Dr. Medders: "Furbo has really decreased their separation anxiety and depression while home alone."
Leaving a puppy alone while at work is no fun for anyone—neither you nor your furbaby. However, it may be necessary if you need to work to pay the bills and the dog food. If you’re working full time with a puppy, there are a few things you’ll want to do to when you’re trying to make it all work:
- House-train your puppy
- Leave your puppy with dog-appropriate socialization
- Spend some time making sure your furbaby is socialized
- Monitor your puppy and interact with them with Furbo Dog Camera
- Create a separate space
- Get the professionals involved
- Get ready for accidents
- Have a puppy plan
Can You Leave Your Dog at Home While at Work?
Before you even consider taking on a puppy or leaving your new furry family member at home alone, you need to realize that not all puppies are the same. Just like the young of any species, they have different stages of development, and these stages can affect when they’re ready to be left on their own:
- Puppies between 8-10 weeks. These puppies are babies and might be newly weaned. You cannot leave them on their own for extended periods of time, especially since at this age they’re likely being introduced to your home for the first time. At this age, your fur baby needs lots of companionship and socialization and will get very distressed when left for periods of time. You’re going to have to take some time off or have someone care for your new friend while you’re at work. Your new pup will need to be taken out to use the washroom often, too
- Puppies between 10-12 weeks. Your dog is getting bigger, but at this age may still be having accidents and cannot be left alone for hours. Socialization is still something you need to address, and you will need to make sure your puppy is let out to use the washroom or has some place to go inside. At this age, pups are still exploring the world around them, so it’s important that if they’re being left alone, they are monitored and have someone helping them if needed.
- Puppies older than three months old. At this age, puppies can go longer without having to go to the washroom. However, they may still bark when you’re away and as they get larger, they may be biting more or may be leaping out of any enclosure you’ve set up at home! Monitoring remains important for these reasons.
Age is not the only factor to consider, either. If the dog has been abused or has been adopted and may have been mistreated or abandoned before, he or she may be especially vulnerable. If you’re just introducing a puppy to your home for the first time, there is an adjustment period to consider. Also, some breeds are just more nervous than others and may do worse when left alone for hours every day. Labradors, terriers and other breeds, for instance, may experience more separation anxiety.
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When wondering what to do with your puppy while you’re at work, you might also want to take a closer look at your own job situation. For example, how long is your commute? Even if you only work six hours a day, if you work far away, you may be adding two or more hours to the time your dog is home alone. Do you work long hours, including weekends? If so, that may add some challenges to raising a puppy while working. The same is true if you work irregular hours or shift hours. Your schedule may change and the switching may confuse your pup. If you’re on call a lot and need to spend even more time away from your newest family member, the sudden changes in your schedule can be hard on your pup and can make it more difficult to arrange a dog sitter or doggie day care. These are all considerations to think about before you get a puppy.
What to Do With Your Puppy When You’re at Work All Day
Puppyhood is one of the most challenging times for dog parents. You’re adjusting to the new demands on your attention; your puppy is trying to acclimate to a brand new and somewhat alien environment…it’s exciting, it’s fun and it’s exhausting. Couple these changes with the fact that you are raising a puppy when you work full time and it can start to seem overwhelming.
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Fortunately working full time and raising a puppy is a well-travelled road and there is plenty of advice available from those who have walked in your shoes. First, let’s cover the basics:
1) Take a look at your work situation
Can you telecommute? Can you take some time off when your puppy first comes into your life? Can you cut back on hours or have someone else cover you for a bit? Review all your options to see whether you can’t spend more time at home with your newest family member, especially at the start.
When you first get your puppy, especially, try to get some time off so you can bond and spend time together. You’ll also want to create a system where you don’t leave your puppy alone all at once. Spend the first few days at home with your new family member and introduce “alone” time gradually. Head out for a few minutes, then an hour and then longer. Don’t just get a puppy and leave them alone for a few hours right away. At the very least, get your puppy on a weekend so you have some time together. If you can’t get time away from work, get a friend or family member to spend extended periods of time with your pup in your home at first, until your new furry pal gets used to longer periods alone.
2) Create a space for your puppy
One of the most important things that a new puppy parent can do is to provide him with a sense of security. This starts with giving him his own space, around 6X4 feet is ideal. Many people use a puppy-pen but you can use a small room, like your bathroom, as well. If possible, it’s best to give him a space that you can gradually expand, an area that will be his for the long term. The space should have a comfortable bed, a few toys and something with your scent on it — old clothing works great.
Pups tend to like den-like environments, so a cozy, smaller space is best. If you’re wondering how to potty train a puppy when you work, building a good space for your pup can help since dogs will avoid going to the bathroom near their dens or home spaces.
3) Set a regular routine
Dogs of all ages like a predictable schedule and puppies in particular need stability. The fewer surprises, the better. Try to keep mealtimes, walks and bedtime consistent, and try to drop in at least once a day while you’re working. You also may want to consider investing in a system like Furbo; it’s popular with working puppy parents because it allows you to see him, speak to him and even throw him an occasional treat!
4) Leaving your puppy alone during the day
The general consensus for leaving a puppy alone during the day is one hour for every month, a two-month-old puppy will rarely be capable of holding his bladder for more than two hours, a three-month-old for three…etc. This is a generalization but it’s a good starting point to help you build your new dog-friendly schedule.
Puppy pads are a common back-up plan for new puppy parents and it won’t hurt to lay some down in his area. Just don’t be too surprised if your puppy sees them as a fun thing to shred rather than a place to relieve himself!
5) Be sure to call in the pros
Make sure you know the name of a reputable dog sitter or kennel. While this is an expensive option for every day at work, having someone to call is important if you need to travel for work or will be putting in extra hours during the holidays. In addition, be sure to get your puppy to the vet and a trainer as soon as possible. Your vet can offer important insight into whether your furbaby is ready to be left alone and whether there are any medical conditions which could make alone time more dangerous. A trainer can help you start training your pup, so they can start learning all those good habits to make them less scared of being alone!
In addition to calling in the pros, don’t be afraid to recruit friends, family and neighbors to help out by dropping by or by letting you know when your pup is barking. Raising a pup is a big job, so you’re going to need some help!
6) Monitor your puppy
Even if your dog is old enough to be left alone, make sure you can monitor them easily. What if your pup has separation anxiety, a barking problem or runs into trouble while you’re away? Of course, you want your fur baby safe and you need peace of mind so you can focus on work.
Furbo is a two-way communication system for your dog to help you monitor your pup. Just plug it in and through your home Internet connection, it will allow you to communicate with your dog from any mobile device. Use the free app to check in your dog at any time of the day or night. The HD, night vision camera lets you see clearly and a dog alert notification system allows you to get an alert whenever your dog barks, so you can keep track of barking and be alerted if your pup is in distress.
If you do notice your pup in distress or barking, Furbo has a two-way communication system so that you can speak to your fur baby. You can give voice commands or soothe. You can even take photos and video if you need to discuss a specific behavior with a trainer or vet. Furbo also has a treat dispensing system, so you can reward good behavior or just spoil your furriest family member. The free app lets you control the video, photos and dispenser, so you can use these features anywhere where you have access to your phone. Furbo makes a clicking noise before dispensing a treat, making it ideal for use with clicker training.
7) House train a puppy when you work full time
Small things count during your puppy’s first few months and good housetraining is really just a set of small calculated steps. In other words, don’t get caught up searching for new theories on how to housetrain your puppy! When you work full time, your schedule will dictate the rules.
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First and foremost plan to get up a minimum of a ½ hour before you did in your pre-puppy days, this will give you a chance to take him on a quick walk and then get in a little bit of that oh-so-essential playtime. You’ll need to save a few extra minutes for a last potty break once you’re ready to leave for the morning as well.
When housetraining your puppy, make sure you get someone to drop in during the day to help your dog out. Many pup owners who work full time also use paper training or pads so their dog has somewhere to go during the day. Even with this method, you will likely need to have someone stopping by from time to time until your dog can hold on a little longer. Just remember that puppies have little bladders and younger dogs are not going to be able to “hold it” more than an hour or two at first.
8) Leave quietly in the mornings
Next is an often neglected but always crucial step in housetraining — Leave quietly without making any lavish displays of affection. Challenging I know, but the less emphasis placed on your departures and arrivals the happier and better adjusted your puppy will be. It’s a life-long habit that you should try to form early as it not only cuts down on accidents it cuts down on separation anxiety, which is the most common root of behavioral disorders in dogs.
9) Keep your pup busy
A bored pup can easily become distressed on their own, especially since their biggest source of entertainment and fun (you!) isn’t around. Leave out puzzles, toys and other things to keep your puppy busy. A treat which is frozen and requires your puppy to work for a snack can be a good way to distract them for hours. Consider having a special treat they love only available when you leave, so your dog associates something positive with the time you’re away. If you’re wondering how to keep puppy busy while at work, there are tons of dog toys you can look at online and at pet stores.
10) Address problem barking
Small dogs can make really big noise. Not only is it distracting for neighbors but you don’t want your pup crying, wailing, barking and crying in distress for hours. One problem is that you might not know because you’re not home. Furbo has a bark alert system which lets you know when your puppy is barking. With technology designed to filter out normal noise, the risk of false alerts is lower.
If barking is an issue, there are a few things you can do. First, teach your puppy the commands for “speak” and “quiet.” Use the speak command to let them make some noise when it’s appropriate. Then, practice the “quiet” command when you’re not there. Start by doing whatever it is you do when you leave. Grab your keys, run the coffee maker and put on your shoes. Give the “quiet” command when you leave and either press the elevator button or close the outer door to stimulate the conditions of you leaving.
Wait a minute and listen for barking with Furbo. If your pup can’t resist barking, rap on your door and repeat the “quiet” command. If your fur baby was good, come “back home” and heap praise on them. Do this again and again, with a few hours in between sessions, gradually extending the amount of time you give before you come back home and reinforce good behavior.
Teaching your dog the quiet command ensures your pup knows what’s expected of him or her. If barking continues to be a problem, you may want to consult with a trainer or vet for more personalized help.
11) Make your puppy more comfortable alone
Leave a shirt or pillow with your scent on it with your pup so they can enjoy some comfort from it. Create a cozy environment for your pup, with a soft bed and comfortable temperatures. Some furry buddies, especially younger ones, may like having a TV or radio on when you leave while others prefer silence. Get to know what your dog prefers and try to offer them the right environment.
12) Give your puppy attention and a chance to cut loose when you get home
What you do when you’re home is just as important as what you do before and during your work day to make sure your furry family member is okay with being left alone. When you come home, praise your pup, take them out for a walk and heap them with praise. Give them love and be sure to spend time with them. We probably don’t have to tell you that.
But the time you have at home is also time you can spend training the “quiet” command and other commands so your pup is ready to be quiet when you’re gone. Extra time and love can also help make up for the time spent alone, so even if you bring work home it’s important to set aside some time for training as well as fun.
Be sure to spend plenty of time socializing your puppy, too. Time spent with other dogs and in dog parks can help you dog adapt better to time alone. A poorly-socialized dog who spends all his or her time alone may be more prone to problem barking and anxiety, so make sure your fur baby has an active social life!
13) Consider reducing distractions and options for mischief when you’re gone
Small puppies can get worked up about anything, from mail delivery to someone ringing the doorbell to a leaf scuttling across the patio. These noises can be either really exciting for your furry family member or really scary! For younger pups, consider reducing stimulation by placing them in a quieter part of the house and blocking some of the things they can see or hear with heavy curtains. This can help keep your puppy from getting too worked up.
14) Create a puppy plan
Learning how to raise a puppy when you work is a big undertaking, so write down a concrete plan for yourself before you get your dog. What can you do to make the home environment more conducive for your pup? How can you puppy-proof your home? What dangers exist in your home you’ll have to handle before bringing your furbaby home? What can you do in case of emergencies, such as when you notice on Furbo your dog is barking? Who can you get to help you with your new pup? Where are some nearby good walking places? What do you need to get your puppy set up? What will you do if your schedule changes or you need to work late?
Answer on paper and spend some time really contemplating these questions. Consider what needs to happen, hour by hour, every minute you’re away. How can you handle any noise typical on your street? You may not think anything of the noise of garbage trucks on your street, for example, but they can be terrifying for your puppy. Anticipate and create contingency as well as emergency plans so you know exactly what to do if your pup is distressed, sick or not adapting well.
15) Address separation anxiety
If your puppy barks constantly, takes part in chewing or has lots of accidents only when you’re gone or these behaviors get a lot worse when you’re gone, your dog might have separation anxiety. It’s important to notice these symptoms and address them right away, before they get worse and your dog goes through unnecessary days or weeks of pain.
Having someone check in on your pup can reduce separation anxiety, as can dog sitter services. Another option is to monitor your dog via Furbo. You can not only check in on your furry friend, but you can talk to them and even dispense treats, so your dog does not feel as alone between the time you leave and the time you get back. It can help reduce the sting of being left alone.
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16) Make some adjustments in your life
It is possible to learn how to take care of a dog when you’re not home, but it’s also lots of work. You will need to make some sacrifices. This may mean creating a plan and leaning on friends and family for help or it may mean paying for dog sitting or a pro. It will mean committing to monitoring your puppy and being ready to step in if something goes amiss.
You’re also going to have to make some sacrifices. If you work full time, you will need to make more time to spend at home or with your puppy. It may mean giving up some social time or even vacations while you and your furry family member adjust to each other and it may mean spending less time on errands and other tasks you can’t complete with your dog, so you have more time to bond.
17) Keep training going
While it’s very possible to learn how to take care of a puppy when you work, one thing many fur parents worry about is interrupting training. Puppy months are some of the best times for training your fur baby, and your furry friend has lots to learn. To keep training going, aim for having lots of little training sessions. Train for a few minutes in the morning and a few at night. Use Furbo to train for a few minutes during the day and use weekends for obedience classes or more intensive training.
18) Tire them out
Puppies are high-energy bundles, and they’re less likely to take out all that energy on your furniture if you take them out and exercise them rigorously and often. Take your dog for a walk and spend some time playing in the morning, before you leave for work. Spend time after work exercising and playing. Not only is play stimulating for puppies, but it tires them out so they spend more of the quiet work day napping. Naps are ideal during the work day, because they mean your furry friend isn’t distressed and isn’t barking.
19) Anticipate accidents
Accidents will happen often, particularly in the first six to eight weeks. It is also fairly common for puppies to experience periods of regression in their house training when they are left alone on a regular basis. Planning for these things helps reduce the stress level for you and your puppy and is an essential part of learning how to raise a puppy while working. Keep your cleaning supplies well-stocked and remember that most puppies will have a natural desire to avoid soiling their own areas, but a tiny bladder can only last for so long!
Get Ready for Puppy!
How you raise your puppy when you work full time can have a major impact on quality of life for both of you, it pays to start things off right. Learning how to house train a puppy when you work full time can how to care for your new family addition is no small task, but it’s well worth it.