Are You Worried About Leaving A Puppy Alone With An Older Dog?

One of our puppies, with her Grandma!

Perhaps you have just got a new puppy or you have just changed your job and now you are facing the prospect of having to leave a puppy alone with an older dog?

And you are wondering if this can be done? Or whether this was such a good idea in the first place…

Well the good news is that yes of course it can be done but it is not something that will just happen overnight.

It is something that you need to build up to and it will take lots of hard work but a result of that hard work should be that you have a closer bond with your dogs.

To start off, let’s look at a bigger issue- of leaving dogs alone at home.

Leaving dogs alone at home

I want to look at this issue from two angles. 

Firstly, the recommendations from the most influential dog charities in the US and UK. Just how long do they think that you should be leaving dogs alone for?

Secondly, I want to look at the results of a few surveys (and there really aren’t that many) where dog owners have actually stated how long they are leaving their dogs home alone for.

Firstly, the RSPCA (a very large animal charity in the UK) states that dogs of any age shouldn’t be alone for more than four hours

However, the AKC (perhaps the most high profile dog organisation in the US) believes that a dog can be left for between 6-8 hours

But these recommendations are for adult dogs- dogs who are older than 6 months.

Puppies who are younger than 6 months old need to be left at home for much shorter periods because their bladder control or their ability to “hold it” isn’t as strong as older dogs.

And the recommended lengths of time for puppies to be left is an hour for every month old that they are.

And so a three month old puppy can comfortably be left for three hours, a 4 month old can be left for four hours and so on. 

OK, so those recommendations are all well and good- but what is actually happening on a day to day basis with dog owners?

Well in a survey of UK dog owners in 2019, a staggering 21% of owners felt it was OK to occasionally leave a dog home alone for 24 hours or more.

What’s more, 39% said that their dogs were regularly left alone for more than 7 hours during the week.

The dangers of leaving any dogs home alone

Research has been carried out that shows what dogs that are left alone at home experience. 

Separation anxiety is a phrase which is overused when it comes to dogs. Many articles claim that when dogs are left alone at home that they suffer from separation anxiety but this is not true.

Separation anxiety is a clinical term that should only be used to describe dogs who have a very strong attachment to one family member and will display some very serious self injurious behaviour when they are separated from this person

Isolation distress is a milder form of “worry” that many other dogs go through when they are left alone at home. And according to research, this figure could be as high as 80%

These behaviours include howling, destroying furniture and toileting. 

And guess what? If a dog suffers from separation anxiety or isolation distress, having another dog as company will not ease those feelings and it could make it worse. 

This is because the panicky feelings come from missing a special person and can only be eased by the return of that person. 

The dangers of leaving a puppy with an older dog

So a specific concern of yours, is leaving a puppy alone with an older dog. 

This isn’t the same as leaving an adolescent dog or middle aged dog with an older dog or leaving two middle aged dogs together.

So what are some special considerations to take into account?

As we talked about just now, puppies can’t be left alone for anything like as long as an older dog can.

Another consideration for the puppy is that puppies have very short attention spans and they like to play a lot- which dogs of other ages might not. 

Particularly an older dog who is used to having some “alone” time!

What can go wrong

Damage to property

Damage to dogs 

Upset neighbours

6+7 Tips for Success

Below, I offer six general tips to help you make leaving a puppy and older alone at home a success.

And then I go onto provide another seven tips which relate directly to how you should organise your home and the space that you are going to leave your dogs in.

[1] Build Up to It

If you are looking to leave a puppy and older dog alone, it is something that you will need to build up to.

You will need to spend a bit of time with the two dogs at home or out on a walk to watch how they interact.

And they will need time to get used to each other.

This process of getting to know you and finding their place in the pack will take about a month.  

And I think that this process could take even longer when a young dog and senior dog are being introduced. 

A key part of this settling in period, and one that many people forget, is for both dogs to recognise you as pack leader or alpha dog.

And the way to do this is to carry out obedience training separately with both dogs. Obedience training involves far more than just obedience. 

It is a very powerful way to improve and strengthen your friendship with each dog

Behaviours to watch out for

Resource guarding

Destructive Chewing

[2] Baby Steps

Once the introductions have been done and the dogs are interacting nicely with each other, it is time to think about leaving your two dogs alone.

Once again, this is another process that will take time. 

Don’t think on day 1 that you can leave the dogs together for a few hours straight off the bat. 

You need to start small and leave them alone for a few minutes and then increase the duration of alone time gradually over a few days and weeks if possible.

[3] Exercise

This is a hugely important one for me. Just as it is important to make sure that your dogs have some form of entertainment when they are home alone, before you leave home make sure that your dogs have been out for a walk.

A puppy and an older dog will probably need different “walking” requirements and so it is important to meet each of their needs.

The purpose of any walk is not just to physically tire them out (and you need to be careful not to over exercise any puppy) they also provide opportunities for your dogs to go to the toilet and to stimulate their senses by exploring their world. 

[4] Use Outside Help

Asking or paying for someone to come in and look after your dogs is a must if you are going to be out of the house for an extended period- and by this I mean longer than 6 hours or even 4 hours if you are UK based.

Perhaps you have a family member who lives close by who can pop in and take your dogs out for a short walk and if necessary feed them or a kindly next door neighbour who wouldn’t mind doing this?

When our oldest dog Bumps was a puppy, my mother in law used to pop over in the middle of the day to fuss her and take her for a walk. 

Both of them loved this. Bumps got a walk and built a close relationship with another person and my mother in law got to spend time with a gorgeous golden retriever, her favourite breed of dog.

There are two advantages to this. Firstly it will reduce your anxieties and secondly it will make your dogs happier and calmer because they get a “fix” of human attention. 

Of course, there will be numerous dog walking or pet sitting services in your local area that you can also use. 

[5] Technology

In what area of our lives is technology not a recommended solution?!

There are plenty of good quality and reasonably priced security cameras that you can buy to use in your home.

Not only are they cheap but many of them have three other important qualities for dog owners.

Firstly, many have “live view” will enable you to connect to them live at any point via an app on your phone- so that you can watch what your dogs are up to right now.

Secondly, most of them have two way audio which will enable you to talk to your dogs if that will help.

Thirdly, these cameras will all record short video snippets any time that it catches your dogs moving.

You can use these snippets to build up a picture of how your dogs are behaving when you are not at home. It will help you to pinpoint any problem behaviours- which you can then focus on specifically in your obedience training. 

Prepare your home

So the next most important element to successfully leaving dogs alone is to prepare your home.

And there are several important elements to this.

[1] Separate Space or Together Space?

Whilst you are out, will your dogs need a separate space away from each other or can they be left together?

If they need a separate space, think about getting some kind of dividing barrier that enables them to still see each other. 

[2] Plenty of space

Give your dogs plenty of space but not unlimited much. 

Dogs will not just lie down in one place and sleep all the time that you are out. They will move around and lie in a couple of different positions. 

And so it is important to give them space to have a couple of dog beds in and room for a little wander. 

[3] Use paper or pads for potty training

Another crucial part of the set up is to leave an area covered in paper or pads to help with the potty training or toilet accidents.

After all, you are leaving a puppy and a senior dog alone and so either of them might at times need to go. 

Dogs are naturally clean animals and so preparing a space away from their beds where they can go to toilet  

[4] Leave Fresh Water

It is important that your dogs have access to clean and fresh water. 

If you are worried about the mess that could be created from accidental spills and “slobber” consider getting a non spill bowl. 

[5] Don’t Leave Food

Just as you should make sure that your dogs always have access to clean water, I would strongly recommend that you try and avoid leaving them any food.

Of course, this partly depends on how long you are intending to leave them for and whether they will be sharing a space or be separated (it will be easier to leave food if the two dogs are in separate areas.)

There are plenty of other food related considerations. For example, if your dogs diet is dry kibble, this is easier, neater and less smelly to leave that a can of wet food!

[6] Provide Entertainment

Your dog will need a bit of entertainment or mental stimulation whilst you are away. Try hiding some food in different places or get a chew treat toy such as a Kong. 

Or if you really want to get them thinking, try this wobble toy (bob  alot wobble toy)

[7] Get Rid of Temptation

Get rid of anything in the space that the dogs could destroy. This includes things left on the floors, sofas and countertops. 

Items, such as shoes on the floor or food containers on a countertop that a dog wouldn’t even give a second glance at if you were at home, will be far more enticing when you are not there.

Closing Thoughts

I know that this post contains lots of guidance and helpful hints but I hope that it hasn’t overwhelmed you.

It is perfectly possible for a puppy to be left alone with an older dog but it is not something that should be rushed.

It will need to be a gradual process and you will need to be very patient and you need to not lose too much confidence when the odd thing or two goes wrong because they will and that is just part of the process.