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Can You Leave a Dog in the Backyard While at Work? Facts & FAQs

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

a senior dog laying in the grass in a backyard smiling at the camera

Can You Leave a Dog in the Backyard While at Work? Facts & FAQs

Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that most dogs go crazy at the thought of going outside. It’s so fun for them to zip across the yard and roll around in things they probably shouldn’t; plus, getting sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul. But does that mean you should leave your dog in the yard all day while at work? No; leaving your dog outside for prolonged periods can lead to behavioral issues, health complications, and in some cases, legal consequences. Keep reading below to learn more about the dangers of leaving your dog outside for too long.

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Why Is Leaving Your Dog in the Yard for Long Periods Not Advised?

While many people think that leaving their dog in the backyard is better than leaving him indoors for long periods, that is not the case.

Destructive Behavior

Dogs can feel cooped up in the backyard, which can cause them to become restless and look for ways to burn off energy. This often leads them to participate in destructive or disruptive behaviors such as digging holes, barking, or even attempting to escape. Leaving your dog alone can be a safety hazard, especially if your yard is not fenced in. Fencing can keep most dogs secure, but even that may not deter craftier escape artists.

Extreme Temperatures

Remaining outdoors for long periods can be a health hazard for your dog if the weather is bad. Extreme heat, cold, or other inclement weather conditions can hurt your dog if he is left exposed to the elements for too long.

While you may think that you are doing your dog a favor by leaving him outdoors while you are at work, the truth is that this is a far more dangerous option than leaving him indoors. Indoors, your dog can rest safely in a temperature-controlled room where no wild animals or unfamiliar dogs can approach him.

german shepherd dog lying on snow in winter
Image Credit: Yan Krukau, Pexels

What Does the Law Say?

Many municipalities have strict laws to protect dogs from being left outdoors in suboptimal conditions. Different local governments have established regulations, so you will need to check with your local government bodies to determine the legal expectations that you need to adhere to.

The legal limit on how long you can leave your dog outdoors is generally considered the bare minimum of care. While these laws were established with good intentions, they are not always specified to a particular breed’s needs or health concerns. If your local government states that you can leave your dog outdoors for 1 hour during extreme weather conditions, that does not mean it is safe for your dog to be outdoors for that long. It simply means that it is legal.

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How Long Can Your Dog Stay Outdoors?

There are many factors to consider when calculating how long your dog can safely remain outdoors. Some of the main things to consider include your dog’s breed and size, age, health, and facial structure.

bernese mountain dog in the backyard
Image Credit: Kristesoro, Shutterstock

Breed and Size

Your dog’s breed greatly affects how long he can stay outside. For instance, if he has a thick, heavy coat, he can endure colder temperatures for longer periods; however, he cannot remain in the heat for long.

Similarly, your dog’s size determines how well he can handle certain weather conditions. Smaller dogs will be much more susceptible to cold, putting them at a higher risk for hypothermia, while larger dogs may struggle more in the heat.


Puppies younger than 8 weeks old should be kept out of extreme weather situations since they have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. Likewise, senior or geriatric dogs should not be left outdoors for long periods because they’re more susceptible to illness or injuries.


Dogs dealing with health complications should not be left to brave the elements outdoors.

Facial Structure

Is your dog a member of a brachycephalic breed? If so, he should not be kept outdoors for very long, especially during extreme weather conditions. Brachycephalic breeds are highly sensitive to intense weather conditions, making them susceptible to heat stroke or hypothermia.

Close up of dental condition with overbite and missing teeth of a flat nosed French Bulldog dog
Image Credit: Firn,Shutterstock

How to Prepare Your Dog for Outdoor Time

While it is dangerous to leave your dog out for prolonged periods of time (especially without supervision), that doesn’t mean that your dog should never spend quality time outdoors. When preparing to take your dog outside, consider the following checklist of items:

  • An adequate shelter: If your dog is going to be outdoors, he’ll need a spot to relax in the shade and cool off.
  • Access to food and water: If your dog is going to stay outside a little longer than usual, ensure he has access to food and water.
  • A safe enclosure: Ensure your dog can’t run off the moment you turn your back; likewise, ensure that no other animals can get inside the yard.
  • Entertainment options: To prevent your dog from engaging in destructive or disruptive behaviors, provide him with plenty of entertainment options, such as toys or puzzles.

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Final Thoughts

As important as outdoor time is for your dog, it is equally important to ensure that your dog is not left outdoors for too long. Overexposure to the elements can cause serious health issues like dehydration, heat stroke, and hypothermia. To determine how long your dog can stay outside, consider your pet’s breed, size, age, health, and facial structure. Senior dogs and those with medical conditions must stay indoors for most of the day to stay safe.

Featured Image Credit: Annette Shaff, Shutterstock

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