How to have a dog when you work all day

should i get a dog if i work all day
A tired dog after his morning exercise session. Photo: Nosy Nation

My question: What to do with a puppy while at work?

It can be difficult to have a dog when you are working a full-time job, especially if you are a single person.

I have had my German Shepherd for almost two years now, and I have figured out how to leave my puppy alone while at work. These techniques worked for me. They may not work for you and your puppy.

Mental (and Physical) Exercise

My GSD is tuckered before I go to work. But I devote an hour in the morning for potty breaks, walks and obedience, and breakfast — all of which tire out my dog. For me, that was the key for leaving a puppy alone while at work. Here’s what my dog’s routine looks like.

I exercise my puppy every morning. Every. Single. Morning. We walk an appropriate length of time for his age or play ball.

As he has got older, more obedient, and higher levels of focus, I do off-leash walks, where he gets the freedom to be a dog.

During his walks and off-leash time, we work on dog obedience, too.

kong wobbler reviewThe physical exercise tires the dog out, but the mental exercise from obedience and sniffing helps tire him out.

After the morning exercise routine, I feed my dog. I make him work for his food.

I put the dry dog food in a treat dispenser, such as a KONG Wobbler or a Starmark Chew Ball. I use a KONG Classic with frozen dog food. These tools are awesome.

After the exercise session and working to get his food out of the dispensers, he is usually pretty tuckered.

Note: Outside walks can be a challenge during winter months when the sun does not come up until after you have to be at work, but you should still make an attempt to take the dog for a walk in the morning even if it is dark outside.

If you can’t get outside, consider a dog treadmill or a small agility course in the basement.

Create a safe space for your dog.

leaving puppy in playpen while at work
Photo credit: Nosy Nation

Your dog should have ample space to roam and be comfortable but should not have too many opportunities to wreak havoc on your home.

Young pups can be kennel trained. This helped me with housebreaking my dog and keeping my house from being destroyed.

Some dogs like to relax in enclosed spaces – depending on the dog it may be wise to place a kennel in the room with the door open to give him a comfortable and secure place to retreat like a dog bed or good dog rug.

If you have a large, securely fenced yard, you may consider placing a doggy door to give your pup the chance to go in and out as he pleases. If you do not have this, you may need to come home at lunch to let him out midday.

If you do not crate your dog, take any items that might be appealing for your dog to chew and either remove them from the room or place them out of the dog’s reach.

If your dog likes toys, he should have access to lots of toys and other items that are clearly his to interact with. Your dog should also have a comfortable, soft place to lay down and sleep.

Come home for lunch

A young puppy will need potty breaks frequently. For the first four months, my GSD needed to go out every hour — sometimes every half-hour — if he wasn’t crated.

When leaving puppy in playpen while at work, he would hold it a little longer.

I read on the web this general rule: A 3-month-old puppy can hold it about three hours. As every month goes by, they can hold it about one hour longer. A 6-month-old dog should be able to hold it 6 hours.

Although this seems impossible if you work full time, you could hire a dog walker to stop by every couple hours while you are at work and the dog is still a puppy. I did this. Also, I had family members who were retired from work stop by.

As the dog ages and is able to hold it longer, you could come home for lunch and give him good attention.

Another alternative: Consider hiring a neighbor or a friend to come by to give your dog some midday attention — like a walk with a good training collar.

If you have a younger, well-behaved dog, he may be able to make it the whole day without being let outside, but older dogs, puppies, and dogs with anxiety will likely need some interaction in the middle of the day.

Consider a doggy day care

Doggy day care can be an expensive option but is also the lowest maintenance and can be the easiest for your dog.

You should shop around to find the best option for your dog. Ask a friend for recommendations on the best doggy day care in your community.

The ideal doggy day care will allow for your dog to have a mix of alone time and social time, with constant care and attention given to all the animals.

The staffing level between human supervisors and dogs should be reasonable and the facility should make some effort to separate different types of dogs.

Ideally, you should bring your dog by for a day visit to see how he does. Many doggy day cares offer a live-streaming camera so that you can watch your dog all day, offering peace of mind.

I tried doggy day care. It did not work for me. The facility was too far away from my house and workplace.

Give your dog lots of love when you get home

Once you arrive at your home, you should spend much of your evening interacting with your dog.

Especially if you were unable to walk the dog in the morning, your dog will likely have a lot of energy and need a walk and time to play outdoors.

If you live alone and leave your dog home all day, your dog will need you for comfort and stimulation and you are best equipped to provide that after work, so make sure to give him that opportunity.

Stick to a routine

As much as possible, you should stick to a consistent routine with your dog. Even if your dog is anxious at first about you leaving the house all day without him, he will eventually adapt if he knows what his day looks like.

Try to be as consistent as possible from day-to-day, even if that means limiting your after-work activities.

This will give your pup a sense of security and comfort since he will know what to expect.

If you stick to a solid routine, your dog will get used to sleeping during the day knowing that when you get home it will be time for fun and adventure.

Consider getting a second dog

If your dog has anxiety and does not like being home alone, it may be prudent to get a second dog so that the two animals can keep each other company.

Dogs are naturally pack animals and do not necessarily enjoy being left alone for long periods of time. While two dogs is a lot more work than one dog, it can positively impact the behavior of both animals.

Update as of 6/1/2019: I have been thinking about with getting a second dog. I think it would be fantastic for my pup. My dog spent the last week with another family and their GSD while I was on vacation. The two got along great and he loved being around another pup — despite her being older and not willing to play as much as he wanted. However, I know folks with two dogs and some say the amount of work is more than double. Speaking of work …

How much work is a puppy?

A puppy requires a lot of work.

Puppies need constant attention when they are young. If not attended to, they will chew furniture, pee on the floor, and be a nuisance until they learn manners.

A young dog will need frequent potty breaks. A puppy will also need obedience training, along with play time with its owner.

I know I underestimated how much work a puppy is when I got one.

Example: I use the physical and mental exercise routine I listed above in the morning. Also, I follow a similar routine in the evening — substituting walks for playing fetch with a good ball. I spend close to two hours a day working with the dog to tire him out.

Should I get a dog if I work all day?

Although the answer depends on your situation, it is possible for single people to get a dog when they work full-time.

There are many options available to dog owners who work all day.

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