Getting a new puppy is both exciting and hard work. In addition, you still have to go to your full-time job that pays the bills. So what do you do with your puppy while at work? You will need to find a way of confining a puppy while at work for both their safety and the safety of your home.
There are several options you can consider to confine your puppy when home alone.
- Room Confinement: – You can confine your puppy to a small pet-proof room with easy-to-clean floors. Obviously, you will need a room that is safe from hazards such as electrical wires they could chew on. This room would also need to be free of any of your possessions they could do damage to such as furniture they could chew. If you have such a space in your home it would be ideal for confining your puppy while at work. The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room. If you don’t have a room that is suitable for long-term confinement a puppy pen is probably the best option.
- Crate Confinement: – You can leave your puppy in their crate. Some people think that putting a puppy in a crate is cruel. However, this is not the case as their crate is a safe area much like a den for a puppy in the wild. This may not be ideal for a puppy under six months. They can not hold their bladder for the 8 plus hours you will be out of the home at work. This would defeat the purpose of crate training which is to aid in toilet training. A puppy generally will not want to toilet in their den.
It is recommended not to leave a puppy in a crate for a long period of time. How long a puppy can be left in a crate is dependant upon their age. As a general guideline here is the recommended lengths of time.
8-10 weeks up to 1 hour
11-12 weeks up to 2 hours
13-16 weeks up to 3 hours
Over 4 months up to 4 hours
- Puppy Pen: – often referred to as playpens also, this option will allow your puppy space to play. You can set up their bed in one corner and a toileting area in the opposite. For toileting, you can provide your puppy with either potty pads or an artificial grass toilet. You can even set up their crate in the playpen or attach to the outside of the puppy pen so they have a safe area if they are feeling anxious.
Puppy pen vs crate
As we have discussed above, your puppies crate is only really suitable for confinement for short periods of time from 1 to 4 hours depending on their age. For longer periods of confinement such as while you are at work, it is best to confinement your puppy to a safe room or playpen.
The advantage of a crate over a playpen is that your puppy can’t escape from a crate. With a basic puppy pen, many puppies are able to climb up the side and escape over the top. Of course this can be dangerous to your puppy falling to the ground. For leaving your puppy in a playpen for long periods of time such as while you are a work or when home alone I would recommend having a roof on the puppy pen to prevent any escape attempts. Also, if you don’t have an easy-clean floor area in which to set up your playpen I would recommend a playpen with a floor.
Whether you are using a room or a playpen for long-term confinement it is also a good idea to place their crate in the area also. This way they have an area they can go into to sleep and help to make them feel more secure and safe. Depending on the size of the playpen you are using you can either put the crate inside the playpen or you can attach it to the outside to allow them more space.
If you don’t already have your puppies playpen see the options here on Amazon.
Confinement schedule and playpen training for puppies
Before leaving your puppy in a playpen or selected confinement room while at work it is important to train and condition them to the experience. Set up everything they need such as their bed, toileting area, and puppy appropriate toys such as a puppy Kong.
Start by putting them in the confinement area with something to occupy them and go about your normal business. Start with a short period of time such as 5 to 10 minutes. If your puppy is already crate trained they will adapt to this quickly.
At the end of the confinement period, let your puppy out without making a fuss or big deal of it.
Repeat this process throughout the day, each time varying the length of time from 1 minute to 30 minutes.
That night leave your puppy in the confinement area overnight. If they cry or bark, try to ignore them and don’t make a fuss. As with crate training, they need to learn that they will not be released when making noise.
On the second day, repeat the confinement training but leave the house each time. Start by just leaving for a few minutes. Gradually increase the period of your absence from the house. If you normally leave in your car to go to work, do this.as part of the home alone confinement training.
Leaving puppy in play pen while at work
You have spent some time training your puppy for spending time in their confinement area whether it be a puppy proof room or a playpen. Now it is time to leave your puppy home alone while you are at work. Here are some tips on what your puppy will need to be safe and happy and to put your mind to rest.
Where to set up the puppy pen
Try to set up your puppy pen in a quiet area of the house to avoid noises and outside distractions. These noises can be either really exciting for your young puppy or really scary. Also, choose an area where they can’t see too much of what is going on outside by pulling the curtains. This will help to reduce or stop your puppy barking.
Also, take into account the room temperature. The recommended room temperature for a puppy is 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) in the summer and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) in the winter but check with your vet to see what temperature range is best for your particular breed. Remember, a dog’s natural body temperature is higher than humans.
If you have a heat pump or air conditioning set the thermostat to these settings. Otherwise, you can make the room temperature more comfortable for your puppy in a number of ways. In the hot weather, you could place a fan outside the puppy pen to create a cool breeze or if you have a two-level home you can set up the puppy pen upstairs. A two level house is cooler upstairs. In the winter you can provide extra blankets or an enclosed bed they can climb into or place a safe heater such as an oil column heater in the room outside the playpen.
Set up an area inside the playpen where your puppy can sleep and feel comfortable. This can simply be a bed and a blanket or it can be their crate with their bed inside. It is also a good idea to include something with your scent on it such as an item of clothing.
Puppies should be fed 3 to 4 times per day. Smaller meals are easier to digest for the puppy and energy levels don’t peak and fall so much with frequent meals. At around six months you may start feeding twice a day for convenience. If you are leaving your puppy home alone while you are at work it is best not to free feed. If you put your puppies food for a full day out they are likely to just eat the lot in one go. Puppies don’t really have the self-control to know when they are full and to stop eating. This will more than likely make your puppy sick.
Free feeding is generally not a good practice to get your puppy into for a number of reasons
- it puts your puppy at risk of becoming overweight
- this can affect potty training as your puppy is likely to want to go toilet after eating. If their eating routine is random it is difficult to know when to put them out to relieve themselves
- free feeding can make it difficult to monitor your puppy’s appetite and eating habits.
- having access to food whenever they want can lead to resource guarding and food aggressive behavior
Of course, if your puppy is home alone it can make it difficult to give them their meals at set times. If you have someone visiting them during the day you can have them feed your puppy. If this is not an option the easiest solution is to use an automatic pet feeder with a timer.
For options see automatic pet feeders on Amazon
The thing with puppies and water bowls is they tend to like to play in them and knock them over. This is a problem as you don’t want your puppy not to have access to water all day leaving them dehydrated. It is important to use a non-spill water bowl for your puppy. My personal recommendation and the bowl I use for my own dog is the Torus water bowl.
See Torus water bowls on Amazon
The Torus bowl stores up to 2L of water in its reservoir walls and filters it to remove any contaminants. Each time your puppy takes a drink, replacement water automatically flows from the storage area into the drinking well. The enclosed water storage area also aids to keep the water cool. There is no power or batteries required
If you are leaving your puppy home alone for eight or more hours while you are a work they will need to go toilet. An adult dog can hold its bladder for up to 24 hours, but this is not possible for a young puppy. The best option for a toilet area in their playpen is to use either puppy pads or an artificial grass puppy toilet.
Grass pad potties may be a good option if your puppy goes to the bathroom outside sometimes, or if they will be doing so in the future. These are trays containing a layer of removable fake turf. Since they resemble the grass your puppy relieves themselves on outdoors, it helps reinforce the appropriate potty surface. They are usually on a plastic tray base that does also help with misses and spillage.
See options for grass pad potties on Amazon
Puppy pads are absorbent and usually lined to protect your floors. But they do have some shortcomings. The underside lining makes them slide across surfaces however some types do come with adhesive tape on the bottom to prevent this. They are also easily shredded which may be a fun game for your puppy but does defeat the purpose. They lack raised edges to prevent misses and spillover. You can get a plastic tray to put them on much like the fake grass potties.
See options for puppy pads on Amazon
Toys to occupy them
Puppies do tend to sleep for a large portion of the day but you do need to provide toys to occupy them and provide stimulation for when they are awake and active.
Not all dog toys are suitable for puppies so you use puppy appropriate toys
Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for puppies and dogs. There are many benefits to chewing for your puppy. When they reach the age of teething around five to six months chewing also helps provide relief for sore teeth and gums. One of the main benefits for a home alone puppy is that the chewing action releases feel-good endorphins to your puppy’s brain. This is very calming and relaxing for a stressed puppy.
It is also important to use chew toys that are not too hard and are appropriate for a puppy. The wrong type of chew can do damage to their teeth and young jaw.
To learn more about benefits and best chew toys for puppies see here.
Puppy Kong for dogs
The Kong for dogs is an absolute essential for every home alone dog. These can be filled with food and treats to challenge and occupy your puppy and are also an ideal chew toy. It is important to use a Puppy Kong and not the Adult Kong as these are a softer rubber and have more flex to prevent injury to their teeth and jaw.
To learn more about how to use a Kong for dogs see here.
In addition to giving your puppy a Kong when home alone, there are many puzzle-type toys that can challenge their mind and keep them busy. For options of best puzzle toys for dogs see here.
Arrange for a neighbor, friend or family member to pop in for a visit during the day to play with and give your puppy company. This is a great way to break up the long day alone for them. Alternatively, if there is no one you can get to do this there are many pet minding services that can provide an in-home visit for you.
Monitor them with a pet camera
For your peace of mind, you can set up a pet camera to check in on your puppy throughout the day. These usually have two-way communication so you can speak to your puppy and also hear them. The added bonus is that you can receive notifications on your phone if your puppy is barking. Some of these devices provide even more interaction with your puppy when you are not there including being able to give them a treat.
See Best pet cameras for dogs to learn more.
Provide ambient noise
Leave a radio on to provide background noise for your puppy. This not only provides them company but also helps to mask outside noises that may make them excited or scared such as car horns, noisy neighbors and even thunder.
You can even get music that is designed to be calming and soothing for dogs.
Leaving your puppy home alone for a long period of time can be worrying for many puppy owners. I hope that these suggestions for confining and leaving a puppy home alone while at work have been helpful. If you have any more good suggestions, please feel free to comment.
For a Complete Guide to Leaving a Dog Home Alone see here.