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How to Help Labradors Adjust to Being Alone
If Labradors are prone to issues like separation anxiety, does that mean that you should be around them at all times? Unfortunately, it may seem that your only solution is to enroll your Lab in a daycare or employ a full-time caretaker. Luckily, there are ways to help your Labrador feel more comfortable with alone time.
Understand the Dangers
It's vital to recognize the dangers of leaving your Labrador home alone for too long. On a psychological level, if they're not ready for long periods of separation, they can start acting out. However, too much time alone can result in physical ailments as well. For instance, dogs forced to hold in their bladder too long can develop a harmful urinary tract infection.
Therefore, when leaving a Labrador alone, I recommend finding ways to keep them occupied while you're gone. For instance, consider one of these options:
Investing in a mentally stimulating toy is a great way to keep your Lab's separation anxiety at bay. I'm a huge proponent of the KONG Classic Dog Toy from Amazon.com because it's mentally stimulating and gets your dog occupied for extended periods.
TV and Music
Television shows and music are both great ways to ease your lonely dog's mind. For instance, leaving the TV on when you go out can help replicate the feeling of having other people or pets around. Furthermore, a recent study published in Physiology & Behavior revealed that kennelled dogs' heart rate significantly decreased while listening to soft rock and reggae music.
Dog Walking Service
Doggy daycare may be out of your price range. However, plenty of dog walking services, like Rover or Wag!, offer skilled walkers at affordable prices. This option is appropriate when you know you'll be gone longer than four hours. In turn, your Lab will have a chance to go to the bathroom and exercise while you're away.
How Long Can You Leave Your Labrador Alone?
So, Labradors can be left home alone as long as it's not for too long. While that's a relief, it also opens up more questions. For instance, how long can they stay home alone before it becomes detrimental to their health?
Labradors should be left alone for no more than 3-4 hours at a time. However, this period isn't consistent throughout their lives. Puppies under 3 months should only be alone for one hour per month of age. Senior Labs may require less time alone due to health complications.
The guidelines above correspond to a Labrador puppy's bladder control. Since they can only hold their bladder for about an hour per month of age, that's also about as long as they should be left alone.
However, as Labradors grow into adulthood, you can graduate them to the recommended four hours, as they become more task-oriented. They may be willing to stay alone for more extended periods out of a need to please their owner. Still, Labradors are too social to leave them for more than four hours alone.
Senior Labs require more of your time due to weak bladder control and the possibility of illness. They're a large breed, making them prone to joint ailments like hip and elbow dysplasia later in life, so they may need some assistance getting around without having an accident.
There's no federal law that determines how long you can leave a dog alone. Still, it may be worth studying your state animal cruelty laws, just in case. However, if you're here, you must care a lot about your Lab and wouldn't be willing to risk their health, regardless of legality.
How Long Can a Lab Go Without Going to the Bathroom?
There are plenty of factors that affect whether a Labrador can be left alone. For instance, potty training and bladder control is a significant consideration. So, how long can a Lab hold in bladder and bowel movements before it negatively affects them?
An adult Lab can go about six to eight hours without going to the bathroom. However, factors like age, activity level, diet, and other psychological conditions can change this number. Furthermore, Lab puppies have to go to the bathroom more often, which is why they cannot be alone for long periods.
As a rule, your adult Lab should be allowed outside at least three to five times per day to go to the bathroom. Furthermore, this amount increases for puppies and seniors who have less bladder control. Plus, the statistics above refer to all dog breeds on average. While it may be true that your Lab can hold their pee in for up to eight hours, that doesn't mean they should. I still recommend sticking to four hours maximum whenever possible.
If you cannot make it home in time to give your Lab a pee break, I recommend hiring a dog walker. Another option is the PetSafe Pet Loo from Amazon.com, a portable doggy toilet that looks just like your own yard.
How Many Hours Do Labs Sleep?
On the other hand, one advantage in your corner is the hours of time dogs sleep during the day. While you cannot control when your dog sleeps during the day, you can find ways to make them sleepy before you leave the house. So, how many hours can you expect your lab to doze off?
Labs sleep between 10-11 hours per day. This number can increase to nearly 14 hours a day for puppies. However, dogs are polyphasic sleepers, which means that they rest on and off throughout the day, so you cannot expect your Lab to stay asleep for the entirety of your time away from home.
Establishing a sleep schedule that encourages your Lab to doze before you go out is an effective way to ease any anxieties while you're away. So, how can you accomplish this?
I recommend taking time to play with them before you leave the house. After all, they thrive with regular exercise. I suggest about 80 minutes per day for adult Labs. However, your Lab may be satisfied with more or less regular exercise, depending on their energy level and personality.
If you take the time to exercise your pet before you go out, they'll tucker out and feel more inclined to take a nap.
While Labradors can be left alone, they shouldn't be alone for too long. A maximum period of four hours is ideal. Otherwise, they may become vulnerable to mental and physical health problems.
Learning about your Lab's bathroom and sleep habits will help you better prepare to leave them alone. Furthermore, I recommend trying different tricks to keep them occupied while you're away. These considerations will help improve your Lab's independence.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson