Before we tackle this topic of leaving your puppy alone during the day, let’s first explore the psychological make-up of dogs so we can better understand their needs when answering this question.
In general, dogs are incredibly social animals and are hardwired with a pack mentality. We can gather this information simply by observing wolves, dingoes and other wild dog species that live in tight-knit family groups with complex social lives and hierarchies.
The domestic dog was slowly bred down from these wild counterparts to be even more companion-oriented so as to be able to work closely with his master performing many useful jobs such as herding and hunting.
Despite most dogs no longer having dedicated jobs, today in the 21st century, we often ask a lot more of our dogs. We want them to be our best friends and closest companions and yet allow us to work full time. We want them to be the very best snugglers on the couch while we watch Netflix, but we also want them to be calm, well-behaved indoors while we are gone for hours at a time.
This is quite the psychological challenge for our dear furry friends, but one that they can overcome if we set them up for success from a young age.
Before you leave your puppies alone during the day, know that they’re a very social animal
We have been talking about the social nature of dogs in general, but doodles need their own explanation as an extra social dog breed. Poodles, and therefore doodles, are known for being incredibly people-oriented and intelligent. They often make excellent service dogs and therapy dogs because of their innate sense of intuition and being in tune with their owner’s emotions.
They have often been described as almost humanlike in both their overall smarts and emotional intuition. The result is the most devoted companion you could ever ask for, but again, the downside is that this is not a breed that is content to be left alone for the entire day.
The typical doodle will want to be with you in any room of the house — often waiting for you outside of the shower, following you to the bathroom, etc. To have a happy, well-behaved doodle, an owner must be prepared to spend time with their pup and should not be surprised that their doodle prefers to be at their feet or on their lap all day every day.
At this point you may be wondering how on earth you’ll ever leave your devoted doodle alone for one minute, never mind for a day at work. The good news is that doodles are highly trainable and adaptable. So as long as you train them to be alone from an early age, they can adapt to your schedule (within reason).
When it comes to leaving a puppy alone, we strongly recommend crate training
Puppies need to be confined in a safe area when away from their owners as they are prone to getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. Chewing on electrical cords, eating plants, or swallowing tiny objects all seem like great ideas to the 8-week-old puppy mind!
Keeping your puppy in a kennel while you are gone not only keeps them safe, but when utilized correctly, the crate actually feels like a safe, cozy place to your pup and will help keep him calm and at rest when he must be left alone.
Please note that early introduction to crate training is critical. Finding a breeder who exposes a puppy to crates and individual time before they go home definitely puts your pup one step ahead with crate training. At Jenna Lee Designer Doodles, we begin crate introduction when our pups are 3 weeks old. By the time they go home at 8 weeks, each pup spends an hour in their kennel alone daily.
Assuming your pup has been properly introduced and feels comfortable in and around their kennel (see our article on crate training for tips!), it is now time to consider the appropriate amount of time to leave your pup alone. You want to consider their potty needs as well as social and energy needs, both of which are greater now than they will be when your pup is an adult.
For an 8-10 week old pup, we often recommend starting with 1-2 hours in their kennel at a time. At 8-10 weeks of age puppies have very small bladders so they need to potty at least that often during the day. Furthermore, at this age puppies operate on a “play hard, nap often” type schedule. So short play sessions followed by short naps work best.
The good news is that puppies grow up fast. By the time they are 10-12 weeks old, your pup can stretch his alone time to 3 hours. And by 12-16 weeks of age, 3-4 hours is attainable. During this puppy phase, make sure your pup has frequent access to water throughout the day before you plan to leave him for a longer period of time so that he avoids drinking a whole bowl of water right before kennel time! And of course, a potty break right before you leave is critical.
The older your dog gets, the more alone time they can handle
When your puppy is around 6 months old, he/she will have a more mature bladder, close to that of an adult dog, so your doodle can typically handle a half day alone (around 5 hours). He will still have a lot of energy, but he will be able to go for more sustained periods of exercise and settle down for longer periods of time.
We do not recommend leaving a doodle, no matter how old, alone for longer than 5-6 hours at a time. As a high energy, social breed, doodles need at least some kind of interaction and activity half-way through a full work day. Coming home for your lunch break to play fetch with your pup, hiring a dog walker, or sending your pup to doggy daycare to play with some four-legged friends, are all options frequently utilized by full time employees.
Not all alone time is created equal in your pup’s mind. As social, energetic animals, how and when you give your pup alone time matters when it comes to his contentment and avoiding separation anxiety.
One important factor is an appropriate amount of exercise. A tired pup will be much more willing to relax and nap when alone than a pup who has pent up energy. Doodles are moderately active dogs and need daily exercise – especially when they are young. Taking your pup for a brisk morning walk and/or fetch time out in the yard before leaving for work will definitely help him feel more relaxed while you are away.
Another way to help your dog accept being home alone is giving him something to do while he is in his crate. Being fed in their crate, having special “crate only” toys such as special chew toys and peanut-butter filled kongs help our pups develop a positive association with their crate. There are a number of long-lasting chews, puzzle toys, and snuffle mats that can occupy your doodle for at least some of the time you are away.
Finally, make sure that when you are at home with your pup, you are meeting his social needs by spending quality time with him. Doodles tend to love affection as well as play time. Running through your pup’s basic commands and rewarding with praise and treats can also be a great way to engage him.
We also recommend sleeping with your doodle in the same room as you. He/she can sleep in their kennel, but simply being near you and able to hear and smell you overnight can help your doodle feel secure and close to his new pack!
In conclusion, a proper introduction to crate training and taking into account your puppy’s age and his developmental needs including exercise, socialization, and frequency of potty breaks are all important keys to helping him adjust to spending time alone. Dogs thrive on predictable routines, so with a little practice and training, your pup will soon adapt to being on his own for part of the day.
Jenna and the JLDD Team