Will my puppy be able to hold it while I’m at work?

What should you do with an 8-week old puppy when you go to work?

A reader recently emailed me that question. He and his wife would both be gone for at least eight hours, three days a week, and unable to come home during lunch.

I thought this would be a good topic to bring up, since many of you have faced a similar situation. Some people just do not have the flexibility to come home every day for lunch like I did when I adopted Ace.

In this particular case, it turns out the reader’s mom is able to check on the puppy on those busy days. Way to go “Grandma!”

And seriously, how adorable is this puppy? She’s a keeshond named Zoey.

8 week old Keeshond puppy

Will my puppy be able to hold it while I’m at work?

I wanted to discuss this topic and get your thoughts on what a new puppy owner can do.

If we’re talking about an 8-week-old puppy, she will obviously not be able to hold it for eight hours. That would just be too long. Although, if the owner is only gone for four hours or so at a time, that might work out OK.

If you work full time or go to school full time and have recently adopted a puppy, the following are some options to consider. (Please share your own ideas in the comments.)

Use a kennel

I always suggest using a kennel for a puppy that is left alone. Not only is this important for potty training, but it also helps keep the puppy safe and quiet when home alone, and out of trouble! A kennel helps set a puppy up for success in so many ways.

Some people refuse to use kennels, and that’s their choice. If you do not use a kennel, I would at least keep the puppy in a certain area of the house such as in the kitchen or a bathroom blocked with a baby gate.

Still, if you work eight hours straight, the puppy won’t be able to hold it that long, even if she is in a kennel. So, moving on …

Come home during your lunch break

This is the most obvious choice, assuming your schedule allows for it.

If you can make it home for lunch, even for five minutes for the first two to three weeks, that might be enough to get you through.

If your boss is an animal lover, he or she may not mind if you need to adjust your schedule temporarily so you can get home to let your puppy out. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Hire a dog walker or a friend to let the puppy out for you

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Whether you hire a professional dog walker, a pet sitter, a friend, family member or neighbor, the point is this person will be reliable and will let your puppy out for you once or twice in the middle of the day.

I am a dog walker and pet sitter myself so I can tell you there are some awesome professionals out there who can make your life easier! It’s about finding the right person.

If you’d rather ask a friend or neighbor to let your puppy out, that works too. You are lucky to have that as an option! I suggest paying that person to make it worth her time, even though she will get to hang out with your ridiculously cute puppy! Of course, some friends will just volunteer to do this for you, and that’s great too.

Take your puppy to dog daycare

I’m a little torn on dog daycares because some are just poorly managed with way too many dogs running wild. It’s kind of a free-for-all and a good place for dogs to learn bad habits.

On the other hand, if you can find a great dog daycare, this is better than setting your puppy up for mistakes at home. If I had a puppy and couldn’t come home at lunch, I would probably take the puppy to daycare since I am not a fan of people coming to my house when I’m not there. That’s just how I am.

Some dog daycares have puppy programs set up where the puppies get to play and socialize, and the workers will help them with potty training and basic training. All daycares are not created equally, so do your research and find a good one before you even bring your puppy home if you can.

Daycare could just be a temporary thing for the first month or so if you don’t want to pay for this service over the long term. The same is true if you hire a dog walker.

Last resort – puppy potty pads, fake grass or newspapers

You know I am not a fan of puppy potty pads or fake indoor dog grass.

Puppy Potty Pee Pads
When I potty train a puppy, my goal is to take that puppy outside. I do not use newspapers or pee pads or anything like that. I’ve seen far too many cases (always little dogs) where the dogs think it’s OK to pee on rugs, pillows, dog beds, etc.

Yet, I am realistic and sometimes you just don’t have another option.

I understand you may not have the funds to hire a dog walker. I understand you may not even get a lunch break.

I can only imagine the possibilities some people deal with, and I don’t think that should hold someone back from owning a dog. Although, you may want to consider adopting an adult, potty-trained dog vs. a puppy.

But let’s say you already have the puppy, and now your only option is to leave him something to pee on while you’re at work.

You could use puppy potty pads, fake grass for dogs or laid-out newspapers. It’s a personal preference and it also depends on how much you want to spend.

There are a few things I want to mention with this option:

Don’t assume the puppy will know where to go potty.

Unless a breeder or shelter volunteer has already taught her to go potty on newspapers or a pee pad, she won’t know to do this. Most likely, you’ll need to guide her and reward her for peeing in the correct place.

Where to put the potty pad

I can think of two options, but please share your ideas.

I’m really hesitant about this first option (*even more hesitant now after this has published – what do the rest of you think?), but here it is:

Put the pee pad (or newspaper) on one side of a fairly large dog kennel or crate. Put the puppy’s bed on the other end. Ideally, the puppy would pee on the pad side and sleep on her bed, because she wouldn’t want to pee on her bed. There really aren’t any guarantees though. There is a good chance you are setting your puppy up for a really bad habit of peeing in her crate. So I recommend this is a last resort.

Another option, and I think this is the better option in most cases, is to put an exercise pen up around your puppy’s kennel or to place her kennel in a bathroom or kitchen with a baby gate up. You would put her bed in her kennel and a pee pad outside of the kennel in the closed-in area. Ideally, this space would be as small as possible to decrease her chances of peeing on the floor.

Again, the puppy won’t automatically know to pee on the pad or newspapers. You’ll have teach her. You may need to just cover the whole space with newspapers at first, so the smaller the space, the better.

As soon as your puppy can realistically hold it all day, you would remove the pee pads or newspapers and start leaving her in her kennel. If she is in her kennel, she won’t be able to pee on the floor. So again, the kennel is a valuable tool for setting the dog up for success.

OK, what do the rest of you think?

Have any of you faced this issue before? Any trainers out there who can add to this?

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17 thoughts on “Will my puppy be able to hold it while I’m at work?”

  1. I know of several shelters and rescues that won’t adopt a dog if someone isn’t there to housebreak them as puppies. Their reasoning is that the dog will develop bad habits that they will never outgrow and will be returned.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s too bad. What if they helped adopters come up with a way to make it work? Although, I think sometimes it is best for people to adopt an adult, potty-trained dog. That’s what I did when I got Ace. I knew I had no time for potty training.

  2. I’ve always either been able to get home at least every four hours or found someone that could stop by and take the puppy out. I would suggest daycare, but it is not cheap if it is a good one.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m glad my schedule is more flexible now where I wouldn’t have any trouble getting home that often either.

  3. I get this same question all the time. My #1 suggestion is getting a neighbor, friend, family member, or pet sitter to help you by letting your puppy out and giving him/her some interaction once or twice a day. When we first bring home our guide dog puppies we do not crate them for more than 1-2 hours in a row during the day.

    I have an ideal way of doing things in my mind, but not everyone is in the ideal situation so I’m always trying to improvise and make suggestions based on individual situations.

    I don’t recommend your suggestion of using a larger kennel and adding pee pads because in my mind allowing your puppy to potty in the crate basically compromises the whole idea of crate training. I would much rather see people use your second suggestion of using a long term confinement with a potty area outside the crate.

    Of course every situation is different so until you actually find out all the details you won’t have a clear idea of what might work best.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yeah, I agree with you. I’m having second thoughts about the suggestion to use the pads in the kennel. I guess it’s just a last resort if people run out of other options such as if you must be gone for 8+ hours and for whatever reason can’t gate off a small area outside of the kennel.

      Ideally, I definitely think it’s best if someone can visit the pup every 3-4 hours.

  4. I’ve been lucky with my flexible schedule as well. I don’t know what I’d do if I ended up with another puppy at the moment. I agree that I’d be hesitant to use puppy pads or fake grass but there might not be another option for some people. I haven’t experienced it personally but I’ve read or heard that certain dogs don’t seem to mind messing in their crate.

    Nice informative post, I’m glad I don’t have to ponder the question myself.

  5. Puppies definitely can’t hold it for that long. You provide some great options. It has been a very long time since I’ve had to potty train a puppy while I went to work. When I got Maya, I actually worked from home and so she was never alone for more than a couple hours at a time. When I got Sephi in 2001, I kept her in the bathroom while I went to work. Work was 45 minutes away and I did not have the money for a dog walker. She did just fine, though. There were a couple of yellow pee stains on my bathroom floor, but we managed. Surprisingly, Sephi took less time to potty train than Maya!

  6. I am very fortunate in having a rather flexible employer so the first month with our new puppy I worked half days from the office and half days from home (in fact, the first 2 weeks I worked half days and took holiday leave for the other half). On days that this (for whatever reason) wasn’t an option) we indeed had a neighbour let him out at lunchtime. I find that it is well worth investing that time in the early weeks. But I also appreciate that this is easier if you have some 30 holidays a year.
    I would not leave the pup with puppy pads or fake grass as mine started to tear them apart after a week or two. They worked fine otherwise but I’d be scared of my bored home-alone puppy tearing up and eating them, a bit too much plastic. Supposedly if you tape them to the ground it could work.
    In the end, a puppy is a lot of work the first month or two but after that life gets a lot easier. It isn’t a very long-term (and potentially expensive) commitment to ask a friend/neighbour/pet-sitter to let the pup out once per day for 1-2 months.

  7. I’m late to respond to this post. My comments may be unpopular & they aren’t directed at the people who asked the initial question. I echo the comments of Colby above.

    Young puppies should not be home alone for hours by themselves, whether they can hold it or not. Period. If you work a job with “9 to 5” type hours and no one is home during the day, even if you can come home for 5 or 10 minutes to let the dog out, your household is not well-suited for a puppy to be left at home. If you don’t have an arrangement to give a puppy the attention it needs, whether it is someone spending time with the dog at home or having the dog attend an appropriate day care setting for its age, don’t bring a puppy into your household.

    Puppies – that is, dogs until the age of 20 weeks – are babies. They are not smaller versions of adult dogs. They need physical and mental stimulation. They need to learn how to navigate the world. They need socialization during critical learning and fear periods. If you’re asking the question of what to do so the puppy gets to pee or poop during the 7 or 8+ hours it’s left alone during the day, then you’re asking the wrong question. If it has to happen once in an emergency, that’s one thing. As a plan, it’s just a bad idea. The recommendation is either have *someone* who can spend some time with the pup during the day, or do not get a puppy that is quite so young.

  8. Mariana Morales

    I potty trained my puppies with the pads they sell at doggypads.com and my dog seems to love them him will only go on the pads or in the brushes in front of my house!

  9. I have potty trained several puppies all while I work during the day. I found great success with keeping the puppies kennel with be in it in a small area (bathroom) and covering the whole floor with newspaper. Then as the puppy gets older and has more bladder control I gradually decrease the space covered by newspaper. As long as my puppy’s potty stays on the news paper I keep making is smaller every few days until there is no newspaper left at all. Beware of throw rugs in the bathroom these will be used in the absence of newspaper if your puppy can’t hold it for the whole day.

  10. Carla O'Reilly

    My puppy is now 10 weeks old, I got her at 8 weeks & was off work for 10 days. I’ve been taking her out day & night to toilet & she’s been going out great . Now I’m back at work I’m still fortunate to be able to come back several times a day. I do leave puppy pads in her play pen, she has a crate she sleeps in but I leave the door ajar so can go on the pads. She’s going longer between wee’s now but occasionally if been away for say 3 hours she has wee’d on the pad.
    I don’t really get why people are against them, years ago it was newspaper you left down & no such things as the pads & all our dogs when I was growing up & a dog I had as an adult, all made the transition from newspaper to outside, so a bit confused to why people say they’ll be confused & wont know to go outside?!

  11. Sandy Weinstein

    my oldest was house trained so easily within 2 wks. the 2 younger girls, still have oops. they know better, get let out several times a day when i am at home, which is most of the time. when i leave and when i get home i let them out for a long time and still i come home to a mess sometimes or wake up to a mess. they are let out several times b4 bedtime. i cant blame the oldest b/c she cant help it. i have puppy pads out just in case. but sometimes they get shredded for fun. i tried leaving them in the crates when i was away, for a few hours, and that worked for awhile, but ….i know they know better, b/c when i find it, they run and hide b/c they know they did bad. for some reason my middle child cant hold it for very long. she has been checked out so nothing is wrong, she is just stubborn.

  12. I was also lucky with a flexible schedule when Mussy & Buzz were puppies. Actually I was lucky enough not to have to work for the first 4 months of their lives, so my “job” back then consisted of nothing but raising the pups!

    Once they hit the 4 months mark, I started working part time again (as a pet sitter, lol!) and was able to get home every 3 hours or so to let them out.

    When the pups were only about 3 months old, I had family visit from out of the country and had to come up with a solution for the pups while we went sightseeing in D.C. At the time we lived at an apartment complex and I was lucky enough to be able to leave both pups at someone’s house for about 6 hours a few days in a row – they had seen us out and about on the apartment complex grounds and were in LOVE with the puppies and volunteered their services 😉

  13. We’ve been fortunate as one of us stays home. We taught our 8 week old GSD by watching when he needed to go then took him out for a pee, we repeated the word ‘toilet’ as he was emptying his bladder. (I used to get laughed at years ago when I had a young rotty – but the neighbours soon realised the benefit). Using this method you can also get the dog to go on demand – which I find useful when we go out. As a small pup – I used to get him to toilet before I started to prepare and eat dinner for example – no interruptions then (with luck).
    I have the understanding that it is natural for a dog to keep his den clean – so leaving toilet facilities in their crate, (or den) is not such a good idea, as the animal should naturally be clean in the first place, and the provision of a different area is good.

  14. Many of your suggestions were great, but please please don’t suggest that anyone leave a puppy alone with their bed. Recently I saw the saddest video showing a beautiful puppy in a large Pen and a phone recording the puppy’s behavior while the pet parents were out. The puppy apparently chewed his bed that was made of filling of some kind and died. The video warned that it was sad and believe me, I cried. Puppies don’t know danger, and think everything is edible. Those poor people had to be devastated when they returned and that adorable little puppy whined for a while and then I could see him collapse as he apparently chocked. It was self explanatory and so so sad. Those people had a beautiful pen set up for the puppy and never realized what was going to happen.I know my puppy loves to chew and I have thrown out a few beds because he was chewing them so I bought one that’s safe and one that he can’t chew. I suggest the same for every puppy.

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