4 tips for balancing life with a puppy

Nothing matches the joy of welcoming a new puppy into our lives. Those tiny paws and wagging tails have a supernatural ability to win our hearts in an instant. Yet, as much as we’d love to spend all day cuddling and playing with our furry companions, the harsh reality is: we’ve got other pressing responsibilities. Like work.

Which begs the question, “Can I leave my puppy alone?” 

Rest assured, it’s possible to strike a harmony between balancing your professional commitments and taking care of your new buddy. In this blog post, we’ll share our top tips and insights – to help you navigate this exciting journey with ease.

What happens if I leave my puppy alone?

Leaving a puppy for extended periods of time isn’t recommended –  but, sometimes, it’s unavoidable. In these cases, you’ll need to make extra preparations, so that your furry friend stays content.

If you leave your puppy alone without preparations, they might:

  • Have accidents (puppies can hold their bladder for around one hour for each month of age)
  • Experience separation anxiety, which can crop up through excessive barking, pacing, and destructive behaviour
  • Have hindered social development, through a lack of social interaction
  • Become bored and restless, which can lead to unwanted behaviours (like chewing on furniture)

So, it’s clear: balancing work life with puppy care requires patience and planning. Puppies thrive on routine and consistency, so creating a schedule that meets your (and your puppy’s) needs is key. With crate training, puppy-proofing, and doggy daycare/puppy visits, your dog will grow up happy and well-adjusted. 

  1. Plan for short absences

The thought of leaving your puppy alone for the first time can stir up some nerves. The key lies in starting with short absences – and progressively stretching the duration. 

Begin by simply stepping out of the room for a few minutes. Upon your return, reward your pup with well-deserved praise and treats if they manage to stay calm. As you repeat this exercise, gradually extend the time you’re away – until your puppy gets used to brief moments of being alone. 

This process will help minimise separation anxiety and, at the same time, build up their confidence. Before you know it, your puppy will be embracing these short bursts of independence with composure.

How should I act when I return?

One of the best parts of owning a dog? Their jump-for-joy enthusiasm when you come back home. Yet (despite how happy you are to see them) it’s best to not create too much excitement. If you make a big fuss, your puppy will associate your arrival with attention – which can reinforce separation anxiety in puppies.

To keep things low-key, try to remain calm. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body before stepping through the front door. If you approach your pup with a calm demeanour, they’re more likely to follow suit.

Try using a gentle voice and a casual greeting – because too much enthusiasm will ramp up your pup’s excitement levels. We also recommend holding off on eye contact and belly rubs away. Give your dog a few moments to settle down before interacting with them. (We know, it’s practically impossible. But it will help them be more comfortable in being left alone.) 

How long can I leave my puppy alone?

Leaving a puppy alone can be stressful – not just for them. They’ve got lots of energy (find out just how much here!) and every dog needs regular:

✔ Toilet breaks

Social interaction

✔ Mental stimulation

As a rule of thumb, puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age (up to 8 hours for most adult dogs). So, if your pup is 3 months old, it shouldn’t be left for more than 3 hours at a time. If you leave them for longer, you might find your dog has accidents – which can slow down their house-training progress.

Every pup is different, but – generally speaking – adult dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours at a time.

What do I do if I need to leave my puppy home alone for longer?

If life’s demands require you to leave your furry friend home alone for longer, it’s best to be prepared. For instance, if you need to leave your 4-month-old puppy for longer than 4 hours, you’ll want to get in touch with a local doggy daycare.

At Tom & Toto, we offer home visits for unvaccinated pups – just scroll to the end of the blog to find out more. And, once your dog is vaccinated, they can join us for short walks with other friendly dogs. Not only will this give you peace of mind (pawrent guilt is real!), but your pup will also learn that time without you isn’t all that bad. Plus, group dog walks are great for socialisation and training support – we’ll help improve your furry friend’s recall and loose lead walking.

That’s not all. As soon as your pup is 8 months old, our experienced staff would love to take care of them at Doggy Daycare. (We’ve got cosy rest spots, bespoke play equipment, and extensive, secure gardens. Discover our daycare centre here!)

  1. Crate training

When you have to leave for work, or nip to the shop, using a crate is a safe and helpful solution. Dogs are den animals – which means a properly sized (and comfortable!) crate can serve as a safe haven for them. 

To make crate time more manageable, make sure your puppy has a cosy bed, their favourite toys, and access to fresh water. You might also like to leave a piece of clothing that smells like you, to comfort them while you’re out. And, before crating your puppy for the first time, practise crate training in short intervals – gradually extending the duration.

Help – my puppy doesn’t like the crate!

Top tip: introduce the crate with positive reinforcement, e.g. high-reward treats and toys. (Why not try these puppy-friendly snack ideas?)

That way, your dog will associate it with nice experiences. Never use the crate as a punishment, and make sure it’s big enough for your puppy to stand around, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

  1. Set up a puppy-proof area

Here are some simple steps to create a puppy-proof area. One that’ll keep your new buddy safe and entertained while you’re out.

First things first: choose a zone. It could be a small room, a corner of your living space, or even a playpen. Make sure the space is secure, and that your puppy feels comfortable.

Then, to puppy-proof your home, you’ll need:

  • Stair gates (to enclose a safe space where your puppy can roam freely)
  • Toys (rotate the toys occasionally, to keep them interested!)
  • A hydration station (top tip: get a spill-proof water bowl)
  • Their favourite cosy bed

Make sure the area is free from hazards, too – e.g. wires, toxic plants, and small objects. 

  1. Arranging puppy visits

We understand the challenges of juggling a busy work life and the responsibilities of being a dog owner. That’s why Tom & Toto offers pre-vaccination puppy visits at home – to keep your pup happy, healthy, and well-socialised, even when you can’t be there.

During our visits, we’ll make sure your puppy’s needs are catered to. From feeding them a tasty lunch to cleaning up any accidents. We’ll also indulge in some puppy playtime, to make sure your pup stays engaged and entertained. Plus, we’ll lend a paw with toilet and obedience training – to make your life a whole lot easier.

Just tap here to find out more about our puppy services.

The importance of quality time with your puppy

Juggling work and puppy care can be demanding. However, it’s crucial to prioritise quality time with your furry friend whenever possible.

Set aside dedicated bonding time every day – whether it’s going for a walk, playing with them, or simply having a cuddle in front of the sofa. These moments won’t just enrich your puppy’s life – they’ll also give you some much-needed relaxation.

Leaving your puppy alone can be a tricky decision. But, with proper planning and attention, it can be managed well. Just remember to crate your puppy for appropriate amounts of time (based on their age), and always make arrangements for toilet breaks/social interaction.

By understanding your puppy’s needs and providing a loving, stimulating environment, you’ll be well on your way to raising a happy furry friend.

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