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Getting a new puppy is exciting, but it also comes with a lot of changes to your routine. Your work schedule and social life have to flex around your puppy’s needs. Puppies crave company, exercise, and plenty of interaction. Plus, they can’t hold it for very long. If you work full-time and have a puppy, you’re going to need help, especially in the first three months of a dog’s life. Consider hiring a loving pet sitter or in-home daycare provider for worry-free care.
Still, you don’t have to be with your puppy every second. Leaving them home alone for safe periods of time isn’t bad or dangerous, and it’s important for them to adjust to some separation from you. Find out more about what to consider when you’re leaving a puppy home alone, and at what age it’s safe to do so.
How Long Can Your Puppy ‘Hold It’?
According to National Geographic, adult dogs generally need to pee between three to five times a day. But puppies need breaks much more often!
Generally, puppies can hold it for one hour per every month of age (so a three-month-old puppy can wait three hours to pee). Here are common time limits for puppies of different ages:
- 8-10 weeks: 1 hour or less. Puppies this young simply can’t hold their urine for more than an hour, and even that is pushing it, sometimes! You might start crate training at this age, but you can’t leave a young puppy in a crate for long periods; he’ll wet his bed (a lot!)
- 10-12 weeks: Bladder capacity is increasing, but 2 hours is still the longest that most puppies can hold it at this stage.
- 3-6 months: At this point, consider the one hour per month rule. Three-month-old puppies can wait for three hours, four-month-old puppies for four hours, and so on.
- After 6 months: An older puppy, like most adult dogs, has the ability to hold it for up to six hours. If you don’t have a dog door, be sure to pop home at lunch or get your pet sitter to pay a visit if you’re unable to do so.
Of course, the above estimates can vary depending on a puppy’s size, health, and habits. But any puppy forced to hold their urine for too long is at risk for urinary tract infection, stones, or crystals. Plus, holding urine for too long is just plain uncomfortable, and can lead to accidents.
How Long Can a Puppy Be in a Crate?
We spoke to our partners at the ASPCA and the Humane Society for the full scoop on how to crate train a puppy, which you can read here.
To sum it up, crate training is important but starts out slow. Introduce your dog to the crate first with treats, then gradually build up to 10-15 minute intervals, and then longer periods of time as your dog becomes comfortable there.
Puppy age and maximum daily time recommended in crate:
- 8–10 weeks: 30–60 minutes
- 11–14 weeks: 1–3 hours
- 15–16 weeks: 3–4 hours
- 17+ weeks: 4–5 hours (though please don’t resort to this often!)
As your dog gets older, he can be kept in the crate for longer periods of time. But keep in mind, it should always be used as a short-term solution. It’s important that your dog gets a lot of exercise and human interaction.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
Even if you’ll be home with your pup often, it’s important to get your home ready for those busy little paws and that curious nose (and mouth).
For the hours that your puppy is alone, consider a “puppy zone.” Choose a secure area of your home, whether it’s the entire living room, a bedroom, or a small portion of the kitchen sectioned off. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A crate if you’re crate training.
- Baby gates! This pet gate is a fun, freestanding choice if your dog isn’t a jumper. If she is, you’ll need something higher.
- Cozy items like blankets or your old shirts.
- At least one bed like this orthopedic pet mattress. You may need a chew-proof bed like the K9 Ballistics line. This is a good list of more options.
- Potty pads.
- Plenty of safe toys and chews: see below.
Toys and Chews for Lonely Puppies
Avoid leaving puppies alone with rawhide, bully sticks, or any chews that could break off, as pieces can get lodged in their throat. Safe puppy distractions include the following.
- KONG toys are a classic: fill them with treats or peanut butter. Freeze for a challenge!
- The big version of the treat-dispensing Bob-A-Lot is popular with our office dogs.
- Nina Ottosson puzzle toys are great for clever dogs.
- DIY enthusiasts can build their own puzzle toys.
- Safe chews are a must-have, like the Nylabone.
- The PetCube is a fun splurge that lets you watch and communicate with your puppy from afar with camera and 2-way audio. The Furbo is another fun pet cam option that even dispenses treats.
Exercise is Key
Beyond potty breaks, your puppy needs lots of physical activity during the day. Exercise helps them:
- Stay healthy
- Digest meals
- Stimulate their mind
- Burn calories
- Avoid boredom (and boredom-induced destructive behaviors)
Individual exercise needs vary depending on your dog’s breed or breed mix. Herding and sporting dogs often need more intense activity; lower-energy breeds can do with less (source). But every puppy needs to burn off that energy! Before leaving your puppy alone for any period of time, make sure your puppy gets a brisk walk or play session of at least 20 minutes. Then, a midday romp (with you or a dog walker) will help break up the day.
Beyond exercise a dog needs each day, mental activity is important to keep puppies healthy, happy, and well-behaved. Puppies and young dogs need more enrichment than adults (source). Without it, they may become bored, and even destructive when left alone.
For maximum happiness for you and your pet, offer them enrichment opportunities when you’re home, and stuff to do when you’re out. Whether it’s a training session, exciting neighborhood walk, puzzle feeder, or a round of indoor games, enrichment activities help keep your dog healthy and balance out the time she spends alone.
In the first six months of life, puppies need a lot of attention, care, and exercise. Puppies younger than 10 weeks won’t be able to hold their urine for more than an hour at a time, and it’s not until 6 months of age that puppies can wait up to six hours to go to the bathroom.
Puppies will miss you when you’re gone and are prone to destructive behaviors or excess barking if they get lonely. Crate training helps, as does creating a “puppy zone,” and providing your puppy with lots of exercise, chew toys, and socialization. A Rover dog sitter can give your puppy the activity she needs during the day, and help you feel better about being gone.