Labradors are incredibly friendly dogs and love to be around their family. But sometimes, you may need to leave them alone to run an errand or go to work. As it’s not always possible to spend every minute with your dog, you may wonder how long you can leave your Labrador alone.
Labrador puppies can be left alone for one hour for every month of age, up to a maximum of four hours at a time. As they grow, adult dogs can typically be left alone for 4 to 6 hours, provided they have adequate exercise. Senior dogs, however, might require more frequent attention due to health issues.
However, it’s important to note that every dog is different, and some may not tolerate being left alone for long periods.
In this article, we’ll guide you through:
- Understanding the safe duration for leaving your Labrador alone, whether they’re a playful puppy or a mature adult.
- Innovative strategies to ensure your Labrador stays entertained and happy during solitary moments.
- Exploring alternative options to leaving your Labrador by themselves.
So, if you’re eager to discover everything about managing your Labrador’s alone time effectively, keep reading!
Navigating Alone Time for Your Labrador
You’ve just got a new Labrador, and you’re wondering if he can be left alone.
Labradors can be left alone, but you can’t leave them on their own all day. They are highly social and will suffer from separation anxiety if you leave them for too long. Labs also need toilet breaks, exercise, interaction, and access to clean water and food.
Labrador puppies are naturally inquisitive and can get into all sorts of mischief if just left alone. Sadly, they can also come to harm.
On the other hand, it’s not so bad with older, well-trained, and socialized dogs. So, let’s review how long you can leave Labradors alone during their different life stages.
How Long Can Labradors Be Left Alone? (By Age)
Puppies are pretty curious and need constant watching. Although they can sleep for up to 18 hours per day, they’re full of energy, fun, and constant hunger when they’re awake!
Labrador puppies also need to pee regularly, as they can’t hold their bladder for very long.
A Labrador can generally hold its bladder for one hour every month of age.
So, if you bring your pup home at 8 weeks old, he can hold it for about two hours, although young pups should be allowed to relieve themselves every hour. At 6 months old, your Lab should have full bladder control.
Labrador puppies shouldn’t be left on their own for too long. Below is a table showing how long they can be left home alone during their first six months.
|Age of Puppy||Time Left Alone|
|8 – 10 weeks||Maximum 1 hour|
|2 – 3 months||Maximum 2 hours|
|3 – 4 months||Maximum 3 hours|
|4 – 6 months||Maximum 4 hours|
Once your pup has reached adolescence, around 6-8 months of age, and his bladder has developed, he can be left longer, as long as it’s a gradual build-up.
That being said, the limit should still never exceed four hours. Labradors do not respond well to being left alone for long periods as they are highly social dogs that need companionship and stimulation.
Labradors reach adulthood between 18-24 months. They are very self-reliant when they need to be, but they also love the company of others. They enjoy having a job to do and want to be part of the family.
You definitely cannot abandon your new best friend all day as he won’t be your best friend for long! Some dogs may have a higher tolerance level, but don’t leave them for more than the advised four hours if you want to feel guilt-free.
Older Labs above 8 or 9 shouldn’t be left alone for too long as they may need more toilet breaks. Also, if they suddenly become sick, they need someone to be around, as serious problems can develop very quickly.
Senior dogs with health issues also shouldn’t be left for too long. Labradors with joint problems such as hip dysplasia can suffer from pain and discomfort and may need additional care.
Make sure your Lab has an orthopedic bed, such as the Big Barker. I like this one as it’s specifically made for big dogs and is clinically proven to reduce joint pain and stiffness and help prevent arthritis and other mobility issues.
You can also check out my review of the Big Barker here.
Can Labradors Be Left Alone For 8 Hours?
It’s a question I often get asked, “can Labradors be left alone for 8 hours?” If we consider why someone would ask this question, I suppose they’re really asking whether they can leave their Lab alone all day while they’re out at work.
Labrador Retrievers can not be left alone for 8 hours as they will suffer from separation anxiety, and they cannot hold their bladder for 8 hours during the daytime. You should get a dog sitter around, use a dog walker, or take your Lab to doggy daycare.
Legalities of Leaving a Lab Alone
No federal law specifies exactly how long dogs can legally be left alone. However, there are various state animal neglect and cruelty laws. The general rule in North America is that you shouldn’t leave dogs alone for more than four hours at a time.
There is the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law regulating the treatment of animals. However, this only applies to dogs bred for commercial sale and those being transported or imported.
There are similar guidelines in the UK. Veterinary experts also recommend four hours as the maximum period for all dogs to be left alone. This is detailed in the Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs guidance document for the UK’s Animal Welfare Act which sets out how all animals should be cared for.
Some dogs become distressed and suffer if they are left on their own, even for short periods. Experts recommend four hours as the maximum time period.Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs
Other factors to consider when deciding how long to leave your Labrador, in addition to age, are socialization, training, housing, lifestyle conditions, and previous experience of being left alone.
How to Leave a Lab Alone
When leaving your Labrador alone, keep calm and don’t let them see you are sad to leave them. It has been scientifically proven that dogs can recognize human emotions.
Stay relaxed and confident, and once you have puppy-proofed the area, follow these essential tips:
- Exercise your puppy first to get him tired.
- Play games as mental stimulation is essential.
- Allow him to take a toilet break.
- Make sure he won’t be hungry.
- Allow access to clean, fresh water.
- Leave interactive or chew toys for him.
- Use a crate, a playpen, or erect dog gates.
- Play calming music if he is stressed or anxious.
- Start slowly, a few minutes here and there, and build up.
- Avoid unnecessary fuss when departing and returning.
Learn How To Leave Your Pup Home Alone In This Video…
Alternative Companionship for Your Dog During Your Absence
If you’re worried about leaving your Labrador alone while you go out to work, several solutions are available. You can mix and match these where possible so that every day is different.
Here are 7 guilt-free solutions when leaving your Labrador alone:
- Walk your Lab before you go to work. An hour’s walk before you leave the house is an excellent way for your dog to expend some energy while you maintain your close bond. As soon as you return home, take your Labrador out for his 2nd walk or, even better, some off-leash running. Play some games such as fetch or frisbee.
- Hire a dog sitter or dog walker. Dog sitters aren’t too expensive, and they can visit for a couple of hours rather than the whole working day. They’ll help give your Labrador some much-needed company and interaction. You could also hire a trusted dog-walker who will take your dog out for a long walk.
- Get friends and family to visit. Arrange for family or friends to call throughout the day. Just 15 to 30-minute periods will be enough to keep your Lab happy and entertained. It would be great if they could take him on a fun walk, but a quick game of fetch will be sufficient to burn off some energy and stop loneliness.
- Visit your Lab on your lunch break. If you can work near home, visit your dog on your lunch break. You can pop back and play a game of fetch to provide some fun exercise for him. Flexible working is also a great solution, and you can plan when you need help.
- Leave your dog at a doggie daycare center. You can usually find these in most areas. With plenty of other dogs to play with, your Lab will have no shortage of fun while you’re away. Remember to introduce them to the daycare center as young as possible, as they will quickly get used to being left.
- Work from home. With thousands of jobs switching to mobile workplaces, it’s a great idea if you can work from home for part of the week. It will allow you to play with your Lab during breaks throughout the day. It will also save you from paying a dog sitter or a friend.
- Get a dog camera. Doggie cams are pretty popular and are easy to set up. They offer a perfect solution to interact with your Labrador without being there! I just love the Furbo, as you can speak to your dog and even launch treats, all controlled from your phone!
Fun Alone-Time Activities for Your Labrador
There are several ways to keep your Labrador Retriever entertained while you’re away. Check out the below options:
- Leave a range of toys. If your Lab gets bored quickly or is easily distracted, one or two toys might not be sufficient. Always leave four or five of their favorite toys readily available. I like the KONG range of toys, such as the KONG Classic Toy from Amazon. These interactive chew toys are ideal for keeping your dog entertained for hours. You can even stuff treats inside some of them to keep them busy.
- Play calming music. Playing music has been proven to reduce stress levels in kennelled dogs. This study demonstrated that the genre of music could make a difference, in this case, soft rock and reggae! You can try leaving the TV tuned into a dog station designed to keep your pup’s interest.
- Get another dog! This might seem extreme, but a buddy might be what your Labrador needs to feel less stressed and lonely. But getting a second dog is a huge commitment you must consider thoroughly. If you decide to go for it, ensure your Lab is out of puppyhood and trained. Experts also recommend getting a dog of the opposite sex.
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Do Labradors Get Lonely?
Labradors shouldn’t be left alone for too long as they can suffer physical and emotional harm. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t realize the commitment to care for a Labrador.
It’s one of the sad reasons why they are often abandoned, re-homed, or euthanized. So, do Labradors get lonely?
Labradors do get lonely. They are very social dogs, and when left alone for long periods, they can suffer from separation anxiety or engage in destructive behavior due to boredom.
Regular activity, exercise, and mental stimulation are a must for this energetic, loyal, and pleasant breed.
It’s worth remembering the domesticated dog derives from the grey wolf. Wolves are pack animals who live together to survive.
Dogs see us as part of the pack. They experience many emotions, and if they are deprived of companionship, they get lonely.
The Effects of Excessive Lone Time on Dogs
Here are a few consequences of regularly leaving your Labrador alone for too long:
- Separation anxiety. Labradors are prone to separation anxiety. This means they will show signs of stress and/or destructive behavior when separated for too long from their owner or family. Symptoms could include uncontrollable barking, whining, howling, pacing, chewing, digging, drooling, urinating, defecating, or trying to escape. Check out this interesting recent study from the University of Lincoln, UK, which concluded that separation anxiety in dogs should be seen as a symptom of underlying frustrations rather than a diagnosis.
- Destructive behavior. This can occur due to a lack of exercise or boredom. Signs are similar to separation anxiety, but the dog is simply trying to cope with being unstimulated. Examples are chewing on your shoes and possessions, destroying wooden furniture such as a table leg, or ripping your couch to pieces!
- Showing extreme restlessness during the evening. Your Lab might be restless in the evening due to insufficient exercise and stimulation throughout the day. If he has a case of explosions of energy, also known as the zoomies, you need to take him for a long walk and play some games with him. After all, a tired dog is a happy dog.
Many adverse outcomes result from not caring for your Labrador properly and failing to keep him happy and entertained. Long-term neglect, including leaving your dog alone all day, can also lead to these other health problems:
- Blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Bladder infections
You must never punish your Lab for showing distressing signs of separation anxiety or for destructive behavior due to boredom.
Why Exercise Matters
Labradors were bred in the UK from fishing dogs imported from Canada to retrieve waterfowl for hunters due to their strength, stamina, and work ethic. They need to be adequately exercised before being left alone.
Puppies need five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice a day until fully grown. Senior Labs might only be able to manage 10-15 minutes.
Adult Labradors need at least two hours of daily exercise to keep fit and healthy.
Puppies, especially large breeds, should not be over-exercised, as this can cause joint and bone problems while developing. The important thing is you will get to know your individual dog.
Some days, your Lab might need more exercise than others. If your dog doesn’t get excited when you pick up his lead, he is tired and wants to rest. Dogs are not machines, so you should listen to what he’s trying to tell you!
If my dog gets tired during a walk, she will stop, sit, and look up at me. I know she’s had enough and wants to go home.
Exercise should also consist of other activities, not just leash walking. For example, off-leash running, fetch, playing tug of war, frisbee, swimming, or agility.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Living: What’s Best for Your Dog?
If you have the option of leaving your Labrador outside when you go to work, it can provide him with tons of space to run around and feel relaxed. However, are Labs okay to be left outside, or are they inside dogs?
Labradors prefer to be inside dogs as they are highly social and like to be around people. However, they can live outside due to having a double coat to protect them against the elements.
However, they will need to be trained to stay outside from an early age and shelter provided, such as a doghouse.
If you’re unsure where you should leave your Lab, let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages of leaving your Labrador inside vs. outside:
Pros & Cons of Indoor Living
|Pros of Inside||Cons of Inside|
|Less likely to bark at distractions outside such as birds, people, or dogs, resulting in no noise complaints from neighbors.||Your dog can engage in destructive chewing if suffering from separation anxiety or boredom.|
|Prevents your Lab from being harmed if you live in an area where wild animals might attack.||You could be subject to noise complaints if you live in an apartment and your dog constantly barks and whines due to separation anxiety.|
|Your dog won’t be able to dig up your garden if he’s inside or try to run away if he’s an escape artist!||Your puppy needs to be toilet trained.|
Pros & Cons Outside Living
|Pros of Outside||Cons of Outside|
|Labradors are heavy shedders. If they spend more time outside, you will have less cleaning up to do!||You need a large space for your dog to be comfortable. A small yard is insufficient.|
|A bark now and then from your backyard is actually a good thing to ward off strangers.||Your dog may chew on tree roots or destroy flowers. Make sure there’s nothing poisonous he can eat, such as rotting apples or wild mushrooms. To learn what’s toxic to Labs, check out this article.|
|Your dog can get rid of any pent-up energy, especially if you invest in a dog agility course or make one yourself!||Your dog may feel unhappy and feel less part of the family. There’s also a greater risk of fleas or ticks.|
Choosing the Perfect Indoor Space for Your Labrador
If you leave your Labrador inside when you go out, you can still control his environment by containing him in a certain area of the house.
Here are a few suggestions to contain your Lab inside:
- Use a crate. Labradors need a crate that’s no smaller than 42 inches. This size crate will allow your dog to move around and stretch out comfortably. I like the Midwest Homes for Pets icrate, as it’s all-inclusive, having everything you need. My dog loved her crate and often went to chill out or play. Check out my step-by-step guide, Easy Labrador Puppy Crate Training, to learn more about crate training.
- Use dog gates. You can use dog gates to separate off an area of your home to keep your Lab safe. These allow you to section off various no-go areas, leaving you to decide how much room your puppy can have to roam around. Dog gates are a great alternative if you don’t like leaving your Lab in a crate. Plus, there are loads to choose from to suit your decor. Check out the Carlson Extra Tall Pet Gate to get an idea. The extra tall feature is excellent for Labradors.
- Use a playpen. Puppy playpens are perfect for containing your young Labrador, and he’ll have room to play safely. You can even connect some playpens to a crate to create a great combination of a cozy resting space and room to roam. Some are more durable and can even be used outside, such as the BestPet Dog Pen. You can configure this one into multiple shapes without using tools. It’s lightweight, collapsable, and easy to move around.
There will come a time when you can let your Lab have the run of the house. Most Labrador owners eventually try this route. You will know when your dog is ready! My dog was two years old before she was allowed to roam freely around the house.
Your lovable Lab’s ability to be alone changes as they grow from a bouncy puppy to a wise old friend. Little ones need more check-ins, but your older buddy can chill out a bit longer.
Just think about their health, how well they’re trained, and their unique personality. Keep them busy with fun activities, and ensure they’re comfy when you’re not around.