How many days per week do you leave your dog alone for long periods of time? The answer is probably almost every day.
With the fast pace of modern life, we are spending less and less time at home. Leaving your puppy or dog at home alone while you head off to work, appointments or shopping is sometimes unavoidable. Understandably, we can’t always take them with us, so ensuring they don’t become too lonely and stressed while we are away is part of caring for their welfare.
Puppies and dogs left alone may experience separation anxiety, boredom and loneliness, but there are plenty of things we can do to help minimise these negative experiences.
Firstly, before even bringing a pet home, consider the timing of the adoption of your new family member. A long weekend or holiday period is when you are likely to be home more and this is a good opportunity to spend extra time getting to know your new addition and getting them used to you and their new surroundings.
Dogs can experience separation anxiety or become bored when left alone, and this is especially true for puppies, who can even become destructive if they don’t have things to do. They may dig, chew and destroy furniture or the garden, so keeping them occupied in their surroundings is vital to maintaining a happy home environment.
‘Training’ your dog to being comfortable alone may take time. You can start by keeping the length of time you leave your puppy or dog alone to a minimum and gradually extending that time so your pooch learns that when you leave, you also come back.
Taking your dog for a walk within a few minutes of returning is also a good idea so it learns to associate this with your return which will help with toilet training. Dogs thrive on routine – it helps them feel secure and avoid toileting accidents.
When leaving the house for longer periods of time, take your puppy or dog out for a walk beforehand to allow them to use up some energy and relieve themselves before being confined. As a general rule, if your dog lives indoors, you should be walking them at least twice a day.
Make sure you leave your pooch in a spot where they are already comfortable, such as your laundry or bathroom when they are young, or the entire house if they are more mature.
Ensure that anything that could harm your puppy (such as detergents or chemicals) are locked away in inaccessible cupboards.
Check they have access to their water in a container that can’t be tipped over.
It might even be a good idea to let your neighbours know that you have a new puppy or dog while they’re settling in.
If you get home and your puppy or dog has had an accident, there is no point in trying to correct or punish them at that time. They will not associate your reprimand with any behaviour they have displayed hours before, as dogs can only learn to associate actions with consequences in the seconds after an event.
Both puppies and dogs need a toy or two to play with in your absence. Some toys can be stuffed with treats (you might need to reduce your dog’s regular feeding accordingly); or you can purchase or make puzzles that will occupy your dog for longer periods of time while you are away.
Leaving the TV or radio on for them while you are away may help lessen anxiety and can reduce background noise, particularly if your dog barks at people walking past the house.
If possible, see if you can get someone to pop in during the day to check on them, or take them to puppy or doggy day-care where they can be with other people and dogs for the day.
With some information and preparation, leaving your beloved pooch home alone doesn’t have to be stressful for anyone.