As much as we love to imagine our dogs happy with their alone time when we leave for the day, we know that they would much rather be by their owner’s side. They consider their humans their pack, and all the whimpering, barking and chewing that bothers you and your neighbors from time to time stems from real separation anxiety. Most dog owners inevitably have to leave their best friend home for a few hours each day, but there are serious health issues associated with it beyond just missing a playmate. Starting with the obvious, most dogs pee as often as they are allowed outside–but with no one around to go for a walk, your pup is trapped indoors. For some pups, that means upwards of 10 hours left at home.
So just how long is too long to leave pets home alone? The new series Pet Talk is here to answer all of your most pressing animal questions. On the series premiere, the hosts give tips on how to keep your pets happy when you can’t be home all day, and demonstrate how a dog’s bladder fills up over the course of a day:
Though it does depend on your dog’s age, breed and size, the typical dog should be let out to urinate every four to six hours, or a minimum of three or four times a day. For most pet owners, that means when they wake up, when they come home and at least one more time before they go to bed. Puppies are a different story: for a rule of thumb, many vets recommend taking the puppy’s age in months and adding one to get the number of hours a puppy can go without being let outside to pee (for example, a five month old puppy is only good for a maximum of six hours, which isn’t too accommodating for your average day at work). Besides discomfort and the occasional accident, leaving your pet with a bladder so distended can lead to urinary tract infections, crystals and stones—none of which is pleasant for you or your dog.
The key is to know your pup so you can catch any health problems that emerge early, and to avoid extreme amounts of time alone. In the meantime, try out some tips for keeping your dog from getting too lonesome while everyone is gone for the day. A good amount of exercise before leaving in the morning, a long walk to give your pet enough sniffing time, or supplying your canine pal with plenty of toys as a diversion can help lessen the severity of separation anxiety.
Catch the all-new series, Pet Talk—the one and only talk show that answers all of your pet questions from health to grooming to behavior issues for your furry, feathered, or scaled friends—Fridays at 10/9c on Nat Geo WILD.