Skip to Content

It it OK to Leave My Two Dogs Together When I’m Not Home?

The answer is … it depends.

I know, so helpful, right?

I have a Lab mix, a Weimaraner puppy and two cats and I’ve left my older dog and cats loose together thousands of times. I know you can’t trust animals 100 percent, but, well, I trust those three 100 percent!

Sure, they’ll get into trouble but they don’t harm one another.

But how do I know?

And how does a dog owner decide when it’s safe (if ever) to leave two dogs loose together?

I have lots of experience with this through fostering dogs and offering overnight dog sitting in my home. The answer is always, it depends.

I’ll share some of my deciding factors below, and I’d also like to hear how you decide when it’s safe to leave two pets together (if ever). By safe, I mean you trust them not to harm one another.

These aren’t “rules.” They’re just some general guidelines. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

Sammi and Ace - leaving two dogs home together

Leaving two dogs together when you’re not home

Don’t leave two dogs loose together if …

1. The dogs don’t know each other. For example, maybe you recently adopted one of them or maybe one is just visiting.

2. YOU don’t know the dogs. For example, maybe you’re watching them for a friend. It’s generally better to be safe and leave one or both in their crates or separate rooms.

3. There’s any chance the dogs will fight.

4. They’ve ever fought before.

5. Either dog tends to show possessiveness/guarding of food, water, beds, bones, the dog walker, toys, furniture, etc.

6. One dog tends to cause the other to get in trouble. For example, maybe they both bark when they’re together or maybe they chase and wrestle and break things.

7. One is not yet housebroken or tends to mark. You don’t want the other dog to start peeing in the house as well.

8. Either dog tends to become aggressive around certain triggers like the doorbell, the mail carrier or hearing other dogs outside. You don’t want one to re-direct the aggression to the other. Happens all the time.

What else would you add to this list?

Leaving a dog and a cat together when you’re not home

Don’t leave a dog and a cat loose together if …

1. For whatever reason, you have any doubts. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

2. Your cat is nervous or tense around the dog or scared of the dog. Trust her instincts.

3. You haven’t had both pets for at least 2 or 3 months to really get to know them and how they interact. Even if someone told you “he’s cat friendly!” or “She loves dogs!” That means very little.

4. The dog tends to chase the cat, even if he’s just “playing.” Or if the cat tends to bolt away from the dog.

5. They’ve ever fought in the past.

6. If either tends to guard or show possessiveness of food bowls, beds, certain rooms, etc., and you’re not 100 percent certain the other will back off. For example, my cats won’t allow my dog Ace to enter certain rooms. He just turns around and leaves. Or cries.

7. You catch your dog staring at the cat or fixating on the cat, even if it seems “playful.” For example, is your dog obsessively following the cat around, whining or pawing at her? Not cool.

Again, let me know what you’d add to the list.

Taking precautions about leaving two dogs loose together

When I foster dogs with unknown histories around cats, I always leave the foster dog in a crate in a bedroom with the door closed. Then, I put my cats in another bedroom with that door closed. That way, there are two doors (plus the crate) separating the foster dog and my cats.

Sound extreme? Maybe, but I’ve had multiple dogs break out of their crates. One then proceeded to rip apart my door frame.

Sadly, I also know someone whose cat was killed by her foster dogs after the dogs broke out of their crates. Such a heartbreaking story.

Quick reminders:

– Pick up all food bowls, toys, bones, etc., before leaving dogs loose together until you’re 99 percent sure they won’t fight.

– Exercise both dogs heavily before you leave them home alone, especially the first couple of times.

– Start with leaving them for short periods. Are they OK while you take a shower? OK, how about while you leave to get the mail? How about when you run errands for a half-hour?

– Invest in some sort of pet camera so you can check in on them. You can’t put a value on Peace Of Mind!

– Don’t feel guilty if one dog needs to be crated for any reason, even if it’s for other reasons like chewing, potty training, etc.

– Animals are animals. Sometimes they do fight over unexpected things. Even my sweet, passive dog Ace has gotten into a minor fight over a Kong toy.

How did you decide when to leave your pets loose together, if ever?

Kathy

Thursday 25th of January 2018

I realized my adopted dog & resident dog were ready to be left together in the house when I came home to find them lying next to each other on opposite sides of the pet gate. The biggest trigger for redirected aggression was the front window. So I put them both behind the gate away from the front window. And started with short periods of being left together in the house. It really helped my adopted dog with his separation anxiety.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 25th of January 2018

That's very observant of you to recognize all of those things. Your dogs are lucky!

Sandy Weinstein

Monday 13th of March 2017

i have 3 gals. they all get along. i now block the oldest off in the bedroom if i have to leave but it is because of her health, being blind, deaf. however, she has gotten out sometimes. the other girls would not hurt her. they all get along. but Evie never really liked her 2 younger sisters. however, there was never any fighting. Evie was just an only child til she was 8. the 2 younger girls do get into trouble sometimes, like shredding puppy pads, or taking dead leaves out of the pots or taking a plant out of the pot.

Michelle

Monday 8th of February 2016

We just recently started leaving our dogs home alone together. We decided to start with very short periods of time (like, running to the store for 10 minutes) and have worked our way up to about 6 hours (the longest they tend to be home alone). We worked our way up to it. Ben (the new dog, adopted last June) was first crated in a bedroom with the door shut while Dahlia (our older dog) was allowed free reign of the house (which generally meant snoozing on the couch). Then in August, Ben was allowed to stay loose in my husband's study (door shut between the dogs). And then over Christmas break, we started to allow them out in the house together for short periods. We decided to do it because (1) the dogs had never had any sort of fight or disagreement and (2) when Dahlia would tell off Ben for getting in her face Ben would back right off. We've never seen him press his luck when she tells him off. Dahlia is the control freak dog and Ben is the go with the flow kind of dog. Their personalities mesh well together that way.

Jana Rade

Monday 1st of February 2016

We hardly ever leave our dogs alone but when we do we do leave them loose together. They get along well and the risk of something going wrong is minimal if any. If I did have any doubts, I would keep them separated when alone.

Kathy Heller

Monday 1st of February 2016

Guess the only time I really gave it any thought Was with my sister labs and many cats. Then I wasn't worried about animals, they did eat two chairs so guess that was pretty safe, the sisters not the cats.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 1st of February 2016

Oh wow! Ha.