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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 fit around your puppy’s needs. Puppies crave company, exercise, and plenty of interaction. Plus, they can’t hold it in 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 who offers dog boarding to put your mind at ease—you’ll find plenty of fantastic sitters and walkers on Rover.com.
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. On the flip side, too little bonding time, socialisation or exercise can be a contributing factor towards naughty behaviour like destruction. (Of course, dogs can be destructive –or just plain naughty!– for other reasons; for some laughs, see this collection of dog shaming snaps. Find out more about what to consider when you’re leaving a puppy alone at home, and at what age it’s safe to do so.
How Long Can Your Puppy ‘Hold It In’?
According to National Geographic, adult dogs generally need to pee between 3 to 5 times a day. But puppies need breaks much more often!
Generally, puppies can hold it in for one hour per 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 1 hour per month rule. 3 month old puppies can wait for 3 hours, 4 month old puppies for 4 hours, and so on.
- After 6 months: An older puppy, like most adult dogs, has the ability to hold it in 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 of urinary tract infections, 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?
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+ weeks: 3–4 hours
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 and it’s never acceptable to shut your dog in the crate all day while you go to work. It is important that your dog gets lot of exercise and human interaction. According to the RSPCA, adult dogs that have been successfully trained to have a positive association with their crate and view it as their safe haven will usually be fine with being left for around 3 hours.
Create a Secure “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! There are a lot of different styles of gate to choose from, including freestanding options and higher gates (in case your dog is a jumper).
- Cosy items like blankets or your old jumpers.
- At least one bed like this orthopedic pet mattress. You may need a chew-proof bed like this tough Lifemax dog bed which has been endorsed by the RSPCA, or .
- Absorbent puppy training pads.
- Plenty of safe toys and chews: see below.
Toys and Chews for Lonely Puppies
- KONG toys are a classic and approved by the RSPCA: fill them with treats or peanut butter. Freeze for a challenge!
- The treat-dispensing Bob-A-Lot goes a long way towards engaging your dog’s brain while you are away.
- There are so many types of puzzle toys to choose from and they’re fantastic for antsy pups.
- Safe chews are a must-have, try the Nylabone puppy bone or a naturally-shed antler for a bit of variety.
- Some new toys even allow you to periodically interact with your pup while you are away. If your dog doesn’t suffer from isolation distress or separation anxiety try the Petcube, which 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. If your dog does suffer from severe panic while you’re away, these products, unfortunately, are likely to make your problem worse.
Exercise is Key
Beyond pee 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 behaviours)
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. 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 lasting 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. 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 things to do when you’re out. Whether it’s a training session, exciting neighbourhood walk, puzzle feeder, or a round of indoor games, enrichment activities help keep your dog healthy, and balance out the time she spends alone.
The Bottom Line
In the first 6 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 behaviours or excessive 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 socialisation. A Rover dog sitter can give your puppy the activity she needs during the day, and help you feel better about being gone.