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Constant sense of guilt....

3200 Views 16 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Galathiel
Help, help, help, dear dog owners!
I have a 2 year old Havanese, rescued from a hoarder, I love him and think he is happy, healthy, smart and wonderful. But both my hubby and I work full time, and my kid goes to school, so the poor fellow spends 7-8 hours a day in his crate, alone. I make sure he has toys and treats, but he is a social little guy and he obviously does not enjoy being left alone.

So now, every time I have to leave him and go somewhere in the evening (movies, gym, friends, shopping etc) I feel so awfully guilty! He has this look in his eyes when he sees me getting ready to leave and hearing "stay" that just breaks my heart. Do you think this is all in my mind and he really is OK by himself, or do you think it is irresponsible for people like us to have a dog. Honestly, if you think it is, I may consider giving him away, although I would miss him awfully, because he makes my heart smile..
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I completely understand. I have felt that same way. My dogs were crated 8-9 hours a day for the first 5 years of their lives. As long as he is getting enough exercise he will be fine. Eventually there will come a time when he is old enough and trained were he can be left alone with out a crate.

Currently my dogs have their own room and between me and my BF are maybe locked up in there for 5 hours at a time and that only happens a few days a week. I still feel bad when we go out at night after they have been in there during the day. But they are really fine.

Like I said earlier making sure he has the proper exercise is really important. You obviously give him the love and attention he needs so I don't really need to talk about that.
Well, some here feel guilty for leaving their dog for a few minutes in a crate. So on some level it's natural.

Although 7-8 hours is a long time, and not ideal, he likely is sleeping most of that time. Most dogs do when alone, crated or not.

Some things to benefit both you and the dog are: Doggie Day Care, coming home from work during your lunch break to give the dog a break, a dog walker, or hiring someone in your circle of people to tend to the dog (either for a walk break or for the duration).

And certainly rehoming the dog to a loving home is something responsible to consider.

I certainly don't consider you irresponsible considering I leave my dog home for that long, uncrated - but a home is a crate in a sense too. I would say if the dog appears happy, he likely is happy, and a schedule that makes you feel better is all that's needed.
To a large degree, I think it is more about quality time than quantity time. The vast majority of dog owners work and leave the dogs home for a typical work day and even those people who work from home or a stay-at-home parent have other work and chores to attend to during the day.

If a dog seems happy and is healthy, he probably is happy.

I just took in a foster rescue who was very stressed in a boarding kennel; he was being treated well and fed properly etc, but you could see in his body condition (thin), his coat (thin with dandruff), his poop (er, not the way it should be) and such that he was stressed and unhappy there. 2 weeks of calm, stress free living with long evening walks and play time and he's a different dog physically. You can TELL things are better just by looking at him. And he spends my 9 hour workday alone....
My own dog, also spending the workday alone, alternates between sleeping locations and sometimes looking out the window. If I am home on day with nothing planned, he sleeps unless there's something fun to do. He doesn't demand more activity although he will happily take on as much walking/activity as he has the chance to.

I think the question would be how much time do you normally spend with him in the evenings? You or your family members. If you have a very busy schedule where the normal day means a quick walk and then you're gone again all evening, then maybe he isn't getting enough attention and either rearranging your schedule to prioritize him more or providing alternative fun (like Curbside mentions above like doggie daycare) is probably a good idea. For example, instead of going to the gym you could go on a long walk with the dog and then use home gym equipment or free weights.
On the other hand, if you are generally home in the evenings and weekend days and only have 1-2 evenings a week where you are out without the dog, he's probably just fine alone all day and probably getting enough attention.

I also find that one really busy and fun day will kind of tide the dog over for a couple dull days. One day of doggie daycare or playing with dog buddies and the next two days can be basic walks and such. One full day out hiking in the woods and the next day, he doesn't care if he walks at all.

And in the end, some people just are simply too busy for a dog. You'll have to really look at your schedule, your lifestyle and what you are willing to change (if needed) to decide that.
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I just took in a rescued 2 year old Peke and I feel much the same way every time I need to crate her. I've found myself compromising my evening activities so she doesn't spend so much time locked up. We don't do dinner AND a movie anymore, it's dinner OR a movie, and we always take her on a long walk beforehand. Then I feel confident that she's going to snooze while we are away.

I'm also lucky because "Grandma" will stop in to take her for a walk if we are going to be away for more than four hours or so. Having a helper is wonderful.
I feel guilty about this sometimes, too. We have a dog walker come every day, and if we're going out to dinner/movie/other dog-free activity at night or on the weekend, we usually take her to daycare if it's going to be more than a couple of hours. Would that be an option for you?
I think it's ok and definitely not a reason to give him away, but if it worries you, have you tried phasing out the crate? Or does he have to be crated for some reason? Maybe you could try leaving him out for short times while you run errands or try keeping him in one room to himself?

I used to crate my border collie while I was at work because he can be destructive, but he started busting out of the crate while I was gone, the third time breaking his foot in the process. After that I started keeping him in the bedroom, I just have to make sure everything is picked up, shoes, etc. He is doing much better and I like not having to look at an ugly crate in the house.

Some dogs have to be crated though, I understand that, and it sounds like you are doing it right with toys and treats and whatnot.
Well, if it makes you feel better, my dogs are home for 10 hrs a day throughout the week- I leave my house for work at 6:45 and don't get home until 4:45, but nor my dogs or myself have any issues with this. My older of the two isn't crated and has full freedom in the house at all times, my 1 year old I still can't trust fully for extended periods of time so during the work week he is in a very large 4' x 4' x 4' pen that sits in a corner of my kitchen where he has lots of bones, treat dispensing toys, stuffed kongs, and other toys, plus my other dog sleeps most of the day not far from the other dogs kennel, so they kinda have eachother for company. After work on most days I either take them both for about an 1.5 hr walk at a dog park, and play fetch with Thumper, or let him go swimming in the river, while Cash just has a casual walk (he isn't overly active), and since I try to run 5+ km every other evening I will take Thumper for a run, and then I'll take them both for another light walk in the evening around the lake before bed. Cash I dont worry about so much, but if I am not able to take Thumper out for whatever reason, he easily entertains and exercises himself by herding flies in the backyard, he honestly gets so tired from this that he passes out cold and sleeps like a log lol. neither of my dogs seem to get separation anxiety though, they are always of course excited when I get home from work, but they don't bark or whine or get anxiety when I leave. They appear and act like very happy, content and well-behaved dogs, so I feel no reason to be guilty for leaving them for long hours during the week.
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I crate my border collie mix (think high energy!) for 8ish hours per day. She doesn't seem to mind. To me, it's more important what you do with your time together. When I am around, we go on walks, practice tricks, do agility, throw balls/discs, practice nosework, go on hikes, etc. I don't worry about my dog's happiness because I provide all of these outlets for her energy to make up for the time when I can't be there.
While I can understand your guilt, try to let it go. Many people leave dogs home alone while they work. Look into purchasing the "through a dogs ear" CD's. They're designed to help dogs relax. We play ours every time we're going to be gone for more than a couple hours. If you rehomed him, how would you know he'd have it any better in a new home? Someone could be home all day noe gut have a full time job in a month.
Man I am super glad I found and read this thread. I just went for a job interview today that requires ten hour days for 4 days a week. And with travel I will likely be away 12 hours. But hubby will be home before me most days and he works 9 day fortnights so its not all bad. But I still couldn't shake that feeling! I feel a lot better after reading everything here. Going to look at day cares and what not if I get this position. Fingers crossed!
I totally know how you feel. Hitch is in his crate for 8hrs 3-4 days a week. I feel so bad to even go grocery shopping. I am happy that my lifestyle lets me be with him most of the time that I am not at work, he goes hiking most days, and to the horse stables every day with me. I want to go to the fair that is in town, but don't want to leave Hitch for that long.
Thank you, everybody for your advice. Max is still not fully housetrained so he has to be crated while we are not at home... as soon as he can control his bladder I will start leaving him out of the crate and hope that he finds enough interesting sttuff around the house to keep himself occupied between naps.
I may look into doggy daycare as well after summer - at least once or twice per week, so I don't feel guilty about leaving him home in the evenings. The problem is that he is a shy fellow and is scared of most dogs, even small ones, so doggy daycare may be torture for him!
Thank you once again for your patience and lack of criticism. Frankly, I expected to be dragged over coals and called irresponsible to even consider becoming a dog owner and working full time. As the article in the Atlantic says - "you can't have it all!"
My westie mix is crated when we go out for more than a couple of hours (she's okay out for a trip to the grocery store, but with her being relatively new, I don't trust her completely yet). Dogs usually sleep most of the day anyway - lol! Right now, Maddie's in her crate sleeping with the door open...

Like others have said, just make sure that the time out of the crate includes plenty of attention and exercise, and your dog should be fine.
We have no choice but to crate our Zora all day while are at work until the kids get home from school (around 3pm) or she has potty accidents, she will pee on our sofa! I do feel guilty about it, but I know she is provided with a loving home and adores us, and I would never rehome her because I work. She sleeps all day regardless and doesn't complain about her crate, often times she sleeps in there without being asked; it's her den and she likes it there.
The problem is that he is a shy fellow and is scared of most dogs, even small ones, so doggy daycare may be torture for him!
He might like a dog walker instead, or even a trustworthy neighbor kid (I mean teen, not small child) just stopping by to play with him the yard for a bit in the early afternoon.

If you live near a college for example, you might find a college kid that can come by the morning between classes for a short walk or yard time. When I was in college, if your house was either walking distance or on my way to/from class, I'd gladly have spent a half hour per day with the pup for $30-40 /week.

A daily dog walker will likely cost around $20/day (obviously location specific)

If you do doggie daycare, they might have a shy dog set-up. Some will have a senior dog group and might put a shy and small younger dog in with the quiet older ones. And after a bit of time around more dogs, he might become more comfortable around them and enjoy playing.
Even after 12 years, I have to either crate Rai Li or put him in the bathroom. He can't be trusted not to mark while there are no eyes on him. I've started putting him in the small guest bath mainly as there is more room for him to amble around (tiled so nothing to worry about), but I don't even bother with toys or bones. He won't play or eat while he is locked up. When I let him out, he runs out excitedly to see me, then he'll dart back to the crate/bathroom and retrieve the chew/bone he has ignored and bring it out to work on. He does a lot of snoozing while we're away.
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