Australian shepherds are known to be very sociable dogs. They can get lonely and stressed when they are left alone for long periods. This is not a breed that can simply be kenneled at home and forgotten about. Aussies need companionship to thrive!
But what if you can’t spend all day, every day, with your Aussie? For example, if you have to go to work every day or have a business that you must run, it’s simply not possible to bring your dog along with you every time.
Then the question becomes, how long can an Australian shepherd be left alone?
How Long Can Australian Shepherds Be Left Alone?
As a general rule, you should not leave an Australian Shepherd puppy for more than 2-3 hours at a time. For adult Australian Shepherd, the safe limit is around 4-6 hours. As for senior Aussies, they can usually be left alone for 2-6 hours.
Let’s take a look at more details for each age group.
Australian Shepherd Puppies (0-5 months)
Aussies are especially sensitive in their younger ages; this means they need more attention and companion. They will feel lonely and stressed if you leave them alone for too long, which can lead to them developing separation anxiety.
If your Aussie puppy suffers from separation anxiety, this will result in all sorts of problems, including the destruction of your household items, tearing apart of your furniture, chewing up your shoes and other belongings, not to mention that they could also develop a habit of excessive howling and barking!
All in all, you should never leave an Aussie puppy alone for more than 2-3 hours.
On top of that, their body is still developing and growing, so they won’t likely be able to hold their bladders well. In other words, they will need to be taken out to go potty very frequently; otherwise, don’t be surprised if you find puddles and piles of poop in your house when you get home.
Here’s the breakdown of the maximum amount of time that your puppy can be left alone, according to their age.
- 8-10 weeks: maximum 1 hour
- 2-3 months: maximum 2 hours
- 3-4 months: maximum 3 hours
- 5+ months: maximum 4 hours
Adult Australian Shepherds (6-18 Months)
Providing that you gave your Aussie proper training when they were a puppy, they should have no problem being left alone as adults for long periods of time.
However, you still need to monitor how your Aussie does when you leave the house so that you can catch any problems with their behavior early on. In addition, there are certain things that you need to do to prepare your dog before you leave, which we’ll take more about in the next section.
Although there is often a widespread debate among dog owners about how long you can leave adult dogs alone, the general consensus is that you should not leave adult dogs alone for more than 4-6 hours regardless of what breed they are.
Senior Australian Shepherds (8 Years of Age)
Elderly Aussies should not be left alone for long periods. Most vets agree that senior Aussies in their 8th year of life should not be left alone for more than 2-6 hours.
There are many things that come with age, including a higher risk of developing certain diseases. If your elderly Aussie faces any medical problems that require careful attention, you will need to be more cautious about how long you can leave them alone and adjust accordingly.
For example, if your senior Aussie suffers from urinary tract infections, they will need to go potty more often than usual during the day, and so you will need to take them out for their bathroom breaks more frequently or consider asking someone to help them out.
What To Consider When Leaving Your Dog Home Alone?
When deciding whether your Aussie can be left alone all day or just a few hours, consider the following factors to better help you make a decision:
Without a doubt, age is the most important thing to consider when deciding how long you can leave your dog alone. A younger Aussie, even if they have been trained well, should not be left alone for too many hours because they will likely feel lonely and develop separation anxiety. On the other hand, older Aussies with special medical conditions may need more care and surveillance on a regular basis.
Your Dog’s Training
An Aussie who has been trained to be well-behaved will cope better when you leave them at home alone. Training your dog, especially in the beginning stages, is the key to success with your Australian Shepherd in many areas of life.
Training develops trust between you and your Aussie, which makes it easier for both of you when you are apart during the day.
Your Own Anxiety
It’s not just your dog that you should consider when thinking about how long to leave them alone. You also need to take into account your own anxiety levels. Some dog parents just feel very anxious when they have to leave their dog home alone.
Even if they know that their Aussie can be trusted, they cannot shake off the feeling that the house is somehow “not complete” without them there. While others may be more comfortable leaving their Aussie alone for longer periods.
Personality and Temperament
Even within the same breed, each dog is different. Some Aussies may be comfortable being left home alone for longer periods, whereas others feel insecure or anxious when they are left alone.
Learning about your Aussie’s personality and temperament can help you get a better idea of how they will cope when you leave them home alone.
Your Monitoring System
Even small amounts of time left alone can be enough for your Aussie to get into trouble. A good monitoring system such as a dog camera will put you more at ease when you leave them home alone for longer periods of time.
How Long Can You Leave Your Aussie Alone Legally?
There is no specific law for how long you should leave your Aussie alone during the day from a legal standpoint.
However, if your dog has become a nuisance due to excessive barking or other antisocial behavior, then an animal control officer will likely check on you and your Aussie to ensure everything is okay.
If the animal control officer notices anything suspicious, they will likely give you a warning and do a follow-up visit at a later time to see whether you have taken care of the problem.
In the worst case, your Aussie could be taken away for rehoming if you are found to have mistreated them.
Negative Effects of Leaving Your Aussie Alone Too Long
Earlier, I have briefly mentioned how leaving your Aussie puppy alone for too long will result in them developing behavioral issues. This doesn’t just apply to puppies alone though, adults and senior Aussies can also experience the same negative effects.
The following distressing behaviors might indicate that your Aussie is bored or stressed out by being alone for too long:
- Excessive barking
- Destructive chewing
- Running away
- Binge eating
Once your dog has developed any of these destructive behaviors, it will take a long time for them to be cured, and you will have to put a lot of effort and investment into your dog’s rehabilitation.
Let’s not forget about the fact that separation anxiety can also lead to other issues such as hair loss and weight gain. In worst-case scenarios, dogs might even develop certain physical illnesses that are caused by stress.
This is why you should take this matter very seriously, and if you do need to leave your Aussie alone at home, do follow the tips that I will be providing you below.
9 Tips on How to Prepare Your Aussie Home Alone
Here are a few things you can do to prepare your Aussie home alone.
1. Provide Your Aussie With Enough Food and Water
A hungry dog is an unhappy dog. The last thing you want is to come home from work only to find that your Aussie has destroyed the furniture or other items in your home because they were left alone for too long without food and water. So make sure there is always enough food and water before leaving them for longer periods.
2. Tain Your Aussie About Leaving
You can’t just explain to your dog that they have to stay in the house alone for 6 hours and expect them to get it. To make sure your Aussie stays out of trouble while you are gone, you should slowly accustom them to this experience.
You can practice by exiting through the door as you normally would when you leave the house, spend a few minutes outside, and then come back in. Gradually, increase the length of time you spend outside before returning.
After a few weeks of doing this, your Aussie will start to feel less anxious when you leave them alone. You can then successfully leave your home without too much worry about them causing any major problems while you are gone.
3. Give Them an Entertainment
Boredom is one of the leading contributors to dogs developing destructive behaviors such as barking and chewing when left alone. The best way to prevent this from happening is by giving them something that will keep them preoccupied while you’re gone.
You can provide your Aussie with puzzle toys and interactive dog toys, or you can leave the TV or radio on for them. Nowadays, there is also a dog camera with a treat dispenser that allows you to communicate with your dog and let you toss them a few treats from anywhere.
4. Limit Stressor Sources
If your Aussie tends to become anxious when it’s too loud or too quiet, you can try to limit these stressor sources when you’re gone.
For example, if they bark when there is too much noise, you can keep them in a separate room away from the front door. If it feels too quiet for your Aussie, you can try to turn on the radio or TV at a low volume.
You may need to experiment a bit to find out what works best for your dog. Just try to make your home as stress-free as possible while you’re gone.
5. Dog-proof Your House
Make sure to dog-proof your home to keep your furbaby safe when you’re not home. These safety measures should include hiding all dangerous objects, keeping harmful foods and chemicals in a safe place where the dog cannot reach them, and covering any exposed electrical wires.
You can also implement some additional safety measures, such as installing a system that will alert you every time there is an emergency or suspicious activity in your home.
6. Limit The Number of Areas They Can Access
Letting your dog roam freely around the house while you’re gone can actually become more of a hindrance than a help. Many dogs usually feel more comfortable when confined to a smaller space than when they have a lot of room to roam around, plus they will less likely get into trouble.
This is why you should try limiting the number of places they have access to while you are gone. Of course, they don’t need to be locked up all day, but providing them with just 1 or 2 well-defined spaces in your home will help them feel more secure during the times that you’re not there.
You can use baby gates to block access to certain rooms or use something like a crate. If you crate your dog, however, you will need to ensure that they are properly acclimated to the crate beforehand, and you need to place the crate in a familiar and comfortable room.
7. Tire Your Dog Out First
Before you head out, it would be a good idea to tire your dog out first with some healthy exercises. Exercising together will help your dog feel connected to you, and it will be easier for them to feel as though they have your attention when you’re gone.
Furthermore, tired dogs are less likely to cause trouble as they will have much less energy to expend. You can do this by taking them for a long walk or run before you leave the house, which will make it less likely for them to get into mischief while you are gone.
8. Have a Coming-Home Ritual
When you come home, you should use this time as a way to reconnect with them. Spend a time to cuddle and play with them, give them lots of belly rubs and treats, and let your return be a time to get their mind off their “missing you” thoughts.
9. Consider Your Lifestyle
Lastly, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and how it can impact your dog. Is your dog is still young and full of energy? Is your work schedule such that you tend to be gone for long periods of time? Do you have a senior dog who is not as mobile anymore? Do you have a dog with special needs or an illness? Do you have a family member who gets upset when you leave your dog home alone?
These are all important considerations to keep in mind when you’re wondering how long your Aussie can be left alone.
If you work long hours, try to get a pet sitter that can help take care of them during this time or look into doggy daycare options. This will ensure that they are able to get the attention and exercise that they need while you’re gone and prevent any separation anxiety problems.
Getting Another Dog Won’t Solve This Problem!
Understandably, you might be tempted to get another dog as a solution to your one-dog problems, but this is often not the case. When you have two dogs, they can indeed play and keep each other company, but a dog doesn’t replace human interaction and what you will end up with is two dogs who demand that much more of your time and attention.
In general, you should only plan to leave your Australian shepherd alone for a few hours. You need to consider your lifestyle, the age and health of your dog, and your work schedule to determine exactly how much time you can leave them alone.
If you’re gone for longer periods, it’s a good idea to get a pet sitter or look into doggy daycare options where they can get the attention and exercise they need. This will help prevent any separation anxiety problems from developing since you shouldn’t plan on leaving them alone for too long.