Whether you have had dogs your whole life or you are a new pet owner, you have probably become well acquainted with the feelings associated with “puppy eyes.”
The look that your dog gives you when you leave the house is enough to make you feel like a terrible pet owner and bad dog friend. However, being comfortable with leaving your pet at home alone is a necessity for you to attend to your daily needs.
This can be a stressful time for them, and they may also get into danger if left unsupervised. Protecting your pet, as well as your home, will allow you to leave the house worry-free.
To ensure that Fido knows that you will always return for them, leave often for shorter amounts of times when first bringing them home. Note any behaviors that you need to address upon your return. If your dog is unhappy, destructive, barking or having other issues, it may be time to consider crate training. Not every dog owner is comfortable crate training their pet. However, if you notice any early indicators that your animal is prone to separation anxiety or destructive behaviors, it may be wise to start crate training at a young age.
Dogs with high amounts of energy, such as cattle dogs and pointers, have a tendency to act out when not exercised regularly. If you know that you cannot get them the proper amount of exercise before heading off to work, crate training may be the best option for both of you. It will keep them safe from any potential items that they may decide to chew or swallow, and it ensures some peace of mind for you throughout your workday.
Food and Water
Timing your dog’s food and water consumption may be important depending on how long you plan to be gone and whether or not they have access to a doggy door. If your fur baby has access outside and is house trained, give them open access to their daily allotment of food and fresh water shouldn’t provide you with any issues. A smaller pet with a small bladder or an animal with frequent urination issues, restricting their access to water will enable you to be gone for longer periods of time without coming home to a puddle to clean up. When using a crate while you are gone, be sure to purchase one that is large enough to hold a water bowl to not overcrowd them while in their crate.
Smart Home, Smart Owner
Home automation technologies are set to expand rapidly over the next few years, giving homeowners much more control over things like security and the thermostat, even when you are away from home. Sensors and cameras in smart homes can also allow you to keep an eye on your dog’s activity throughout the day. If you have been wondering what has been setting off the barking that your neighbors mentioned, this will help you get to the bottom of it.
If you are finding that your dog is having separation anxiety that results in them getting into the garbage or tearing things up, having a camera may help to discover their trigger points and aid in finding some relief for them. Understanding our pets’ behaviors can help us to find solutions to any issues that may arise from them being left home alone.
Hot or Cold
While you may want to adjust the thermostat to save money on heating or cooling costs when you’re out of the home, it’s important to set your indoor temperature to a comfortable range for your dog. Setting your gas fireplace too high in the colder months can result in your pet becoming overheated or dehydrated if left inside for too long. Your pets also run the risk of being too cold if you completely turn off the heat or air conditioning while you’re away. Dogs are well equipped to regulate their own body temperature and comfort levels, but you can offer them additional comfort by setting your thermostat to a moderate setting, depending on the season.
Your dog may take extra liberties with your furniture when left home alone. It’s important to encourage positive habits and pet-proof your furniture when possible. Gate off certain areas of your house when you are away to prevent your pet from causing harm. Give them routine and a space to play lets them stay comfortable in your absence.
Minimizing the amount of clutter and other objects in your home can free up space for your dog to move around and may help minimize the amount of trouble they could get into when left to their own devices alone with all your belongings.
Try some of the following organizational tips:
Assign an area of the house such as a corner of the living room, reserved just for your dog. Store their toys, treats and dog bed there.
Place furniture, crates or dog beds in front of the windows that they can relax on while enjoying a view of the outdoors.
Keep items that may be mistaken as toys in storage areas or out of reach of your pet.
Your pet should know that leaving them at home alone is not a punishment. Giving them words of praise before you leave the house can help put them at ease. Some animals fair better with the help of an anxiety blanket or jacket that helps them feel cuddled and nurtured, even when you’re away. If your pet needs something to distract them, try stuffing an indestructible toy, such as a Kong, with nut butter and treats and then freezing the toy. Giving it to your pet when you walk out the door will leave your pet happily at home alone. You can also buy them a puzzle feeding dish that will slow them down and have them playfully work for their meal. Another option is a treat dispenser that is set on a timer that will give them a mid-day treat for being a good dog.
By reassessing their routine walk schedule and exercise habits, your pup’s bad behavior might change. If you typically give your dog a long walk at the end of your workday, it might work better to do morning walks instead. This allows your pup to expel some energy before being left alone for the day. Much like humans, we are more prone to napping and resting once our energy is drained. It may also just be that your pet needs a bit more stimulation. Try opening the blinds to allow them to look outside — this provides mental stimulation that will help pass the time for them until you return.
Get a Dog Walker
If you find that your dog is not getting enough exercise due to your being gone frequently, consider hiring a dog walker. A dog of any age shouldn’t be left at home for more than six hours at a time. Even if your furry friend has access to the outdoors, they could still benefit from the interaction with another human or animal. If you routinely work more than eight hours per day, getting a second pet may settle Fido’s nerves while you’re away. You can test out the waters of bringing home another pet by volunteering to be a foster parent or by taking your animal to meet the other in a neutral area, such as a dog park.
It is common practice to turn on music or television for your pet when you are away. This helps your pooch know that they are not alone by hearing other sounds in the house. If you are going to leave music playing, choose a soothing radio station that won’t be upsetting to them. Avoid intense sounds such as heavy metal music — it has varying frequencies that can be irritating to dogs’ sensitive ears. Get to know your dog better by creating a playlist for them and see how they react to it on your doggie cam.
Not many of us are lucky enough to work from home or be able to bring our pet to work. Initiating routines and procedures when you leave your dog at home alone will ensure the safety and sanity of both you and your pet. Some dogs don’t ever have an issue being left at home alone and are happy with access to fresh water and a doggy door. However, you never know until you try. Start will small amounts of time away and reward them when you get home for any good behavior. Through trial and error, you will learn what works well for you and your animal.
About the Author
Frankie Wallace writes about a wide variety of different topics, from environmental issues to politics. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho.