How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone Legally (in the US?)

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How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone Legally

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At some point, every dog owner has to deal with the dilemma and guilt of leaving their dog at home while they run a quick errand or go to work.

But what does the law say on this? Is it legal to leave your dog alone? And how long is too long?

Well, there are two sides of the coin: leaving your dog unattended in public and leaving your dog alone at home.

Let’s look at each of these scenarios.

Leaving Your Dog Unattended In Public

Back in 2009, a dog named Molly made news after he was briefly dognapped.

Molly had been left unattended outside Whole Foods as the owner went in to shop. This resulted in lots of debate on the legal framework around leaving dogs unattended.

As far as the legal framework is concerned, it depends on where you live.

For instance, if you live in Washington D.C, the Department of Health prohibits leaving your dog unattended in public even for a quick minute.

The department clarifies that dog owners must always keep their dogs on a leash and a person capable of managing the dog should hold the leash at all times.

But even if there is no legislation in your area on leaving the dog unattended in a public area, you shouldn’t do it.

The Molly incident should always be a reminder that it is not safe as your dog can be stolen from right under your nose.

Leaving Your Dog Alone At Home

There aren’t any legal restrictions on how long you can leave your dog alone at home, so dog owners should use their discretion. However, remember not to make a cruel schedule.

Generally speaking, puppies shouldn’t be left alone for more than 2 hours at a time and adult dogs shouldn’t be left for more than 6 hours at a time.

If you have to leave your dog alone, make sure his needs are met (e.g. food and water).

But you’ve got to remember that dogs aren’t like cats—if you were to leave your dog food for 2 days, he will eat all of it in one go. That’s why shouldn’t be gone for too long so you can feed him just before you leave and after you get back.

 If you will be gone for too long, you might want to get someone to check on him.

Some dogs are trained not to eat while their owners are away but they might still get bored and start chewing on stuff around the house.

This is not just a nuisance but a health hazard. The dogs could choke or they could get sick from eating the wrong things.

If you have to be away for more than 6 hours, it might be a good idea to hire a dog sitter to come and attend to the dog by walking and feeding them.

And it doesn’t have to be a professional sitter if you don’t have the money. You can just make arrangements with a neighbor or friend to sit your dog for you for a couple of bucks.

Leaving your dog alone for too long can cause all manner of problems for you, your dog, and your neighbors.

Dogs love company and they are prone to separation anxiety which can lead to depression or aggression if left alone for long.

Your dog might start barking insistently and that might not be very neighborly.

Should one of your neighbors complain to the authorities, animal control will visit you and if they verify that the dog is stressed for being left alone for too long, your furry friend might be taken away from you.

Also, a dog left alone for too long will almost always get into mischief that might result in property damage or and physical injury. 

Tips for Leaving Your Dog At Home

Dogs love company, so leaving them alone is never easy on them.

But there are a couple of things you can do to help with separation anxiety. 

The following are some helpful tips:

1. Leave him plenty of toys

Leave your dog with plenty of toys like dog puzzles and chew toys to keep him occupied. This will help him keep occupied while you are away. 

You can also have a walk just before you leave for work and maybe have some playtime to ensure he is tired and content by the time you leave.

Check the following posts for some of the best dog toys that can keep your dog occupied when you are away:

2. Comfort

You want to leave your dog as comfortable as possible.

It is not a good idea to leave your dog crated while away. He needs enough space to roam or he will get restless and start barking frantically and be a nuisance to the neighbors.

However, if your dog is crate trained, then it might be fine but you still need to arrange with someone to check on him.

3. Training

It is also a good idea to train your dog to be alone. 

Start by leaving him in his crate and going to another room then leave him alone intermittently throughout the day.

This will help your dog to be well adjusted to your leaving, so he won’t stress out when you finally have to leave.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, it might not be illegal to leave your dog alone at home but you may want to do avoid leaving him for too long. The rule of thumb is not to leave him for more than 6 hours.

Also, when you hire a dog sitter, make sure the sitter is not just there to feed and water the dog.

Companionship is one of the most important needs of the dog, so the sitter should spend time petting and playing with him as well.  

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.