Most veterinary team members have pets. And most veterinary team members work 8-hour shifts. But a new U.K. study says five hours should be the maximum time dogs should be left home alone. Animal welfare experts report that virtually one quarter of dogs are being left alone for such long periods of time that they're at risk of loneliness, distress, depression, and separation anxiety.
Researchers found 23 percent of dog owners in the United Kingdom leave their dogs unattended for five hours or longer on a typical weekday—or they don't bother to monitor the time at all. The U.K. report conducted by the research firm YouGov surveyed 11,261 pet owners—including 4,675 dog owners and veterinary professionals. Researchers found 52 percent of dog owners think a dog should be left alone a maximum of five hours a day. Seventeen percent consider six hours the ideal limit, and 15 percent say eight hours should be the limit. Four percent of respondents said a dog is fine on its own for upward of 10 hours.
The four to five hour limit is recommended by best-practices set forth by the United Kingdom's Animal Welfare Act. In the U.S., however, the question of how long is too long to leave Sadie home alone remains a subject of fierce debate. Research studies on this topic have yet to be conducted, but there is research that shows different dogs tend to have different social needs. While hounds are extremely social animals and need lots of attention, working breeds and guard dogs are perfectly happy for 10 to 12 hours alone. According to veterinary pharmaceutical companies, between 15 and 17 percent of dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone too long.