Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
We’re reader-supported. When you click on our chosen products, we may receive a commission. Learn more.
Dog sleeping on owner‘s shoe at the front door

The essentials

  • Prep the house and dog before you go — Go for a walk, play a game of fetch, and take a potty break before you say your goodbyes.
  • Consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter — A pet sitter is a great alternative to a dog walker if your dog requires extra companionship or special attention beyond exercise.
  • Do extensive research before choosing a sitter or doggy daycare — Be wary of comparatively low rates and opt for daycare facilities with webcams.

Eight ways to care for your dog while you’re at work 

It’s easy to feel guilty as you pack up your tote for a long full-time workday at the office, but when it comes to leaving your pup for a 9-5 or otherwise hectic work schedule, your concerns are absolutely warranted.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to plan your dog’s day before leaving for work — whether arranging dog care outside of the home or ensuring they have a secure space to stay in. 

Below are eight ways to care for your dog while you’re away.

1. Hire a dog walker or pet sitter

Hiring a professional dog walker to swing by the house and take your pup out for a walk while you’re away — or choosing a pet sitter to attend to your dog’s needs — may help keep your furry friend feel safe, exercised, and mentally stimulated. A pet sitter is a great alternative to a dog walker if your pup requires extra companionship or special attention beyond exercise.

Like parents might conduct an extensive interview and background check for a new babysitter, responsible pet owners should take the dog walker and sitter search seriously. After all, you’re inviting a stranger to your home and trusting them with your pet’s well-being.

To find the right dog walker or sitter for you:

Know your dog’s behaviors and what they need. For example, do they need to be let out in your yard or require extensive exercise? Does your pup need a sitter to cuddle and spend time with them on the couch in addition to a walk? Do you have an older dog with specific needs? And when it comes to walks, how are they on a leash and interacting with neighborhood dogs? Do they prefer a slow, short walk around the block or need a run? These are all questions you should consider before searching for a walker or sitter.

Consider how often (and when) you want to schedule your walks or visits. One walk may be enough for your dog, especially if you have an elderly pup or a more snoozy breed. Others, such as the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, may benefit from at least two long walks per day. Pet visits may need to be scheduled around your pet’s specific needs, such as their medicine or feeding regimen.

Know your budget. Costs can vary depending on your area. A typical dog walk costs approximately $20-$30 for a half-hour trek, and you can schedule multiple visits per day if necessary. The average cost of a 30-minute pet visit is $25; overnight visits can cost upwards of $70, depending on the comps in your area. You should be wary of unusually low rates.

Research, research, research. Now that you’re ready to find a dog walker or sitter, don’t rush the research process. Start with recommendations from your neighbors, friends and family, and read reviews when exploring private dog-walking or pet-sitting organizations and apps like Rover, Wag, Pet Sitters International, or TrustedHousesitters.

Set up an interview and meet-and-greet. During a virtual or in-person interview, ask about the walker’s or sitter’s past experience with dog breeds like yours, their professional credentials, background with pet first-aid, references, cancellation policy, and specifics about how and when they plan to conduct walks or visits. An in-person meet-and-greet before confirming will allow you to see how your potential hire interacts with your dog. It might be beneficial to test a walk together, too.

Once you’ve secured a walker or sitter both you and your dog like, put together all the information they’ll need during their visit, including contact information, veterinary information, any feeding or walking instructions, pet waste disposal, location of leash and supplies, home security needs, and more.

2. Enroll in doggy daycare

Doggy daycare is another great option for dog owners with 9-5 workdays or otherwise hectic schedules. Well-socialized dogs delight in the company of other dogs and benefit from the extra stimulation at a doggy daycare. However, if your dog prefers a quieter environment and is uninterested or reluctant around other dogs, you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker instead.

At doggy daycare, you can expect lots of playtime, rest periods, and meal breaks. Full-day rates vary by area, and your facility will likely offer half-day options and package rates, but you can expect to spend at least $20 for a full day of doggy daycare. Like dog walkers, be on the lookout for unusually low rates for your area and make sure to read reviews left by other pet parents.

If you go the daycare route, here are a few things to keep in mind

  • Look for temperament tests. Make sure the facility requires temperament tests to assess dogs’ behaviors and personalities.
  • Do your research. Consult friends, neighbors, and family members and conduct appropriate research about the doggy daycares in your area.
  • Come in for a meet-and-greet. Pet parents should call to ask if the doggy daycare of their choice offers an opportunity for a meet-and-greet. Spend time touring the facility and interacting with staff. Oftentimes, meet-and-greets occur on the same day as temperament testing.
  • Ask about staff training. You’ll want to pay special attention to staff training, especially regarding corrections; avoid facilities that use punishment for bad behavior.
  • Ask about enrichment activities. What enrichment activities are available for your dog, especially during rainy days or hot summer months?
  • Know your facility’s emergency plans. Ask about what emergency plans and procedures are in place during crises.
  • Ask about pet cam access. If possible, find a doggy daycare with access to pet cameras so you can feel comfortable about leaving your pet safe and supervised.

3. Try crate training

When it comes to crate training, you’ll need lots of patience and consistency to make the experience enjoyable for your pup. But when done right, crate training provides your dog with a safe space to unwind and get some privacy when you’re home and when you’re away. Remember, crates should be just roomy enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably. If the crate is too big, your pup may have trouble with potty training and eliminate inside the area.

It is not recommended to leave a puppy in a crate for more than 4-5 hours at a time; adults shouldn’t be left in crates for more than 6 hours. Leaving a dog alone in a crate for longer can hurt their mental and physical health.

4. Provide mental stimulation

Like humans, dogs’ brains need stimulation to function at their best, especially when left alone for long hours. A mentally stimulated dog is a happy, healthy dog.

In addition to physical exercise, you can keep your dog stimulated with:

  • Interactive feeders, toys, and puzzles. A slow-feed bowl can give your dog some work to get their mealtime reward, and interactive toys and puzzles like a treat-filled KONG toy, snuffle mats, or this flying saucer dog toy are sure to keep your pup entertained and stimulated.
  • Time leisurely spent outdoors. Instead of rushing your dog walks and runs, allow your pup to stop and smell the roses. Getting them used to just being outside — even if it’s just sitting under a picnic table, a tree with you, or a pet sitter — will allow them to take in their surroundings.
  • Indoor and outdoor games. Consider fun scent games, agility courses, hide-and-seek, and water play for a mix of physical and mental stimulation.
  • Simple tricks. The process of learning a new trick — or even practicing old ones — is a great way to keep your pup mentally stimulated.

Some dogs, whether kept in a crate or not, could choke on toys when left unattended. It’s important to know your dog’s personality and tendencies, and if hiring a pet sitter or dog walker, be sure to relay that information.

5. Call a neighbor or family member 

A trusted neighbor or family member can step in to keep your pup comforted, exercised and stimulated when you’re away for a long workday. This may help your dog keep their established routine. When enlisting a friend, family member, or neighbor to help, discuss whether there will be pay involved and keep lines of communication open. As with hiring a sitter or dog walker, anyone entrusted with caring for your pets should be well-vetted.

6. Set up a dog-friendly home environment 

If you choose to leave your dog alone and out of the crate, be sure to dog-proof your living space and create a safe and comfortable area for them to rest and play.

Be sure to lock away harmful objects and secure foods or cleaning supplies that can be toxic to dogs when ingested. Close doors, hide electrical cords, and consider using baby gates to create a puppy zone, especially if you have a youngun. When it comes to leaving your dog with toys while you’re away, be sure you can be confident that they will not eat or choke on them in their boredom or anxiety.

If your dog feels more relaxed with white noise, you may want to leave the radio or television on low volume — or play some classical music to lull them to sleep.

7. Use technology to interact 

Thanks to new technologies, leaving home doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye. Pet cameras and interactive treat dispensers can be really helpful in connecting with and monitoring your dog remotely. Some devices allow two-way video chat, which requires training your dog to call you with the tap of a button. Other devices also automatically take selfies of your pups when they come close to the camera and save recordings of your dog’s daily activity so you can look out for behavioral or health issues you may have missed when away.

8. Adjust your schedule and work-life balance 

If arranging care for your dog while you work is difficult or your dog suffers from extreme separation anxiety, it might be worth exploring new options like taking your dog to work, if possible, or adjusting your schedule to be more flexible. This could include working from home or opting for a hybrid schedule.

When talking to your employers about hybrid work, list its long-known advantages, including high productivity and overall workforce happiness.

We know leaving your pup when you take off for work can be daunting and guilt-inducing, but rest assured that if you take the appropriate steps, you can still return home to a happy pet.

Frequently asked questions

Can I leave my dog alone for 8 hours?

It depends. Experts recommend not leaving an adult dog alone for more than 8-10 hours, but some dogs — including puppies, elderly dogs, or dogs with small bladders — will need potty breaks in between. You should also keep in mind that every dog has specific needs. Some breeds, like the Australian shepherd or Border collie, may need much more exercise, so eight hours alone could be detrimental to their well-being.

Is it okay to leave my puppy in a crate while I work?

If properly crate-trained, puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with small bladders can stay in a crate for up to 4-5 hours; adults shouldn’t be left in crates for more than 6 hours. Look out for signs of separation anxiety when leaving your pup alone.

What can I do for my dog while I’m at work?

You can hire a dog walker or pet sitter, entrust a family friend to stop by, or even shop around for doggy daycares in the area to keep your pup physically and mentally stimulated. If your pup stays home, consider dog-proofing the house, crate-training, leaving toys if safe,  and investing in a pet cam.

Is it okay to have a dog if you work full-time?

Of course. But you should take the appropriate steps to ensure your pet has everything it needs to be a healthy and happy pup — including physical and mental stimulation when you’re away.