Labradors can become very attached to their family as they are a very easy-going, friendly, and affectionate breed. However, you can still leave your Lab alone without worrying about him, as long as you do it correctly! So, how long can Labradors be left alone?
Labrador Retrievers can be left alone for a maximum of 4 hours, although puppies shouldn’t be left alone for longer than one hour for each month of age. This should never exceed a maximum of 4 hours.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn how to keep your Labrador entertained while he’s alone, problems that could arise if you leave your dog alone for too long, exercise requirements, alternative solutions, and loads more!
Welcome to my guilt-free guide to leaving your Labrador alone!
How Long Can Labradors Be Left Alone?
Before we explore how long you can safely leave your Labrador home alone, we are assuming that Labradors can be left alone. But can they?
Labradors can be left alone as long as done correctly. Leaving young Lab puppies alone for too long is dangerous and cruel as they need toilet breaks, exercise, and interaction. Adult Labradors can also be left alone, but they definitely cannot be abandoned for 8 hours!
Labrador puppies are naturally inquisitive and can get into all sorts of mischief if just left. On the other hand, it’s not so bad with older, well trained, and socialized dogs.
Let’s review how long you can leave Labradors alone during their different life stages.
Puppies are pretty curious and need constant watching. Although they can sleep for up to 18 hours per day, when they’re awake, they’re full of energy, fun, and constant hunger!
Labrador puppies also need to pee regularly as they can’t hold their bladder for very long.
A Labrador can generally hold it’s bladder one hour for 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.
Some dogs may have a higher tolerance level, but if you want to feel guilt-free, don’t leave them for more than the advised four hours.
Older Labs above 8 or 9 years old 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 that have health issues also shouldn’t be left for too long. Labradors with joint issues 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 has been clinically proven to reduce joint pain and stiffness and help prevent arthritis and other mobility issues.
How Long Can You Legally Leave a Dog Alone?
There is no federal law that 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 which is 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. This sets out how all animals should be cared for.
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: 10 Tips
When leaving your Labrador alone, keep calm and don’t let them see that you are sad to leave them. It has been scientifically proven that dogs can recognize emotions in humans, as evidenced in this study.
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 too as mental stimulation is also important.
- 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.
Check out this fun 3-minute video from “Chewy” showing you exactly how to leave your puppy home alone:
7 Guilt-Free Solutions When Leaving Your Labrador Alone
If you’re worried about leaving your Labrador alone whilst you go out to work, there are quite a few solutions. 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 a great way for your dog to expend some energy whilst 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 or two.
- Get friends and family to visit. Arrange for family or friends to call throughout the day. Just 15-30 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 any loneliness.
- Visit your Lab on your lunch break. If you’re lucky enough to work near home, visit your dog on your lunch break. You can pop back and play 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. This will allow you to play with your Lab during your breaks throughout the day. It will also save you from having to pay for a dog sitter or a friend.
- Get a dog camera. Doggie cams are quite popular and are easy to set up. They offer a perfect solution to interact with your Labrador without having to actually be there! I just love the Furbo from Amazon as you can speak to your dog and even launch treats, all controlled from your phone!
How to Keep Your Labrador Entertained When Alone
There are several ways that you can keep your Labrador Retriever entertained while you’re away. Check out the below options:
- Leave a range of toys to play with. 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 this selection on Amazon. They are ideal as they’ll keep your dog entertained for hours, especially the interactive and chew toys. You can even stuff treats inside some of them to keep them busy.
- Play calming music. Playing music has been proven to reduce the stress levels in kennelled dogs. This study even proved that the genre of music can make a difference, in this case, soft rock and reggae! You can also try leaving the TV on to a dog station, as many are designed to keep the interest of your pup.
- Get another dog! This might seem extreme, but a buddy might be exactly what your Labrador needs to feel less stressed and lonely. But getting a second dog is a huge commitment that you will need to thoroughly ponder. If you decide to go for it, make sure your Lab is out of puppyhood and trained. Experts also recommend getting a dog of the opposite sex.
Do Labradors Get Lonely?
Labradors shouldn’t be left alone for too long as they can suffer both physical and emotional harm. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t realize the level of commitment to care for a Labrador.
This is one of the sad reasons why they are often abandoned, re-homed, or even worse, 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 is 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.
Consequences of Leaving Your Lab Alone for Too Long
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, or 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 and/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 negative outcomes result from not properly caring for your Labrador 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.
How Much Exercise Do Labradors Need?
Labradors were developed in the UK from fishing dogs imported from Canada. They were bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters due to their strength, stamina, and work ethic. They need to be properly exercised before being left alone. So, how much exercise does a Labrador need?
The amount of exercise Labradors need depends on their age and overall health. Adults require at least two hours of exercise per day to keep fit and healthy. Puppies need five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice a day until they are fully grown. Senior dogs might only be able to manage 10-15 minutes.
Puppies, especially large-breeds, should not be over-exercised, as this can cause joint and bone problems whilst they are 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 down, and look up at me. I know she’s had enough and wants to return!
Exercise should consist of other activities, not just leash walking. For example, off-leash running, fetch, playing tug o’ war, frisbee, swimming, or agility.
Are Labradors Inside or Outside Dogs?
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. Nevertheless, 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 Leaving Your Lab Inside
|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 of Leaving Your Lab Outside
|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.|
Where Exactly to Leave Your Lab In the Home
If you choose to 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 will be enough for your dog to comfortably move around and stretch out. I like the Midwest Homes for Pets icrate from Amazon, as it’s all-inclusive having everything you need. Don’t forget to get a good crate pad to protect his joints, such as an orthopedic one. My dog loved her crate and would often go there to chill out or sleep. If you’re wondering how long you can leave your Lab in a crate, check out my article, How Long Can You Leave a Labrador in a Crate? Myths vs. Reality!
- 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. If you don’t like the idea of leaving your Lab in a crate, they’re a great alternative. Plus, there are loads to choose from to suit your decor. To get an idea, check out this wide selection of dog gates on Amazon.
- Use a playpen. Puppy playpens are perfect for containing your young Labrador and he’ll have loads of room to play safely. Some playpens can even be connected to a crate to create a great combination of both a cozy resting space and room to roam. Some are more durable and can even be used outside such as the BestPet Dog Pen from Amazon. This one can be configured into multiple shapes without having to use any 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.
Labradors are wonderful dogs to own, and they make a good first dog for many families. Everyone who’s experienced their friendliness, playfulness, and affection knows that they’re easily worth the many hours you spend with them.
Here are a few takeaways from the article:
- Labradors shouldn’t be left alone for longer than four hours and even less for older dogs.
- Puppies shouldn’t be left for more than one hour for each month of age.
- Make sure your Lab is properly exercised before leaving him.
- If you persistently leave your Lab alone for too long, he may suffer from separation anxiety and other health issues.
- Consider alternatives such as hiring a dog sitter, dog-walker, doggy daycare, or enlisting the help of family and friends.
I hope this article has given you a great insight as to how long Labradors can be left home alone. By implementing many of the suggestions and alternatives means you no longer have to feel guilty when you leave him and see those longing puppy dog eyes!
- Related Posts You May Like:
- US Department of Agriculture: Animal Welfare Act
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: Code of practice for the welfare of dogs
- The Royal Society: Dogs recognize dog and human emotions
- Science Direct: The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs
- ASPCA: Separation Anxiety
- Frontiers in Veterinary Science: Developing Diagnostic Frameworks in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine: Disambiguating Separation Related Problems in Dogs
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