Do you ask yourself, “does my dog need alone time?”

Why Dogs Need Structured Downtime and Alone Time


I get asked this a lot: “How do I burn off my dog’s excess energy?” What I don’t get asked a lot is: How do I teach my dog to relax and be alone?” Amidst the playtime, walks, visitors to the home, and the chaos of everyday life, it is crucial to recognize that our dogs also require structured downtime and alone time. Just like humans, dogs need periods of rest and relaxation to maintain their physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of incorporating structured downtime and alone time into your dog’s routine, and how it can benefit their overall health and happiness.

What is Structured Downtime?

First, what do I mean by structured downtime? I’m referring to designated periods where your dog can rest, relax, and unwind without the stimulation of playtime, exercise, or social interaction. Just like you would for a small child. This downtime can take place in a comfortable, quiet space such as a crate, a designated room, or their bed. The key is to create a safe and secure environment where your dog can retreat to whenever they need a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The Benefits of Structured Downtime

One of the primary reasons why structured downtime is so important for dogs is that it helps them manage stress and anxiety of everyday life. Dogs can become overwhelmed by constant stimulation, whether it’s from prolonged playtime, the constant activity in our homes, exposure to new environments, or interactions with unfamiliar people or animals. By providing a calm place where they can escape and rest, you are helping your dog cope with the stresses that come with living with humans and our busy daily life. This can also prevent behavioral issues, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, or nervousness.

Just like humans, dogs require adequate sleep to maintain their physical and mental well-being. A lack of proper rest can lead to a variety of health issues, including a weakened immune system, weight gain, and even cognitive decline. By establishing a consistent routine that includes designated periods for rest and relaxation, you are  supporting your dog’s natural sleep cycle and ensuring they get the sleep they need.

The Importance of Alone Time

Now, let’s turn our attention to alone time. While dogs are social creatures that thrive on human companionship, it’s equally important for them to learn how to be comfortable and confident when alone. Encouraging independent play and self-entertainment during alone time helps prevent over-reliance on human attention and can reduce separation anxiety. One of the first things I tell my puppy client is that they need to teach their puppy to be alone. As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, I see a lot of dogs who were never taught that it is alright to be alone. There was a 700% rise in separation anxiety cases after COVID, when everyone went back to work and their dogs had no idea how to cope.

Fostering Independence During Alone Time

One effective way to foster independence in your dog is by providing them with engaging toys and puzzles that challenge their mind and keep them occupied. Interactive toys, such as treat dispensers or puzzle feeders, not only provide mental stimulation and enrichment, but also reward your dog for their problem-solving efforts. By rotating these toys and introducing new challenges regularly, you can keep your dog interested and mentally engaged even when you’re not around.

Additionally, incorporating alone time into your dog’s routine helps them develop essential life skills, such as self-soothing and self-regulation. When left alone, dogs have the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves, manage their own emotions, and cope with boredom. These skills are crucial for building resilience and adaptability, which can serve them well in various situations throughout their lives.

Tailoring Downtime and Alone Time to Your Dog’s Needs

It’s important to note that the amount of structured downtime and alone time your dog needs may vary depending on factors such as age, breed, and individual personality. Puppies, for example, require more frequent naps and shorter periods of alone time compared to adult dogs. Similarly, some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety and may need a more gradual approach to building their independence. It is crucial for you to observe your dog’s behavior and adjust their routine accordingly.

Incorporating Structured Downtime and Alone Time into Your Dog’s Routine

To successfully incorporate structured downtime and alone time into your dog’s life, start by establishing a consistent schedule. Set aside specific times each day for rest and relaxation, such as after mealtimes or following a play session. Gradually increase the duration of these periods as your dog becomes more comfortable and accustomed to the routine. It’s also helpful to create a positive association with their designated rest area by offering treats, puzzle toys, cam words of praise, and comfortable bedding.

When it comes to alone time, begin with short periods of separation and gradually extend the duration as your dog builds confidence. Ensure that your dog has access to fresh water, a comfortable bed, and mentally engaging toys during these periods. It’s also important to avoid making a big fuss when leaving or returning home, as this can inadvertently reinforce any anxiety or excitement associated with separation. Always exit or enter your home calmly. Wait for your dog to settle down before giving them attention when you return home.


In conclusion, incorporating structured downtime and alone time into your dog’s routine is a vital aspect of responsible pet ownership. By providing a safe and secure environment for rest and relaxation, you’re promoting your dog’s physical and mental well-being, reducing stress and anxiety, and supporting healthy sleep patterns. Additionally, encouraging independence and self-entertainment during alone time helps prevent over-reliance on human attention and builds essential life skills.

Remember, every dog is unique, and it’s important to tailor their routine to their individual needs and personality. By being patient, consistent, and observant, you can create a balanced and fulfilling life for your dog. So, the next time you’re tempted to fill your dog’s day with constant activity and interaction, remember the value of structured downtime and alone time. Your dog will thank you for it!