I just got an 11 week old Shih Tzu 3 days ago. I am a teacher and we have been out of school all week because of a huge ice storm in the Midwest, but come Monday I will have to go back and the puppy will be alone for several hours. I live only about 3 minutes from my school so I can come home at least once per day, but two of those days I will have to come early (8:45 - 9:15). The other 3 days I will be able to spend about 30 minutes with my puppy at noon. I am thinking that this may be too long for the puppy to be in a crate. I leave my house at around 7:20 in the morning and get home at around 3:20.

I purchased an appropriately sized crate, but I'm wondering if I should maybe put my puppy in a sectioned off area of my laundry room that is just large enough for my puppy's bed, water bowl, and a puppy pad. I have a pet gate and have set up a little area like this to see if it would work. The puppy pad is about an inch from the bed. Is this far enough away that he will not feel that he is soiling his den area? Also, I had to fold the puppy pad and the pad holder in half to make it fit (because my gate wouldn't stretch any farther). The pads are the large kind, but folded in half they are kind of too small. I tried taking it out of the holder so I could customize the size, but when I did the puppy started chewing it up. I thought about just using newspaper, but wonder if he would chew those up too?

This has been a real ordeal--I wish I had waited until summer vacation to get the puppy now, but I guess I wasn't thinking everything through too clearly. I just want to do what is best for my puppy. I have tried to think of anyone who could come over during the day to play with and let the puppy out of the crate to potty, but there is just nobody. I'm concerned about the two days when I will have to leave him alone from 9:15 until 3:20. I'm not even sure that coming home at noon the other three days will be soon enough, because even then he will have been in the crate for almost 5 hours. And once a month at least I will have a meeting that may prevent my coming home during the day at all. Any suggestions on how to get through until summer break (end of May)? Should I use the laundry area with the combo bed/bathroom setup instead of a crate? Or will this ruin any chances of my puppy ever being satisfactorily potty trained?

Thank you very much for any help you can offer.