Should You Spend All Day With Your Dog?

The Benefits of Spending Time with Your Dog

Spending time with your dog can provide many benefits, especially for improving your mood and mental health. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. According to research from the NIH/Mars Partnership, animals can reduce loneliness and boost your mood (Source). One controlled study found that directly interacting with a dog resulted in greater declines in anxiety and improved mood compared to just watching dog videos (Source).

Dogs provide companionship and can ease feelings of isolation. The comfort of having your dog nearby and the joy of playing and exercising together are powerful mood boosters (Source). Taking your dog for daily walks encourages physical activity and playfulness for both dog and owner.

Potential Downsides of Constant Togetherness

While spending the day with your dog can seem ideal, there are some potential downsides to consider. Dogs, like humans, can get overstimulated or overexcited from constant activity and interaction (


). If your dog is by your side all day while you’re working, running errands, exercising, etc., it may be too much excitement and sensory input. According to one source, “too much stimulation can lead to physical exhaustion for your pup. Playing non-stop for hours at a time can cause fatigue and dehydration”2

Additionally, dogs need some alone time and space, just like humans. If your dog is constantly stimulated by your presence and activities, they may not get the quiet downtime they need to truly rest and relax. You also may find it difficult to get work done or run necessary errands if your dog is by your side all day requiring attention and care.

Furthermore, while you are gone during work hours or errands, your dog needs to learn to be comfortable spending some time alone. As one source explains, constant togetherness can lead to separation anxiety when you do inevitably have to leave them alone: “Although some dogs will adjust fine to you leaving the house, many will struggle with mild to severe separation anxiety. Their instinct to stay by your side makes it very stressful when left alone.”3

Setting a Routine

Setting a consistent daily routine for your dog can provide them with much needed structure and help prevent problem behaviors from developing. According to a blog on the ideal dog routine, “Keeping a regular daily schedule for feeding, walking, exercise, and playing will help dogs feel comfortable and less stressed.” source

Try to schedule walks, playtime, and training sessions at consistent times each day. For example, start the day with a morning potty break followed by breakfast. Take your dog on a longer midday walk when you have a break from work. Schedule playtime and training in the evenings. Build in quiet time when you need to focus on work and your dog can relax.

Having set times for activity and rest will provide your dog with enrichment while allowing them to settle when you are occupied. As one guide to a good dog schedule states, the ideal routine allows for “Morning – Short Training Sessions” and “8:30-9:00 AM – Potty” followed by a larger block of time where owners are likely working while the dog rests. source

Tailor the routine to your and your dog’s needs, but keep it consistent. This structure and predictability can reduce anxiety for dogs and make days relaxing even when owners are busy.

Providing Enrichment

Keeping your dog mentally stimulated while you’re away is key to avoiding boredom. There are many enrichment activities you can try to keep your dog entertained:

Puzzle toys like Kongs stuffed with treats or food dispensers provide mental stimulation as your dog figures out how to get the rewards. Rotate different puzzle toys to prevent your dog from getting bored. Chews and lick mats smeared with peanut butter or wet food also keep dogs occupied for longer periods. Just be sure to monitor chews to avoid choking hazards.

Simply rotating your dog’s toy selection can help prevent boredom. Dogs can get tired of the same toys day after day. Put some toys away and bring out new ones to renew your dog’s interest. You can also hide treats around the house and encourage your dog to search for them. Food-dispensing balls allow dogs to work for their meals.

Providing novel enrichment activities gives your dog’s brain a workout. Try setting up a scent trail with treats to follow or hiding toys around the house for a scavenger hunt. Get creative with DIY enrichment ideas tailored to your dog’s interests. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.

Allowing Some Separation

One of the best ways to prevent separation anxiety in dogs is to start with short departures from a young age (American Kennel Club, 2021). When puppies are first brought home, it’s important not to encourage overly clingy behavior. Instead, teach independence by having the puppy spend time alone in another room, even when you’re home.

Start with brief absences of just a few seconds or minutes, gradually increasing the time you’re gone. Make sure to provide a safe space filled with interactive toys to keep your dog occupied, like puzzle toys containing treats or a Kong filled with peanut butter. Rotate different toys to keep things interesting. Offering long-lasting chews can also help alleviate stress when you step out.

By slowly acclimating your dog to alone time and providing enrichment activities, you can prevent those panicked reactions when you leave for longer periods. Always keep departures and greetings low-key. With time and consistency, your dog will gain confidence and see separation as no big deal!

Getting Help from Others

While spending lots of quality time with your dog is important, everyone needs a break sometimes. Hiring a dog walker, pet sitter or taking your dog to doggy daycare can give both you and your dog a chance to socialize with others. According to HomeGuide, dog walkers typically charge between $20-30 for a 30 minute walk. For doggy daycare, you can expect to pay $15-40 per day on average. This gives your dog some exercise and socialization, while giving you a break for errands, relaxation or time to focus on other responsibilities.

Consider your own schedule and needs, and utilize dog walkers or pet sitters a few days a week or as needed. For example, if you work long hours a couple days a week, a midday dog walk could be the perfect solution. If you need to travel overnight, booking a pet sitter or doggy daycare stay can give you peace of mind. An occasional full day of doggy daycare can also be a fun treat for your pup. Taking advantage of these services in moderation allows you and your dog a healthy balance of together time and independence.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Behavior

You should monitor your dog’s behavior carefully for signs of stress when you leave or are separated. According to the Humane Society, symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include trembling, pacing, barking, destructive chewing, and having accidents.1 The RSPCA adds that excessive salivation, self-injury like tail biting, and repetitive circling are also potential indicators.2

If you notice these behaviors happening when you leave your dog alone, it likely indicates separation anxiety. You may need to adjust your routine and gradually get your dog more comfortable being alone. For example, start with brief separations and give them a puzzle toy for distraction. Slowly increase the time apart as they learn to settle on their own. Responding early and consistently reinforcing calm behavior can prevent separation anxiety from worsening over time.

Exceptions for Special Needs Dogs

Senior dogs and dogs with health issues often require more care and attention. As dogs age, they may develop medical conditions like arthritis, impaired vision or hearing, dental issues, heart disease, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or cancer. These conditions can make it difficult for senior dogs to move around, interact, or care for themselves properly.

According to the RSPCA, owners of senior dogs should provide comfy bedding, keep floors slip-free, allow easier access into vehicles, moderate exercise, and keep up with veterinary checkups. It’s also important to monitor senior dogs closely for changes in behavior or health that may require medical intervention.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, the VCA Hospitals recommend speaking to your veterinarian to understand your dog’s needs. This allows you to adjust their care accordingly through changes in diet, medication administration, mobility assistance, more frequent veterinary visits, and modifying their environment or routine.

Making the proper accommodations allows senior or sick dogs to receive the specialized care they require while still enjoying time with their owners. Extra patience, attention, and supervision are key when caring for a dog with special needs.

The Ideal Balance

While dogs love spending time with their owners, they also need some alone time and independence. As pack animals, dogs crave interaction and playtime, but they can adapt to being left alone for reasonable periods as long as their basic needs are met.

Experts recommend aiming to spend at least 2-3 hours of quality time with your dog per day through activities like walks, training, games and affection. However, an adult dog that is 1 year or older can generally be left alone for 6-8 hours during the workday, as long as they have access to water, toys, a comfortable area to rest, and a chance to relieve themselves regularly.

Keeping your dog alone for more than 8-10 hours daily or leaving them alone frequently for long weekends is not ideal and can lead to behavior issues or separation anxiety. Consider having a friend, family member or pet sitter check in and walk your dog if longer absences are unavoidable. The ideal balance is giving your dog focused attention and playtime while also respecting their ability to entertain themselves at times.

With the right balance of quality time and independence, plus meeting their basic needs, most adult dogs can thrive both with their owners and while spending reasonable amounts of time alone.

Key Takeaways

Spending the whole day with your dog has many potential benefits, including strengthening your bond, providing mental stimulation, and allowing for more exercise and playtime. However, constant togetherness could lead to behavioral issues like separation anxiety, boredom, and lack of independence in some dogs. The ideal approach is finding the right balance based on your dog’s unique needs and preferences.

Aim to set up a predictable routine so your dog knows what to expect each day. Make sure to build in enrichment activities, but also some alone time. Ask family, friends or a dog walker to help provide exercise and breaks. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior for signs they need more or less interaction. Remember, dogs with special needs may require more monitoring and companionship.

With some planning and adjustment, you can spend quality time together while still meeting your dog’s social and psychological needs. The goal is keeping your dog happy, healthy and well-adjusted while strengthening your lifelong bond.

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