What do Dogs do All Day When Their Owners are at Work?

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  • Originally Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Revised By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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What dogs do when their owners are away varies, but most end up playing, investigating, observing, guarding, eating and drinking, and resting. Like people, they often establish a daily routine with these activities. Depending on factors like the animal’s age, size, individual temperament, and breed, people sometimes have to adjust what they leave their pets to do or how they are contained. Day care, crating, and similar options sometimes are necessary to prevent problems such as separation anxiety and furniture chewing.


Most canines will play at least a little bit during the day. What they consider fun, however, varies from animal to animal. Some find a favorite item to chew on or toss around, while others simply run from room to room. If more than one pet is at home, they might interact, following each other around, wrestling or trying to get the other interested in a toy.


In most homes, it’s rare for every little thing to remain the same through the entire day. A pillow might get put a different spot, for example, or a storm might erupt outside. Dogs generally are curious and want to investigate these changes, looking at and sniffing new items, listening to any sounds they make. Like some people, they might try to put away things they think are out of place or get rid of what they think doesn’t belong.



When dogs can see something that doesn’t stay constant but is generally present, such as traffic or people walking outside, they often like to watch it. This usually is a passive activity, with some animals quietly sitting, lying down or resting their chins on window sills. Depending on temperament, however, they might become more aggressive or interactive, and whine, howl or bark. Many owners leave the TV on for entertainment when they know their pets don’t have anything else to watch.


Although different breeds are more social than others, in general, dogs are pack animals, as they are descended from wolves. Typically, they naturally figure out who is the alpha male or superior in the group and take orders from that leader. To the domesticated or tamed canine, the owner is the one in control. Guarding the home, such as barking when others get close, is one way it tries to protect and seek approval, showing the ability to anticipate a person’s reactions or rewards. In some cases, dogs keep watch because of genuine feelings of possessiveness.

Eating and Drinking

Many owners are gone for hours at a time when they need to work or run errands, and dogs generally get hungry at least for a snack when they’re home alone. They often go to their food and water bowls to get something to eat and drink. Sometimes, this is just a quick detour in other activities, but it’s not unusual for them to take tasty, harder-to-devour foods such as dental chews to a favorite spot to savor for a while. To combine play and eating and to provide some mental stimulation, some owners place multiple bowls around the house, use food puzzles, or hide a treat or two for the pet to find.

Sleep and Rest

When dogs don’t have anything else they’d like to do, or when they’ve exhausted themselves doing other activities, they usually find a nice spot to rest. They often like sunny areas on the floor because of the warmth, but they may retreat to a pet bed if one is available. Couches typically are another favorite place to sleep. If owners don’t raise any objections during training, dogs might jump up into a “people” bed instead, with some even burrowing down and snuggling under the covers. The amount of time the animal sleeps really depends on its unique preferences and physical needs, but it can take up a big part of the day.

Considerations and Tips

Both young and large dogs usually need lots of physical activity during the day, although puppies typically get worn out faster. Toys often encourage some movement, but it’s generally a good idea to take the pet for a 45- to 60-minute walk before leaving to make sure it gets the minimum recommended for the breed. It’s important for pet owners to take current health into account, however, as some animals, similar to people, have conditions that might make to much activity difficult or even dangerous. A morning walk also provides a chance for the dog to go relieve itself, preventing indoor accidents.

Separation anxiety can be a problem in some cases. A dog with this issue might spend more time dealing with worry and stress, destroying furniture or chewing on things. Pet sitters and day care may relieve some of the animal's loneliness, but in both cases, it needs to be comfortable with the caregiver. Many dogs feel more comfortable when confined inside a large crate with a few toys inside, which can make them feel safe, just like they have their own room.

Although barking, howling, and whining is natural communication for canines, it can disturb neighbors. When the noises become a problem, an owner might find that it's necessary to train the pet to make sounds only when it has a need, such as going out to urinate, or when someone it doesn’t know comes to the house. This can take considerable time, but generally, it is a better option than having conflicts with neighbors or having to get rid of the pet.

There are many breeds of dogs, and each one has specific characteristics in terms of mental and physical development. Some, like hounds, are intended for hunting or tracking, for example. Researching these traits can give an owners some insights about what to leave the animal to do while they are away from home.


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Discuss this Article

Post 17

I leave my dog in his crate when I'm not home. He finds his crate a safe place and sometimes goes in it when he can't get into my room. I can't leave him alone and "free" when I'm not home because he has a digestive problem so if eats something other than his food, like a dog toy, he could get really sick again. So for people who think a crate is like a doggy jail, it is not. It's not supposed to be used for punishment, just a place to hangout when no one is home.

Post 15

I took two weeks off of work and potty trained my 8 week old shorkie. She never chewed or anything. Four days before going back to work, I went out for the afternoon, leaving her out of her cage, holding my breath the whole time, (four hours) and came home and everything was fine. I went out a few more times and by gosh, my dog did great.

She was the only 11 week old puppy that I knew that wasn't cage trained while the owner was at work. Cages are like jails -- I don't care what you say. They are OK for a few hours and training them at first, but not nine hours a day, five days a week. No, no, no, no. Me and my doggy get really sad when we see other doggies in their cages.

Post 14

If you are not available to be with your dog, then simply do not have a pet dog. You will end up with a very unhappy and maladjusted animal. Crates are nothing more than a form of imprisonment for folk who want an animal and not the total responsibility for looking after it. Oh! But it might chew this - or defecate, or pee there there! Well, don't have a dog then. Dogs are not for you. Being shoved in a cage all day is not a form of training.

Post 12

I live close enough to work that I can run home at lunch and let my dog outside and take a quick walk. I think this really helps break up the day for her. Once in awhile something comes up and I can't get away for lunch, and she is more wound up than usual when I get home. I only have one dog and I think she is used to the quiet when I am gone and doesn't know any different.

Post 11

When I got my dog as a puppy she was only about 10 weeks old, and much too young to leave outside her kennel all day long. Who knows what havoc I might have come home to if she had been allowed to wander around the house all day long.

She got used to this and still spends a lot of time in her kennel. Now that she is older I can trust her to be out when I am gone, but there are many times when she automatically heads straight for her kennel.

I have pillows and toys in there for her and she feels safe there. I no longer have to keep the door shut, and she is able to go in and out as she pleases.

Post 10
@clippers -- I have often wondered what my two dogs and cat do all day long. I am pretty sure the cat does nothing but sleep, but the dogs I am not so sure about. Many times I have been tempted to somehow put up a video camera so I can really see what they are up to.

They get adjusted to routine, and must have a good sense of timing because one of my dogs is always looking out the window towards the drive when I pull in from work. My dogs are just as happy to see me when I get home as I am to see them.

Post 9

@tigers -- I got a second dog after I went back to work. Up until that point I had been home all day with the kids, so our dog was used to a lot of activity around the house. I think she would have eventually adjusted to being alone, but I felt so bad for her and so looked so sad.

I ended up getting another dog, mostly as a companion for her. They hit it off right away, and I didn't feel as guilty when I left for work in the morning.

Of course, we now had 2 dogs to feed, take care of and take to the vet, but they have simply become part of our family. Now it is hard to imagine what it would be like without either one of them.

Post 8

I think my dog gets really bored when he is alone during the day. Would it help at all if I got another dog for him to play with?

Post 7

I swear that my dog likes to watch TV. Any time I am watching he comes and lays down next to me and watches the TV with compete attention.

So whenever I am out of the house I leave a set on for him. I know it is kind of silly, he can't be enjoying it that much, but if it helps him to pass the time when he is alone then it is worth it.

Post 6
This is something I wonder about all the time. I have three dogs, and I imagine that they just sleep all day, but who really knows? Maybe they play cars, maybe the knit, maybe they talk about politics. They have to pass the time somehow, right?
Post 4

this really helped me write a report. i love dogs.

Post 3

I really would recommend against getting any pet if you live alone and will be gone for the majority of the day nearly every day. Whether it is a dog, a cat, or some other, smaller pet, animals need community of some kind. Pets left alone all day, whether they have things to do or not, can have a great deal of trouble coping with loneliness.

Post 2

When looking at dogs for sale or for adoption, it is a good idea to ask the previous owner, breeder, or caretaker at an adoption center as much as possible about the dog. Not only the breed's habits, but that particular dog's, because many dogs can turn out to be atypical to their specific breed; this can be both good or bad, depending on your living space and what you want in the pet.

Post 1

Small dog breeds can be more easily left alone in the house, however they can also find it easier to get into spaces where they don't belong, leading them to knock things over or break things. In that case it can also be either a really excellent or really bad idea to get a companion dog for a small breed, because they could either play happily together or get into twice as much trouble.

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