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Home Pet Q&A Dog Questions How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone Legally?

How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone Legally?

While there may not be a law that specifies a certain amount of time that you can leave your dog alone, there are animal neglect and cruelty laws—and leaving your dog unattended for too long can put you in violation of those statutes. The particulars of these laws vary by state, but if you're a reasonably responsible pet owner, it's not likely that you'll find yourself on the wrong side of an animal cruelty law.

How Long is Too Long? 

Laws aside, how long is too long to leave your dog? A general rule is that you should try not to leave them alone for more than four to six hours at a time. That doesn't mean you're abusing your pet if you have to work late, but it is a good idea to make some sort of arrangements if you know you'll be gone for the day.

Dogs are social, and being isolated for the bulk of the day can make them lonely, anxious, bored, and depressed. Also, dogs need to be able to relieve themselves and it's not good to force them to "hold it" for that long.

Since you may not have a job that allows you to spend all day with your pet, consider:

  • Hiring a dog walker
  • Dropping your pet at doggy daycare
  • Installing a doggy door
  • Spending your lunch break to let your dog out 

What about Leaving Them for the Weekend? 

This is never a good idea, and it's really unfair to the dog. Will you be breaking the law? It depends on the circumstances, but leaving your dog alone for several days will certainly be walking too close to the line.

Dogs are usually most comfortable at home, so consider looking for a house/pet sitter that you trust. If not, pet boarding or someone who can host your dog at their house are other options.

Consider your dog's physical and emotional needs when deciding how long is too long to leave your pet alone. 

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