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Can Australian Shepherds Be Left Alone For 8 Hours?

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An Australian Shepherd left alone

The Australian Shepherd, or Aussie, is an intelligent and energetic dog breed known for bonding strongly with their owners. In a multi-person household, Aussies sometimes tend to pick a favorite person. However, they are generally affectionate to their entire families. 

Bred for obedience and interdependency, Aussies would follow their owners around every day, all day. They paid close attention to the shepherds that kept them and would listen to the directions they were given to herd the livestock. Today, Aussies are finding their way into family homes instead of the field. Most Aussies kept as family dogs tend to form strong attachments to their owners. 

Wherever their owner is, there they want to be. Because they are pre-programmed to follow you around, Aussies don't typically do well when left alone for several hours at a time. Of course, every individual Aussie is different. For example, while some Aussies can be moderately active, many are extremely active. Likewise, while many Aussies are very needy in terms of attention, some tend to be independent. But generally, Aussies are well known for wanting to always be with their families.

If you work a 9-to-5 job and are considering getting an Aussie, read on to find out how long these beautiful dogs can be left alone.

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Australian Shepherds are intelligent and energetic dogs that require a great deal of exercise and playtime to stay happy. They are very loyal to their owners but don't care about strangers. This loyalty, combined with their smarts, makes them very easy to train. What's more, Aussies are well known for being eager to please their owners. 

They possess a strong herding instinct and can sometimes try to herd kids and other dogs. Furthermore, most Aussies tend to be Velcro dogs, sticking to their owners through thick and thin. They crave human interaction and reassurance and therefore can develop separation anxiety when they are left alone.

Can an Australian Shepherd Be Left Alone For 8 Hours?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends dogs spend no more than six to eight hours alone.
Some factors to consider when planning to leave an Aussie for more than six hours include:
  • Age of the Australian Shepherd: It is recommended that Aussie puppies not be left alone for more than one hour. An adult Aussie may be left home alone for four to six hours at a time. Elderly Aussies' alone time may differ depending on the condition of their health.
  • Physical exercise and mental stimulation needs: As I mentioned earlier, Aussies require mental stimulation just as much as physical. On average, the AKC recommends at least two hours of exercise daily for adult Aussies. This can be split into two or three walks. Aussie puppies need at least five minutes of exercise per month of their age twice daily. On the other hand, elderly Australian Shepherds need gradually less exercise as they age. Your vet can recommend an exercise routine for your elderly Aussie.
  • Previous training and socialization: Whether or not you can leave your Aussie alone for 8 hours depends on how the dog was trained and socialized. The AKC recommends teaching your dog to be alone while you are still in the house. For this purpose, you can get an exercise pen or crate for your Aussie. Additionally, it is recommended that you feed your dog and provide it with toys inside the crate. This is to help the dog see its confinement area as a place to relax rather than as punishment. When your Aussie is happy to enter the crate on its own, you’re ready to begin alone-time training.

Concerns of Leaving an Australian Shepherd Alone

  • Separation anxiety: An Aussie that wasn't trained to enjoy time by itself, when left alone, can exhibit problem behaviors, which can vary in terms of severity. At worst, your Australian Shepherd can develop separation anxiety. In this condition, your Aussie is severely stressed from the moment you leave the house until you finally return.
  • Destructive behavior: At best, an untrained solitary Aussie will make its own fun, for the most part, through destructive behaviors.
  • Boredom and its consequences: Aussies are highly energetic and therefore tend to get bored when they don't have a job to do. Your Aussie can easily get bored when left for more than 6 hours without any activity to do. Consequently, the dog may resort to acting aggressively.

Tips for Leaving an Australian Shepherd Alone

  • Establish a routine: Prior to leaving your Australian Shepherd alone at home, there are a few things you can do to help them stay calm and relaxed. Firstly, take your Aussie for a long walk before you go out. That way, the dog will burn off some energy and will hopefully be ready to settle down while you are out. Secondly, don’t make a fuss when you leave or return to the house. In other words, don't make your going out and coming in a big deal for your Aussie. Instead, you should make it as uneventful as possible. When leaving the house, you could also use words such as "see you later," which helps to establish a routine.
  • Provide interactive toys and puzzles: Engagement is key. By noon, your Australian Shepherd's energy levels would spike. But you should be prepared for this. This is where interactive toys and puzzle feeders come into play. These tools are not just toys but are designed to keep pets engaged, which is essential for their well-being.
  • Hire a dog walker or pet sitter: Actress Amanda Seyfried, with her busy work schedule, is one of the many celebrities who own an Australian Shepherd. In an interview with E! News, Amanda said she would hire a pet sitter to make sure her furry friend is OK when she and the dog are apart. She said she would have the pet sitter send her at least two videos of her dog per day on his walks or just snoozing in the sun. Furthermore, Amanda said she would get so envious, but also excited knowing she would soon get to snuggle with her Aussie, named Finn. You could do the same for your Aussie if they will be alone for eight hours.

Conclusion

Whether or not you can leave your Australian Shepherd for 8 hours depends on how you train the dog. Aussies are very intelligent and therefore can be easily trained to enjoy being home alone. Of course, some Aussies will do better with more alone time than others. That said, don't get angry when your solitary Aussie behaves in a way that you don’t want. This will only serve to make matters worse. Rather, focus on praising and rewarding your Aussie when they remain calm and relaxed.

As a general rule, you should consider going to doggy daycare, having a dog walker come by, or getting a neighbor or loved one to drop by for a walk if your dog will be alone for more than 6 to 8 hours.

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