Leaving a Golden Retriever Alone: Your Questions Answered

When we got our Golden Retriever, I knew from my previous experience that the breed is highly energetic and forms close bonds with its family, and we were worried about leaving it alone. But, of course, most dog owners at some time will have to leave their Golden Retriever home alone. It may be because you work, or you need to step outside to run errands.

So, can you leave a Golden Retriever at home alone?

As a whole, Golden Retrievers can be left alone with no issues, provided they have access to water and chews toys. However, someone should check on the dog within four to six hours, and owners should teach their Golden Retriever how to be alone to mitigate separation anxiety issues. 

Owners should also consider a confinement area for their Golden Retriever. A bored Golden Retriever with access to the whole house may decide to get into things it shouldn’t. 

Many adult Golden Retrievers can have access to the whole house once they are mature enough, but that is specific to the individual dog. Just be forewarned; even the most responsible and mature Golden Retriever may decide to roam the house and get into things if bored. 

Also, be aware that Golden Retrievers puppies can be a handful. Golden puppies are very active, high-energy, and dynamic.

In fact, I might suggest you read this article I wrote if this is your first time with a Golden puppy. It will give you an idea of what to expect for the first two years of puppyhood (and maybe beyond), and you can find it here: How Active Are Golden Retriever Puppies? (What You Need to Know)

Also, if you are a first-time Golden Retriever owner, take a few minutes to read this article on what to expect. You can find that article by clicking here: Golden Retrievers: A Good Dog For First-Time Owners?

A Golden Retriever that has been crate trained can also be left alone with minor issues provided they have access to water, and the dog is allowed to relieve themselves at appropriate times during the day. 

However, I think a larger confinement area is better and more comfortable for the dog.

Confining the dog to a large enclosed room or playpen restricts its movements while allowing access to move about, stretch its legs and still have a water dish and plenty of toys available—something a crate does not allow.

A larger containment area also has the benefit of allowing the crate to be placed within the enclosure. In this way, your Golden can move freely out of its makeshift den (crate) as it desires. It’s the best of both worlds.

You can also place a sod box (a box with real or fake grass) in the corner of the confinement area for a puppy to relieve itself.

Ideally, however, you want someone to check on the puppy to allow it to go out regularly, so it learns to do its business outside rather than inside.

Confinement areas also ensure your Golden Retriever is safe. Dogs, especially puppies, are curious and can get into some very unexpected things that could be harmful.

Make sure you dog-proof any area used, regardless of where you decide to keep your Golden Retriever. 

Hold up. I wrote an article discussing how to puppy-proof your home if bringing a Golden Retriever puppy home. You can find the article here: Preparing for a Golden Retriever Puppy: A Step by Step Guide.

Also, be mindful of your living situation. While Golden Retrievers typically do not bark a lot, they can bark if left alone for too long or bored.

While barking may not be a big issue if you live in a house, it can be problematic if you live in an apartment or condo with adjacent neighbors.

Another issue is high temperatures, especially if living in a higher floor apartment without air conditioning. Golden Retrievers can struggle in extreme heat, and steps should be taken to ensure they are safe.

To read about what temperatures are too hot for Golden Retriever and how to keep them cool, check this article out:

Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: Keeping Them Cool.

How Long Can a Golden Retriever Be Left Alone?

Whether you’re crating your Golden Retriever while you’re gone or allowing it access to more areas, there is a limit to how long your Golden Retriever should be left alone. So, how long can a Golden Retriever be left alone?

On average, adult Golden Retrievers can be left alone for about four hours and no longer than six. Beyond four hours, someone should check on the dog and let them out. Puppies can be left alone only for 1 hour plus their age in months to a maximum of four hours before needing to relieve themselves.  

Imagine how important this is. What if your boss told you that you had to stay in your office for the whole workday. Or your children at school couldn’t leave the classroom.

You and your kids could not leave to stretch your legs or to go to the bathroom.

Would you consider that acceptable? Hopefully not. 

So, allow your Golden Retriever the same act of kindness and respect. Don’t confine your Golden for hours on end without expecting the dog to have to relieve itself. 

Now, many Golden Retrievers can hold their bladders well beyond four hours. However, it’s not only about bathroom breaks.  

Aside from giving your Golden Retriever a bathroom break during the day, there is also a social and exercise element.

Golden Retrievers are a sensitive breed of dog that bonds very closely to their owners. It’s that very nature that makes them so popular as a family dog. They’re also very active and need adequate mental and physical stimulation. 

So, just like your Golden Retriever needs a bathroom break during the day, it should also have some social interaction and some time to stretch its legs and move about.

The good news is that breaks and social interaction can be accomplished together if you have someone coming in to let your dog out.

Just ask your dog walker/sitter to spend some time with the dog before leaving and maybe take them for a walk or give the dog some playtime. 

Check out his video below from Rachel Fusaro. Rachel discusses how long to leave a dog alone and offers some helpful guidance.

Do Golden Retrievers Do Well Left Alone? 

So, we’ve established that Golden Retrievers can be left alone, but should they be left alone? More specifically, do Golden Retrievers do well if left alone?

Typically Golden Retrievers do very well left alone provided they are taught to do so and are provided necessary bathroom breaks during the day. A Golden Retriever’s temperament, health, and age should be considered; however, a healthy, well-adjusted Golden Retriever should do fine if left alone for a few hours.

All dogs need some exercise, and most are very social creatures; however, some dogs are more active and sociable than others. Golden Retrievers are one of those breeds.

While Golden Retrievers make excellent house dogs, there are a few things you can do to ensure your Golden Retriever adjust well to you being gone.

First, take your Golden Retriever out for a walk or play session before leaving. In this way, your Goldens gets a potty break “in” while getting energy “out.” Primarily, be mindful of the last time your Golden Retriever ate a meal or drank some water.

For example, our Golden likes to relieve himself usually after eating, so taking him out afterward would make sense, especially if we’re leaving for a few hours.

Goldens are an active breed that enjoys being wherever its people are. But, unfortunately, that means that if your Golden is left alone all day long without any breaks or social interaction, it can develop separation anxiety. 

To remedy this, make sure you have someone come in to check on your Golden if you plan to be gone longer than four to six hours.

There are options available in these situations, and they can easily be managed with a bit of planning and preparation. 

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is provide training beforehand to mitigate separation anxiety.

Your Golden Retriever needs to learn that it’s OK to be left alone and that you will be coming back

I wrote an in-depth article on raising a Golden Retriever puppy while working. In it, I discuss issues such as separation anxiety, and resources to use when you’re gone, and other tips. Of course, these tips apply to older Goldens too. Take a few minutes to read that article here: Raising a Golden Retriever Puppy While Working: Guilt-Free Solutions.

Can I Leave a Golden Retriever Alone Overnight?

So, we’ve established that Golden Retrievers do well left alone during the day. But many people work night shifts or may have a night away for some reason. So, can I leave a Golden Retriever alone overnight?  

Golden Retrievers over six months may be left alone overnight, depending on their training and personality. Some dogs may be OK, whereas others may be anxious and prefer not to be alone. Puppies under six months should not be left unattended overnight due to bladder issues and their dependence on you for care.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to address every situation and dog with a yes or no blanket statement. The best answer is it “depends” on the situation, you as an owner, and of course, the dog.

So, in some cases, it may be doable, and in others, it is not. Context does matter as well.

For example, if you have to head out for a couple of hours to help a friend with car trouble, it might not be a big issue versus working all night and sleeping all day. Do you see the difference?

Or, maybe your Golden Retriever is highly independent and might have no issues being alone at night (how to know that, however, is one question owners need to ask themselves – don’t assume your dog will be fine if you don’t know for sure).

Also, keep in mind that it’s not easy to remedy once a negative behavior issue is established. So, if you guess wrong and your dog hates being alone overnight, it may develop anxiety and behavioral problems.

Overall, however, there are some potential concerns that owners need to be cautious of and consider. 

First, be mindful of how long your Golden Retriever is going to be left alone. Leaving the Golden Retriever alone all night, followed by even more solitude the next day, is not healthy for the dog.  

Like the earlier example, if you work all night then sleep all day, who will meet your Golden Retriever’s social, mental, and physical needs? Dogs are social creatures and need companionship.

The biggest issue that I see is that there are limited options to check on your dog at night, unlike in the daytime.

For example, it’s much more difficult (if not impossible) to hire Joe’s Dog Sitting Service at 3:00 am than it is to hire that same person to check on your dog at 3:00 pm.

Another issue is what has your Golden become accustomed to for its sleeping situation. For example, if your Golden Retriever sleeps with you at night or at the foot of your bed, and suddenly you are gone, how will it react? And, how will you know if your dog is becoming distressed or not?

Golden Retrievers like routine and are sensitive to changes.

Baily Adam Ruzek (BAR) likes sleeping on or beside the bed. He sleeps wherever we are and does not like to be alone at night.

Nights are not the same as the day, and your Golden Retriever may become more easily distressed or scared at night versus the day (much like kids), especially if you are suddenly not there.

Lastly, why are you considering letting the dog stay alone overnight? Are you taking off to Vegas for a weekend? Is it a new job? Is it a short-term situation, or will it be a long-term one?

Remember, lifestyle is the most significant determinant in matching a dog to a household. If a home has little to no time to spend with a Golden Retriever, consider waiting until your lifestyle is better aligned to caring for a dog. 

If you’re leaving the dog overnight for a night or two due to personal reasons, then avail yourself of other options. For example, consider leaving your Golden Retriever with a friend or family member.

Or book a night or two with a dog sitter (yes, some will watch your dog overnight, albeit usually for an increased fee).

In this way, your Golden can still have its needs met and is well taken care of. 

Can I Leave My Golden Retriever Alone for a Few Days?

Often Golden Retriever owners need to be away for more than a few hours and even a few days. In those circumstances, it’s natural to wonder, can I leave my Golden Retriever alone for a few days?

Under no circumstances should a Golden Retriever be left alone for days unattended. Golden Retrievers are dependent on us for food and water and need companionship and exercise. Have someone check on the dog every 4 to 6 hours, or consider using a third party (e.g., dog sitter, kennel, friend, or family) to watch the dog.

Yes, I understand that sometimes life happens, and we may need to be away for a few days. And, unfortunately, taking your Golden Retriever with you during these times may not be doable. I get it.

Instead, have someone come in a few times a day to let your Golden Retriever relieve itself, to provide some companionship and exercise, and to feed and water it. In that case, one day can be manageable, maybe two depending on how often the dog is being checked on.

Like small children, Golden Retrievers are dependent on us to meet their needs, so leaving them unattended for days should not be done.

Consider this. Would you be comfortable leaving a two-year-old child alone for days? Why not? The answers to those questions are pretty much the same reasons you should not leave your Golden Retriever alone for days unattended. 

The most obvious option is to ask friends or family. Often our loved ones will jump at the opportunity to watch your Golden while gone.

In fact, why not ask friends or family well in advance if they might be willing to watch your dog in an emergency. In this way, you know beforehand if that is an option. If it is not, then you need to consider other options. 

Options such as a doggie daycare or a kennel are great when you’re gone for a few days. Most daycares are well equipped to board your Golden Retriever for days and offer both services. 

BAR posing for the owners at doggie daycare – this is his happy place.

Or consider hiring someone to watch your dog while gone. Many teenagers will sit for dogs, not different from kids. 

Alternately, many dog walkers also offer sitting services and may take your dog in their home for a few days or provide the service at your home. 

For example, we recently had a wedding to attend out of town. So, while we expected to be home to pick up Bailey, we advised the daycare that we would text them to let them know if we were running late.

In that way, we had the option of leaving BAR overnight, where we knew he’d be cared for safely. 

However, we also asked a family member if they could pick up Bailey before the 6:00 pm cutoff, and luckily they were able to accommodate us if required. So, either way, we had our bases covered.

A bit of pre-planning beforehand can save a lot of stress and anxiety down the road. 

What Should I Do With My Golden Retriever When on Vacation?

It is not a good idea to leave your Golden Retriever alone for more than a day – two max – even if someone is stopping by to check on the dog.

Remember, I said earlier that Golden Retrievers are social animals and need exercise and companionship. So, what should I do with Golden Retriever when on vacation?

If you cannot take your Golden Retriever on vacation with you, consider leaving the dog with friends or family, a dog sitter, a boarding kennel, or a doggie daycare. Ensuring your Golden Retriever has food and water, and its mental and physical needs are met while on vacation is essential. 

Golden Retrievers are dependent on us for more than just food and water. Goldens are social animals and need companionship and social interaction. Goldens also need plenty of activity and mental stimulation to meet their mental and physical needs. 

Of course, whenever possible, it’s best to take your Golden with you. Goldens prefer to be where you are. More and more places are now catering to people who travel with their dogs.

So, load up the van and kids, and take your Golden on vacation with you.

Don’t forget to pack the dog!!

Many hotels now offer pet-friendly suites. A little planning beforehand might result in keeping all the family together on vacation. 

Or consider looking into Airbnb or vacation rentals by owners. Many of these offer dog-friendly facilities. Leaving your Golden Retriever alone in the house for a few hours is not much different from home.

Just be sure to create a dog-proofed confinement area and give the dog time to adjust to the new setting.

Once you know where you are staying, you can then research any doggie daycare or dog walkers/sitters services available where you are vacationing. In this way, you can have your dog cared for while you and the family do your vacation stuff during the day.

Another option is looking into vet clinics. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our vet clinic had set up a kennel service with top-notch facilities and a play area in the back, which is becoming more common. 

Putting your dog in a daycare or kennel for a half-day or day during the week or regularly is a good idea. It ensures your dog is familiar with the people and setting, so if you have to leave your Golden for a few days, it’s already familiar with being there and comfortable with the staff.

The only downside is your Golden may love it so much that it might not want to leave with you when you get back. But that’s better than the alternative. 

Final Thoughts

Your Golden Retriever will be fine at home for shorter periods. Most people work for a living, and leaving their dogs home is a typical course during the week. We did this with most of our dogs as well.

Provided they can have a break in the day to relieve themselves and are given water and toys to play with, they adjust very well, primarily if you have gradually taught them to be alone beforehand. 

However, beyond a day, it’s best to have other options in place. So when you need to be gone for longer, find alternate arrangements so your Golden Retriever can thrive. 

Think of it this way. A Golden Retriever needs the basics of life: food, water, and shelter and also the basics for good health and well-being: exercise, play, socialization, and companionship.

If you are leaving them alone, make sure you do some planning in advance, and you should find very few issues and plenty of options to ensure those basic needs are met while you are away. 

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