Home Alone
February 13, 2014 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide what to do if I have to leave my dog alone for seven hours?

We have a fairly new dog. She is from the pound and approximately one year of age, or greater. She is definitely not a puppy. We have left her once before from about 8:30-2:15 but we had neighbor walk her around noon and my father picked her up at 2:15 and took her to his house and I picked her up around 3 pm When we leave her alone, we always leave her in the crate.

For the next three weeks there will be one day of the week where both of us will be working. I do not feel comfortable asking my neighbor to walk her and I don't want to ask my dad to come get her because he has cats.

Here are our three options (after a long walk in the morning):

1. Leave her in crate for seven hours.

2. Allow her to roam the kitchen and living room only and leave the doggie door closed.

3. Allow her to roam kitchen and living room and leave doggie door open to fenced-in back yard.

I am anxious about leaving her for so long. A dog walker is out because my spouse does not want "stranger" in our home. Spouse also thinks we should not allow her to go outside because she could be barking all day or escape. My coworker thinks I should leave her on back porch all day with dog bed and chew toys. This would also allow her to potentially disturb the peace by barking all day or escaping. She has never tried to dig under fence or escape so far. She's generally not much of a barker but will bark like crazy if there is a lawn service person or another stranger in the next yard.

What should I do if I have to leave dog alone for seven hours? Thank you.
posted by Fairchild to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We are a 2 person 2 worker family w 2 dogs. We have a doggie door and we leave our dogs at home, in the kitchen (puppy gates block off the kitchen from the rest of the house) and they are free to go outside anytime they need to in order to do their business in the fenced in back yard. We also leave them toys to play with. No doubt they bark at strangers passing by but it's the middle of the day so who cares?
posted by TestamentToGrace at 10:56 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

If she hasn't displayed any signs of separation anxiety and has been a trustworthy dog thus far with regards to your house interior, I'd go with #2. You can always check in with the neighbors after the fact to see if she disturbed them with excessive barking. I mean, this is what dog doors and back yards are for, for the dog to go in and out of at will and raise the alarm at strangers on the other side of the fence.

FWIW, I'm on my ...I've lost count of how many dogs, and I've never ever had one who wasn't free to stroll outside at will. With the exception of one (an male who used to jump the fence until he was finally neutered), they were all content to laze about in the sun all day while the house was empty.
posted by jamaro at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

The crate for 7 hours could be ok but you should probably work up to it. Can you do doggie daycare for the long departures for the next few weeks while gradually working on building up longer alone times in the crate? We leave our two dogs alone for 7+ hours semi-frequently with one crated and one loose in the house. They both just sleep and can hold their bladders.
posted by ghharr at 10:58 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some questions that may help give a better answer:

* Any idea how the dog behaves when you're gone? Destructive? Quiet? Any separation anxiety that you know of?

* Is your dog used to being in a crate? Have you crated the dog for any length of time? Does he see it as a den or as a punishment?

* Is your backyard easy for someone to access? Are you living in an area that you have to concern yourself with dog theft?
posted by vivzan at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2014

Can you maybe put her crate on the back porch, with the door open, so she can have a place to sleep (all day), which is probably what she'll be doing.

Maybe try it a day or two when you won't be gone so long to see how she likes it.
posted by bricksNmortar at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have pugs, and we put them in the kitchen with water and their bed, and leave them during the day while we work. They mostly sleep. When we had just gotten one of them, we crated her during the day, as that was what she was used to.

If I were working at home, I'd be beyond irritated at someone that left their dog out all day to bark.
posted by needlegrrl at 11:00 AM on February 13, 2014

Are your work hours flexible at all? My wife and solved this by me going in early and her going in late, so the dogs were only alone from 10am to 3pm.

Also, revisit the dog walker. I understand your wife's objection, I feel the same. But after interviewing them, you realize they are normal people. Once you find one you feel comfortable with, the anxiety around strangers in the house is much less.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:00 AM on February 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for answers so far. I am for doggie day care but it is quite out of the way on our drive to work (but I would definitely do it). My spouse not so crazy about the cost.

Work hours are not flexible.

Any idea how the dog behave when you're gone? Destructive? Quiet? Any separation anxiety that you know of?

When we leave, we always leave her in the crate and it's usually a max of 3-3.5 hours. She is always sleeping or chewing on a toy when we arrive home.

Is your dog used to being in a crate? Have you crated the dog for any length of time? Does he see it as a den or as a punishment?

Yes, used to being in crate. Fist night at home with us she slept in crate all night (had incision from spaying and we wanted her to be able to be safe) and when we leave for up to 3 1/2 hours, she is left in the crate. We put her in crate while we are eating dinner. It's more of a den than punishment.

Is your backyard easy for someone to access? Are you living in an area that you have to concern yourself with dog theft?

Fence is 3 ft high, coated chain link (see-through) with locked gate. We live in fairly low-crime area but have issues with vehicle break-ins, no dog theft that I know of.
posted by Fairchild at 11:05 AM on February 13, 2014

Get a dog walker who's bonded, insured and has great references. Problem solved.
posted by kinetic at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

Can your dad walk the dog?
posted by Seboshin at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know how big your pup is but I wouldn't leave my medium-size dog alone for long with just a 3 ft fence, she could definitely get over it if she cared to (and mine would).
posted by ghharr at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Based on your responses, I would do a trial run with #2 or #3 this weekend or so. Even if you're not going out, close off the rest of the house, go into another area, and see how she does and whether you'd need to make adjustments.

If this works out, but you're not 100% comfortable, you can ask your neighbor to give you a call if anything's amiss or have your dad do a drive by and check the first day.
posted by vivzan at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

7 hours is a very long time, it would be a shame if the dog no longer felt happy about being left alone. Do you know any other dog people who would pop in?
posted by peekorama at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2014

1. Put her in the bathroom with food, water, and toys in the tub/shower.

2. We have left her once before from about 8:30-2:15 but we had neighbor walk her around noon...

So you did it before for about 6 hours (with a break at the 4 hour mark). This is not a big deal. Do the same thing...sans dog walker.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Our dog has days where she's created for 7 hours and she just sleeps and then we give her a long walk when we get home and play chase, it works well for us. It's a very occasional thing so I don't feel bad about it, I think your pooch will be fine. If you're worried set a camera to record what she does and skim through it. This is how we learned our dog sleeps.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:19 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had dogs for 15 years and always had an 8+ hour/day job, and never hired a dog walker or installed a doggie door. My dogs were fine. One was destructive when I left and had to be crated when I was gone. She could not have cared less, and was usually sleeping when I got home. My other dog was trustworthy and had free run of the house when I was gone. Again, he was usually sleeping when I got home. Nobody ever had accidents, or suffered for being alone all day.

Seriously, dogs can be alone all day. Millions of people have jobs and dogs at the same time. I say this as a dog rescuer and companion animal advocate. I would try option 1 or 2 until you KNOW that she won't jump your fence.
posted by tryniti at 11:24 AM on February 13, 2014 [28 favorites]

Echoing what tryniti said. I leave my dogs alone all day in crates when we're at work and it's fine.
posted by radioamy at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thinking long term*, find an appropriate dog walker (a responsible teen / student or an actual bonded and licensed walker), vet carefully, invite them to meet the dog and your husband and have tea. Voila, no longer a stranger.

I suggest the teen / student because it's more likely that in your circle of friends and family you know someone who would vouch for them, who has known them for several years, and that makes them less of a "stranger."

*Because even if your dog is ok in the crate all day, eventually you will need to be away overnight for vacation / family emergency / business trip / whatever.
posted by bunderful at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, we leave our dogs in their crates for 7+ hours several times a week when we go to work. I know lots of people who do this.

They sleep all day, and get a nice walk when we get home. They never have a problem going into the crate in the morning. I have one who knows when it's getting close to that time and she just goes in and lays down and waits for us to finish getting ready and lock her in.

We have gone through periods where the dogs were left out all day. But now we have a younger one who will chew on everything, and an older one who has decided if we're not around to see it, she may as well just pee on the rug for fun. Crating them eliminates these issues.

I, personally, wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them with access to the back yard. Not only could they escape if they were bored or anxious, but would certainly bark at things. While my neighbors are great and would just let me know, not everyone is so understanding. I have heard horror stories about people leaving their dogs outside, the dog annoying the neighbors, and some truly evil human being deciding to throw rat-poisoned food to the dog, or some such thing.

If she's not used to that kind of time in the crate, you might want to work up to it, but I see no reason you couldn't do that until she's a little older and you decide to trust her on her own. Many dogs just do better in the crate because they don't feel like they need to be on guard and protecting the house while the owners are away, so they get to relax.
posted by thejanna at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I grew up in a house with a back yard and a dog door. The only time the dogs made excessive noise was when they had to be tied up (the beta dog had had surgery and we didn't want the alpha bullying her).
posted by brujita at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2014

A 3-foot high fence is not sufficient for an unattended dog.
posted by sageleaf at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

We used to leave our dogs for 9ish hours (we tried to stagger our workdays at least a little when we could so it wasn't more than 10) because we worked outside the home. They were gated/shut into the (tile-floor) living room without access to the yard (because we tried that and the police came because one of our dogs is a barking jerk), with water. They ate when we got home (they won't eat when we're not home so we don't bother).

We did this for years and still do it on occasion, and may one day have to do it again. The only time we had an issue was that one dog is afraid of thunder and ate through the door to the hallway. I'm a big advocate of gates even in the presence of doors. If nothing else it stops them scratching.

This is just a fact of life of many dogs, because people work. Your obligation is to do the best you can, and do everything you can to protect them from themselves. If you want to do some trials of leaving him uncrated but confined, do that. I think there are too many variables to give most dogs unsupervised outdoor access (anything from a car hitting the fence to passing pedestrians messing with the dog to cops shooting your dog to shut it up during some sort of thing they had going on (happened in an old neighborhood)), especially with a really short fence.

My grown but not yet quite senior dogs can easily hold it 12 hours (they put themselves to bed early and sleep in, so they do it by their own choice nearly every night), but I would try to ramp a dog up if holding it all day hasn't been the usual routine.

Every time I start to fret about it when we're out, my husband reminds me that mostly all they do is sleep. It's mostly all they do when we are home, too. Dogs don't need 18 hours of stimulation a day, so as long as you're able to get sufficient exercise, play, and interaction at some point in the day most dogs are fine with that.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2014

How large is your dog, if it's a smaller dog I have found they don't tend to be able to hold pees etc for as long as bigger dogs, and also a 3 foot fence isn't going to keep a larger bored dog in for any length of time, heck my Rat Terrier would be over that without even touching it.

I used to leave my maltese terrier alone all day with a dog door and full run of the house, but I had a large backyard with a 6 foot privacy fence but my personal take would be #2 if you live in the US where the neighbours are less used to dogs running loose in their yards all the time but I come from a non crating country, where most people actually do some combo of 2 or 3.

The dog will be fine for 7 hours, especially as it's not every day, Provide lots of safe toys to play with, a nice frozen kong treat and a walk before and after and you should be fine. I'd expect a few little accidents while the dog gets used to the idea it might have to hold it all in for a bit longer than it's used to.
posted by wwax at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2014

My dogs are home alone for about 9 hours a day. For whatever reason, they prefer to be crated during this time. They bark only if I leave and don't close their crate doors. They seem to be happy/well adjusted dogs. (They are both very low key.)

I don't think 7 hours alone is too long for most dogs. I've owned dogs all of my life and it's only recently that I have noticed controversy in the length of time dogs are left alone. If only people with perfect work schedules owned dogs, more dogs would end up being euthanized instead of finding loving homes.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't leave any dog alone with a 3-ft fence. It's not just the risk of your dog escaping, it's the risk of another dog getting in. I unfortunately know someone whose poodle was killed by a neighborhood dog who jumped her fence.
posted by HotToddy at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like tryniti, I've always had dogs and always worked 8 hour days. All of my dogs could hold for 8 hours, none of them had outdoor access.

My current two buddies are confined to the kitchen during the workday, because if not they will eat up the cat's litter box, and I just can't deal with that. They have their toys and dog beds in there, and they are absolutely fine.

Go with option 2, and do so without guilt.
posted by kimberussell at 12:58 PM on February 13, 2014

I second finding a good doggy daycare for the occasions when this happens. Our dog loves it and is so exhausted she usually sleeps the majority of the day after too.
posted by Mick at 1:03 PM on February 13, 2014

If you haven't seen signs of separation anxiety thusfar, my inclination would be to try #2 first. If she gets into trouble, you can always switch to the crate, but all else being equal if a dog is sensible enough to be left with the run of the house while you're gone, that's a little easier for everyone, and the only way you'll know whether she's sensible enough to be left with the run of the house is to give it a try.

I think 7 hours is just fine for an adult dog to be alone without a dogwalker or access to the outdoors through a doggie door. My concern about the doggie door would be that it is too easy for a medium/large dog to escape over a 3 ft fence, or a medium/small dog to escape underneath it. That's how dogs wind up at the pound in the first place.
posted by drlith at 1:09 PM on February 13, 2014

Yeah, unless you have reason to think otherwise I'd try either the crate or option 2 and see what happens. I'm pretty sure the dog will not be traumatized even if she's not happy. Most likely failure mode is dog gets bored and destroys something or leaves a present. You have the best idea of how likely that is.

FWIW, our ~2 yr old collie mix does fine alone in the house the one day or so a week we're both gone. She's super chill and low maintenance in general though.

I would not leave dog unsupervised in yard with sub 5 ft fences for more than an hour, tops. And that's unsupervised in the sense of me being in the house, not out and about.
posted by PMdixon at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2014

You are going to want a reliable person who can care for your dog, might as well start with a once per week dog walker.

My sister hired a kid to come and take her dog for a walk after school. She paid $10 per week and the kid's mom was always 3 steps behind to make sure things were going well.

Care.com is a good place to find vetted folks to do this type of thing for you. Ditto TaskRabbit.

Finding someone who will care well for your pets, especially before you might need them in an emergency is well worth it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on February 13, 2014

My dogs stay crated (well, in the bathroom, which is basically the size of 2 dog crates) during the day, about 9 hours with a dog walker midday (and water, but no toys/bone because of potential choking). However, they have on occasion gone without the dog walker and were fine. Whether your dog will be fine is up to you to determine.

Long term, I'd get a dog walker, unless you plan to give him sufficient attention and exercise when you get home to make up for sleeping all day. It will make him a happier pup to get out and about -- not just let out in the backyard to pee, but taken on a proper 30-60 min walk.

And your wife is being silly about this "stranger in the house" business. What if you had an issue with your pipes or had a wiring problem, would you not call a plumber or electrician? What if you have a baby, will you never have a babysitter? Do some research, find a reputable place, call references, and do a trial run. Set up a motion-activated webcam if you're concerned about what they're doing (I did this for the first few weeks each time I changed dog walkers).
posted by melissasaurus at 2:39 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that the dog will most likely be fine crated or in a limited, gated-off area of your house. If you are anxious about this, you can always check on her if you have an extra laptop lying around--this is what I did when I was worried that my dog was barking while I was at work.

I set up a Skype account on my laptop that will auto-answer a video call from only one other Skype account. I pointed the camera where the dog would be during the day and I Skyped my home laptop from work a lot for a whole week because I am a crazy person.

The dog was fine, by the way. He apparently spends his days sleeping.
posted by zoetrope at 2:49 PM on February 13, 2014

I highly recommend crate training as well, our often anxious dog became remarkably less so when crate-trained. We called it his "casa" and he always went in upon request, without a fuss, and often without asking.
posted by ancillary at 5:02 PM on February 13, 2014

Yeah, I would do a trial run. Leave her on the back porch as described, go shopping or something for a couple of hours, and when you get back, ask the neighbours if she was barking or otherwise disturbing them. If not, you are good to go! (But I'd also tell them you are planning to leave her alone all day for the first time next week and give them a number they can reach you on if she starts being loud. Hopefully one of you could use your lunch hour to get home and move her inside if the neighbours end up calling).
posted by lollusc at 8:14 PM on February 13, 2014

My boyfriend and I both work, so we're gone more than 8 hours/day. We leave our dog (5 year old Welsh Terrier) loose in the house while we're out and he's fine. He generally sleeps during the day. He gets a short walk in the morning before I leave for work and he gets a long walk once we get back in the evening. I also have a friend of mine (who happens to be a dog walker) come over and walk him a couple days a week.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:52 AM on February 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all of the answers. We went with option 1.

We left dog in the crate today for six hours. It went fine. Dog is alive and happy. I am going to meet with a dog walker because there will be days where we will gone for longer stretches.

Many dogs just do better in the crate because they don't feel like they need to be on guard and protecting the house while the owners are away, so they get to relax.

thejanna, thank you. This, and many other answers, helped us to go with the crate option.

Thanks again for all of the helpful suggestions.
posted by Fairchild at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2014

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