A cute akita inu in a playpen indoors alone.

Is it a Good Idea to Leave Your Puppy in a Playpen While at Work?

So it is Friday night and you have bought your brand - new puppy home.

He has only been yours for an hour and already he’s turned your life upside down!
You know it will never be the same again... and that’s just fine. It’s an exciting time for you both.

However there are some things you just have to understand and get right from the very beginning. Otherwise all that fun and excitement can turn quickly into a nightmare.

Now, it is Monday morning and the guilt hits. You have got to leave your ‘baby’ and go back to work.

But, stop!

Don’t feel guilty.

You have to work if only to earn the money to buy dog biscuits and toys for the little guy.

Is it OK To Leave a Puppy Alone While At Work?

Blue eyed corgi puppy

The truth is puppies need a LOT of your time. They need us to be around to help them with potty training and socialization

While an adult dog can be safely left alone for up to 10 - 12 hours on occasion, the general rule is to make the maximum absence just 4 - 5 hours. The same can not be said for a puppy. 

For example it will be necessary to arrange for periodic comfort breaks for your puppy. If you do not, you risk the puppy getting confused about potty breaks and you will end up with an untrained dog. Never something to be desired.

The general consensus is you that can leave a puppy for one hour for each year of his life. So, a 4 - week old puppy can usually only be left alone for an hour. Even a three - month old puppy is rarely capable of holding his bladder for more than three hours at a time.

Until your puppy reaches about 10 weeks of age, he will also need a lot of attention. You really have two options: either arrange for some time away from work or find someone who can take care of puppy while you’re away.

Studies suggest that puppies showed the greatest distress at around 7 weeks of age and showed less stress when they are 90 days of age. Research also suggests that puppies showed less stress after 6 days of becoming familiar with their surroundings. 

How Long Can a Puppy be Left Alone While at Work?

Here are the recommended guidelines for how long young puppies can be left alone, given their smaller bladder capacities and their need for protection:

  • Puppies at 8-10 weeks: 1 hour or less. 
  • Puppies at 10-12 weeks: 2 hours. 
  • Puppies at 3-6 months: Use the one hour per month rule.  
  • Puppies older than 6 months: Up to 6 hours.  

A puppy that is left alone for longer than these recommended guidelines not only can it lead to accidents but puppies can begin to show destructive behavior or separation anxiety. 

How To Leave a Puppy Alone While At Work?

Puppy Wearing Pads in Playpen

Crate Train Your Puppy

Puppies (and adult dogs) love enclosed spaces. It makes them feel safe. So, crate training your puppy is something to be encouraged. A huge benefit of using a crate is that your puppy will not want to soil his sleeping area. So, putting a puppy in his crate for a while - then taking him to his potty area as soon as he comes out - will greatly help the housetraining need.

Choose a Large Playpen

A playpen is a great tool to use when you need to go out and leave puppy alone but please remember it does not mean that he doesn’t need regular bathroom breaks.

A playpen can be a great way of giving your puppy space to play and roam around while still confining him to a designated area. This helps to prevent your puppy for chewing things he should not and keeping him safe from hazards around your home.

You should also make sure that puppy’s playpen is secured against a wall. As he grows and gets more energetic, your puppy will also get stronger. The last thing you want is for him to knock over his playpen and ‘escape’.

You should put your puppy's crate inside his playpen. Leave the door open of course.

Then your dog will have a place to take a nap whenever he gets tired. In this way your dog will learn some positive thought associations with his sleeping area. The open door, so he can come and go at will, will dispel any association that the crate is a place of enforced confinement or punishment.

Try a Camera To Monitor Your Pet

Another brilliant idea - especially if YOU suffer from separation anxiety leaving your puppy while you go to work - is to set up a camera. You may be familiar with a baby cam or even a nanny cam. This is the same idea. Then you can check in on the little guy with an app on your smart phone while you are at work.

Some dog cameras - like Furbo Treat Dispensing Camera - will even allow you to talk and offer treats to dogs. These cameras will help make your puppy feel that you're almost right there at home with them since they can hear your voice and get treats from you too!

Exercise and Feed Your Puppy Before Work

If you are going to leave your puppy for an extended period - either in a crate or a puppy pen - it is very important that you feed him, give him an adequate amount of exercise and a toilet break before you leave. That way your puppy will be calm and content and probably fall asleep quite quickly!

Provide Your Puppy With Many Toys

Finally, make sure that you leave an adequate supply of toys that your puppy enjoys playing with and can also chew. The point is you will want to stimulate him and prevent him from getting bored.

Use a ‘Kong’ type chewable toy that contains a little food for while you are away and make sure that you leave your puppy with some water in a spill proof container. It will also help with their teething. Don't leave in any stuffed toys that are shred into pieces. 

Some parents swear by the heart-beating dog toy which mimics a heartbeat- Snuggle Puppy - for helping keep puppies calm and even help them with sleep.

Hire a Puppy Sitter

You might consider hiring a dog sitter to come in and look after puppy while you are away. Small puppies have tiny bladders and will need regular comfort breaks. If not, they will have no option but to pee in the playpen. This will cause them some level of anxiety.

There are other benefits of using a puppy sitter - if you're going be away for more than one hour. A puppy sitter can come check in on your puppy and feed him twice or three times a day. 

It allows your puppy to remain in their own familiar environment, receive love and personal attention and give you peace of mind that you have someone responsible in case of an emergency. 

Teaching a Puppy To Accept Being Left Alone

It is important that your puppy loves his playpen. So how you introduce him to it is quite important. 

  • Start by leaving when the puppy is tired, well fed and has been out.
  • Place your puppy in his puppy-proofed playpen.
  • Give him something engaging such as a favorite toy or treats.
  • Then walk away without making a big deal of it. Make sure you are out of his line of sight and that he cannot even hear you. You want a puppy to think his playpen is a cool exciting place to hang out and that you're gone.
  • Leave your puppy alone for 5 minutes and then go back.
  • If your puppy is quiet - he can be acknowledged immediately.
  • If your puppy is making noise - barking or whining - ask him to "sit" then give him attention.
  • Repeat this 3-4 times a day.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time a puppy spends alone in his playpen. Increase it in increments of 5 mins. up to 30 mins, then in 10 mins. increments up to an hour. Repeat each increment 3-4 times a day.

If your puppy starts barking when left in his playpen, ignore him.

You do not want him to learn that he can command your instant appearance whenever he wants. In time and with patient and careful training your puppy will learn to be alone in his playpen!

Be sure to also check out our related dog training articles dedicated to puppies and dog behavior: 

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