Leaving your dog home alone when you live in an apartment has many of the same considerations as if you live in a house. However, there are a couple of concerns that require some forward planning to ensure your dog is happy being home alone. We will go into more detail to make sure your dog has everything they need and how to prevent problems.
With modern city living more and more people are living in an apartment. Just because you don’t have a yard doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a dog.
With our busy lifestyles and work commitments, there are times when our dogs will need to be left home alone. Doggy daycare is an option for many people but may not be suitable for every dog. See Is doggy daycare good for dogs to learn more.
Can you leave a dog in an apartment all day
If you work full time it is likely that your dog will be alone for up to 8 to 10 hours. This is not uncommon for a lot of dog owners whether they live in an apartment or other living situation.
This is not a problem on the condition that you provide your dog with everything they need and they are trained to be home alone for extended periods. For dogs with separation anxiety, it would not be a good idea. For more on anxiety in dogs left alone see here.
This guide for leaving your dog home alone in an apartment is aimed at providing you with the necessary information and tips to make that home alone time for your dog as stress-free and as comfortable as possible.
Confinement for a home alone apartment dog
One of the first considerations when leaving your dog home alone is where they are going to be kept. Are they well behaved and can be trusted to have the run of the full area? Or do you want to have them in a playpen, crate or confined to one room? We will look at each of these options so you can decide what is the best option for you and your dog.
Many people feel that putting a puppy or dog in a crate is cruel. However, to your dog or puppy, the crate acts like a den similar to a dog in the wild. It gives them a safe space where they can feel secure and relaxed.
A crate is only really suitable for a short period of time. If you are going to be out for an hour or two putting your puppy or dog in a crate is fine. I do not recommend leaving a puppy or dog in a crate all day such as while you are at work.
The advantages of putting your puppy or dog in a crate when you are out are that it will prevent any destructive behavior or damage to your property. It is also a good way to prevent nuisance barking as with correct crate training they will learn that they are not released from the crate when barking.
Puppy or playpen
This option will allow your puppy or small breed dog 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.
For more information about confining a puppy or small breed dog in a playpen see here.
You can confine your dog or puppy to a small pet-proof room with easy-to-clean floors. The advantage of confining your dog or puppy to one area of the house is that it will prevent unwanted behaviors such as chewing, barking, and toileting. The room doesn’t have to be huge. Your dog probably doesn’t need that much space and in fact, they will feel more secure in a smaller space.
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.
The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room. If the selected room doesn’t have a door that can be closed you can use a pet gate to keep your dog in.
Toileting options in an apartment
You obviously don’t want your dog to relieve themselves where ever they chose in the apartment. Coming home to an apartment full of messes and hidden surprises is quite unpleasant.
Create a designated area in your apartment for your dog to go to the bathroom. The most common items used to create this space is a puppy pad and grass pads. These can be set up in an area such as the bathroom or even on the deck if your dog has access.
Grass pad potties may be a good option if your dog goes to the bathroom outside sometimes. These are trays containing a layer of removable fake turf. Since they resemble the grass your puppy or dog 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.
Training a dog to be home alone
All dogs should be able to be alone some of the time. Ideally, it should be something you teach your dog from a puppy. However, you can teach an older dog to like being alone or at least tolerate it.
Start by leaving your dog or puppy in their confined area such as a playpen or selected room for between 30 minutes and an hour each day. They will gradually learn how to be alone and also come to the understanding that you always return.
Make this time alone pleasant for them by ensuring they have everything they need. This will include food, water, and toys. Toys that can occupy them such as a Kong for dogs or a puzzle toy are best. Alternatively, give them a chew toy.
Practice leaving your dog alone when you are there. Even when you are home you can practice alone time for your dog. Put them if their confinement space such as a playpen or selected room and get on with doing your own thing without them around.
Keep leaving and returning low key. For your dog to be calm and comfortable about being home alone they must see that it is not a big deal. When leaving a simple “bye and be good” is sufficient. Making a big fuss with lots of kisses and cuddles will send you dog the wrong message. Dogs are masters at reading our energy and emotions.
Monitoring your dog while at work
It is a good idea to check up on your dog during the day. This is to ensure that they are fine and make sure they are not up to no good. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
Arrange to have a neighbor, friend or family member pop in for a visit to check how your dog is going and to give them some company. Even if you are unable to have somebody check up on your dog it is often a good idea to speak to your neighbors and give them a contact number if there are any concerns. Alternatively, there are many pet minding services that can provide this service for you.
Monitor them with a pet camera
With a pet camera, you can check in with your dog and even have direct interaction with them. Many pet cameras have two communication so you can speak to your dog. They also have a microphone and can send notifications to your phone if your dog is barking. Other dog cameras can provide even more interaction including giving your dog a treat. For the best pet camera for dogs see here.
Ensure your dog’s exercise needs are met
If you live in an apartment it is crucial your dog also gets time outside. It is also important that your dog receives sufficient exercise for their breed for good health and to burn pent up energy. For a guide to the exercise needs of your particular dog needs see here.
Ideally, try to exercise your dog before leaving them home alone. This way they will be tired and probably sleep much of the day.
If your dog doesn’t get the exercise they need and are left home alone for long periods of time behavior problems will result. This may include nuisance barking and destructive behavior.
In addition to taking your dog out for exercise, there are many ways to exercise your dog in your apartment. For ways to exercise your dog in an apartment see here.
Mental stimulation and enrichment are just as important as physical exercise. In fact, mental exercise can tire a dog as much as physical activity.
Provide ways to occupy your dog
It is important to provide your dog with ways to entertain and occupy themselves when they are home alone. A bored and frustrated dog can look for ways to entertain themselves which may result in unwanted behavior. This can include nuisance barking, destructive behavior and even escaping if they are outside. It can also result in a dog feeling lonely and depressed.
A good way to ensure your dog chooses to spend their time do fun and enriching activities to set up activity areas in different parts of the house or backyard.
Each activity area can be anything from a simple engaging toy to a box full of smaller items. See dog enrichment box below for more about this. Don’t expect your dog to automatically be interested or know what to do in each activity area. You may need to spend some time with your dog when you are home to introduce and teach them to engage in various activities.
Here are some suggested ways to occupy your dog when home alone in an apartment.
Dog enrichment box
To make an enrichment box you simply need a larger cardboard box, some smaller boxes, empty toilet rolls, and newspaper. Put treats the toilet rolls, smaller boxes or wrap in newspaper and fill the box up. You can also put in a chew toy or stuffed Kong so they have something to settle done with when they are finished.
You may have a mess of shredded paper to clean up. But what are a few minutes of tidying for hours of fun and enrichment for your dog?
Watch the video to see how to make an enrichment box for your dog
Interactive puzzle toys are one of the best ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog. These generally involve your dog having to work out how to get a treat or food stuffed inside out and can keep your dog busy for a long time. For the best puzzle toys for dogs see here.
Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs and has many benefits. These include keeping them occupied and dental health benefits. The chewing action also releases endorphins to your dog’s brain giving them that feel-good stress relief and calm feeling.
To learn more about the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys for dogs see here.
For more ways to entertain your dog when home alone see here.
Summary – Dog home alone in an apartment
Leaving your dog home in an apartment should be no problem as long as you provide to their needs. This includes training them to be alone, giving them sufficient exercise, a designated toileting area, and providing ways to occupy them.
By not providing these essential needs will probably result in you coming home after a long day to an unpleasant scene.