come by and do mean things, and it just seems really scary.

Anyway, sorry, to answer your question: I don't think a puppy could go 7 hours alone. They're almost a full-time job. A neighbor kid might be a good choice if it's a really responsible kid, but I bet there are pet sitters in your area, They might still be about $30 per day though, unfortunately.

(okay one more thing and I'm sorry to be this person but if you can't afford a petsitter/daycare, a dog might be too expensive. Vet visits, flea stuff, heartworm meds, shots, etc., are all expensive and can be frequent)

Good luck with your dog! If I waited til the time was right I wouldn't have one and I instead have three so I am totally calling the kettle black, but more in the vein of "if I knew then what I knew now."
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:52 PM on August 20, 2012 [18 favorites]

I think leaving a 2 month old puppy outdoors for long stretches at a time may not be a good thing for her developmentally. I refer you to this answer from the Leerburg website, which cautions against letting a 6 month old puppy have free run of the backyard. It may be better to confine her to the laundry room, possibly with the crate door open, while you're gone. But you would still need someone to come around every 3 to 4 hours to feed her lunch (noon-ish), take her out to the yard to potty, and play with her for about an hour before recrating her for another 3 to 4 hours. Given that she's a German Shepherd, a breed that generally has a high prey drive, she needs to be socialized and trained very intensively when she's young.
posted by peripathetic at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Thank you, peripathetic. I was concerned that leaving her in her room with the crate might be confusing for pottytraining, so conceived of the dog run's construction, where free-pottying is encouraged. A visitor every 3-4 hours in either case is completely doable.

I know the rule about not being crated or left alone any longer than her age, which is why I can't take her with me until she is older.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2012

Like everyone's said, nope, don't leave her alone that long. But there are lots of solutions, and you can definitely make it work! Whether she's staying outside or inside, get a dog walker to come every few hours. Have her stay with a friend/relative. It's a lot to manage (plus taking care of a tiny fun new puppy who will exhaust you!!) but it's totally, completely doable, and as she gets older she won't need quite as many walks. If money is a concern, consider trading off days when you have the walker versus days she stays with friends, so you're not wearing out her welcome anywhere and you're not spending a ton on the walkers.

(When I hear "neighborhood kid" I think of someone unreliable, so I vote no, but you know much better than I do how reliable the kids you know actually will be, so that's up to your discretion. Just make sure, especially for the next few months, that it's someone completely trustworthy!)
posted by violetish at 5:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, you can't leave a puppy unattended for that long anywhere. Not only will it be vulnerable, but it may create very unhealthy habits as a way to cope with that kind of situation, such as compulsive digging or destructive behavior, and could progress as far as aggression to other animals or people and/or possessiveness of property.

To be honest, your ideas for raising this dog do not at all sound ideal for the breed you are adopting, as German Shepherds are known for being extremely loyal companion animals. Leaving this type of dog outdoors and alone most of the time without some type of job is a recipe for an unhealthy dog, and a disaster. This is what makes bad dogs. Please reconsider adopting this animal if you cannot raise it as an indoor pet. Now is not too late! Shepherds are very powerful animals, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you that "too late" = a very sad situation.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:06 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

I was concerned that leaving her in her room with the crate might be confusing for pottytraining, so conceived of the dog run's construction, where free-pottying is encouraged.

Crate training will actually reinforce the idea that the puppy should only potty outdoors, and quite efficiently too, though a few accidents are to be expected. You and your helpers just need to follow a strict puppy schedule where she'll be taken out a lot, and in a few months, not only will the puppy have greater bladder control, it will naturally prefer to go on grass. In the meantime, while it's confined to the laundry room, you can try this.
posted by peripathetic at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

What will be the situation with the puppy on the other 5 days of the week? Will you be home with her/out with her the rest of the time?
posted by elizardbits at 5:37 PM on August 20, 2012

What about bringing her to work with you, and paying a college student to take her out on a walk on campus every couple hours. There may be a few who are perfectly happy to do it for free in exchange for puppy time(but you should give them some money anyway - it doesn't have to be a lot).
posted by sawdustbear at 5:59 PM on August 20, 2012

I currently live next to a seriously ignored German Shepherd puppy that has exclusively
been an outside dog. It is obvious that you care a great deal more about your puppy than my neighbors, but I urge you to find someone that is experienced with raising and training Shepherds. I love dogs in a big way, and have lived with a (relatively) well-trained female Shepherd. She was a delight, but a serious amount of time and effort was expended training her.

I have now seen what happens when a Shepherd is left to her own devices in a fenced in yard. I am not someone that is easily spooked by any dog but I am pushing past cautious and onto worried.

Basically, while I fully believe you will do right by your puppy, I urge you to really spend the time or the money it takes to really train her as much as possible. I would ask your vet for trainer/babysitter recommendations.
posted by ndfine at 6:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Another vote for don't get a dog if it's going to live outside. Why are you getting a dog? To guard the place? Install a camera and motion sensor lights. Perhaps as a sometimes companion, who only gets attention when you have time for it, and that cannot even have the simple pleasure of lying at your feet, or sleeping beside your bed, which it would be so happy to do?

Because it will want to be near you. But it will not be allowed to be near you. It will be alone, bored, depressed, living out its years with most of the hours of each day in unasked-for solitude. This may well cause emotional problems, behavioral problems. It will probably bark. A lot. It is almost inevitable it will escape. What else does it have to do? This is one of the most intelligent breeds. Will it be hit by a car? Will it kill someone's pet? Or perhaps you will just never see it again, and never know what happened to it. This animal whose well-being is entirely your responsibility.

Maybe you grew up in a house with a dog that lived outside. Out in the country, many dogs seem to live happy lives outside. They can run, explore, see new sights every day. Fenced in a yard? Not so much. This is a pack animal, evolved to live in a pack (even a pack of two). It is not well-equipped to live mostly alone.

This does not answer the question, which has already been answered. Perhaps this answer will be deleted. I do not mean to hurt your feelings just as those others who said the same did not intend to hurt your feelings. I think we just want you to understand what you are planning, and what it will mean for this animal. Just because other people do it, does not mean it's a good thing to do. Just because it is "already adopted" does not mean you cannot change your mind. Do not subject a happy, well-adjusted puppy to a life of loneliness, with short bursts of happiness between long, lonely bouts of waiting and waiting for you to come back.
posted by Glinn at 6:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

peripathetic, yes, but if she's not in the crate, but rather free in the room, I thought that would be confusing while she's not being monitored. Should I be sure her crate is outside with her? Because, she's going to have a crate as well as a house (which we're building now.)

elizardbits, she'll be with me, tethered probably, whenever she's not in her crate. I'm home 5 days a week.

sawdustbear, that's the kind of arrangement I think would be good, but why not just have someone pick her up from home where she's comfortable and doesn't have to be in a new place crated for maximum amounts of time? I think a long midday visit or a fostering out for a day with a friend or relative will work ok. Thanks for helping out, everybody.

ndfine, absolutely. I am very conscious of the breed needs and waited until I found the perfect of for me, as I have always been a shepherd fan. I have a friend who trained working GSDs, I grew up around shepherd dogs, and I will be taking her to as much obedience training as I can find, and making a little nerd out of her. :)

To clarify, she can COME inside, when supervised, is all. This isn't a guard dog, it's a dog in a house with indoor cats.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:02 PM on August 20, 2012

Also, Handsome Consort has told me he thinks I made it sound like the dog's yard is 10x40, when that's just the area we thought we'd fence off for a puppy pen for this purpose. The yard in total is a quarter acre. I doubt this will ease all minds but there it is.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:25 PM on August 20, 2012

The size of the yard is meaningless unless it is filled with sheep. Your potential dog will not want to be left alone outside all day long with nothing to do. Would you? And there is absolutely no way to know that this dog is perfect for you... it's a puppy! A puppy that happens to be a German Shepherd. You are going to have a lot of trouble keeping this highly intelligent social dog outside.

Not to mention the fact that it appears to get rather hot where you live. My best friend's family dog was left outside when no one was home; it died one day form the heat (many years ago) in its dog house. Please know that I'm not saying any of this to hurt you, make you angry, or start an argument, but to warn you that there are a myriad of reasons why this is a bad idea. Please consider them.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

That is way too long for a young puppy to go unattended. They're super hyper at that age and they need a lot of attention. You'll have major separation issues down the road from leaving them alone all the time.

Also, I think it's a really bad idea to leave your dog outside. Like the previous answers indicated, there could be a lot of things that could go wrong. They're safer in a crate. Which leads me to my next point.

If you're going to get a dog, I highly recommend crate training. When I got my dog, it was hard to train her at first. She hated the crate and being alone, but eventually, she grew to love it. Plus, dogs don't like to pee where they sleep, so they'll learn to hold and bark when they need to go to the bathroom. Nowadays, we don't even lock our dog into the crate, but she still likes to go in there and sleep. She'll also gather all her toys and treats and hide them in there too, which is really cute.
posted by cyml at 9:36 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you can back off now on the "don't own the puppy..." she already owns it and it's already been said. The OP indicates that she will be outside with the dog most of the time. "The rest of her time will be spent with me outside..."
posted by IndigoRain at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2012

You and your new puppy will be fine...here's what I did in almost the exact same situation (with a male german shepherd):

1. Tire out puppy with lots of play every morning, especially the days that you go to school (a tired puppy is a happy puppy, try to be as consistent as possible)
2. Be very, very careful what toys you leave puppy to play with when she is unsupervised - she can choke and you wouldn't be there to save her (honestly, after a few days I didn't leave any toys with my puppy)
2. Have someone visit puppy after about 3 hours (at first), play, cuddle, etc., extend length of time between visits as puppy gets older.
3. When you are at home - puppy is with you (inside, outside, wherever) - they are called velcro dogs for a reason. She will fare much better by herself, when she knows that when you are home you are together.
4. She may feel safer staying indoors while you are at school, although I left mine outside until dogs starting disappearing from people's backyards. Reconsider putting her crate in the laundry room, but don't lock her in the crate - she will likely use it as a den.

I have two german shepherds that are well trained and stay inside all day while I am work (2 and 4 year old). To be fair we have attended lots of obedience classes and they are well exercised, but they are happy to lie around the house waiting for me to come home. Granted they are no longer puppies, but they have both been left for extended periods of time since they were 8 weeks old.

Feel free to email me if you need support, suggestions, etc.
posted by Minos888 at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2012

I know dogs that live in harmony indoors with cats. I would not take for granted that this dog needs to be an outdoor dog just because you have cats--especially given that you have the chance to raise him from a young age.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:08 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older baby playlist   |   Do I need therapy to shake off my paralyzing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.