Tips for Leaving a Dog Home Alone
Although leaving a dog home alone for long periods might be far from dog owners’ minds in the midst of a pandemic, part of the world returning to normal will involve preparing your dog for that change to your time spent together.
Work with your new puppy or adult dog now to alleviate separation anxiety in the future. When you leave them alone, there’s not much that you can do for them. But right now when you are there together, there are many behaviors that you can work on to improve the quality of their alone time in the future.
We know that you love your dog like a family member and want them to be well taken care of, even when you are not there. Here are just a few tips for leaving a dog at home, including some actionable steps to start today that will set you up for a better future with your dog.
Use Music Cues to Help Calm Their Nerves
Just like their furless best friends, research shows that dogs do enjoy music and will react to it on an emotional level. You can use this psychological trait to your advantage by conditioning your dog with calming music or a sound machine.
Make a habit of turning on calming music or a sound machine when you are getting ready for bedtime or relaxing while your dog snuggles up to you on the couch. If you sleep with the sound of ocean waves or rainfall playing at night, even better. You can use these sounds to create pleasant and calm memories for your dog to associate those songs and sounds with a time of rest and relaxation.
By creating this connection between the calming music and a good time for a dog-nap, you can condition your dog’s involuntary nervous system to relax when it is played. Even if you are spending a lot of time at home right now, with music conditioning you will be preparing your dog for a better experience the next time that they are left behind for a significant amount of time.
Create a Space of Comfort for Them
In tandem with a soundtrack that is on point, you will want to provide your dog with a prime napping place where they feel safe. This space will allow them to take full advantage of those audio cues while you’re off at work all day or out at the bar half the night.
Particularly if you have a small pen or doggy kennel where your dog will be contained while you are away, you want to ensure that this is a place of comfort for them.
The negative reaction that some dogs have towards kennels is the feeling of being locked inside, but you also have the opportunity to create a refuge where your dog feels protected and content instead. Theoretically speaking, a small and cozy kennel can remind your dog of their instinctual nature to seek out caves and their innate memories of a small protected womb.
To help create this positive environment, the space should be accessible for naps and lounging even while you are there at home. This way they have the opportunity to associate positive memories with spending time there.
Make sure there are plenty of soft and snuggly items provided as well as a few special toys for comfort. Encourage your dog to nap there by sitting yourself nearby and establishing early on that this is a safe space for them.
Set Aside Special Toys and Treats for Alone Time
If your dog isn’t one for a catnap during the day, you can create another more active association for them by bringing out a special chew toy or treat that they only get to play with during their alone time.
Puzzle toys that stash treats inside, large juicy bones to slowly gnaw on, or peanut butter in a hard-to-reach kong toy are all excellent things to keep your dog occupied while you are out and about. If they only have access to the delectable dog bone, special treat, or exciting toy when you are away, they are more likely to take advantage of the time that they have to engage with these special toys and treats.
Establish a Longstanding Relationship with a Dog Walker, Dog Sitter, or Daycare
Sometimes, there is just nothing that you can do to prevent long days at the office or away from home. If you work full-time, it is unrealistic to expect any pooch will remain content and happy while left alone for longer periods of time—no matter what music you play or what toys you leave for them. They are social animals who crave social interaction.
The good news is that you do not have to rely on conditioning alone to set your dog up for success when you have long days away from home.
Establishing an ongoing relationship with a pet sitter of sorts, a reliable and trusted dog walker, or a quality daycare is a great way to get peace of mind that your dog gets the care and attention that they need even when you are not around to give it to them. In addition to long walks and playtime, this also provides a much-needed opportunity for poops and potty breaks that older dogs and young puppies alike will appreciate.
The first time they meet this new person or place may be scary, so make sure to start in small doses. Introduce your dog to the dog walker early on to establish trust and comfort with them. In the beginning, they could come over to cover a short break in the day while you run some errands, or just to take your pup for a walk while you take care of chores at home. For a doggie daycare, drop your dog off for short visits or any length of time to get them used to the place.
When the time comes for you to return to long days away from home and your furry best friend, you will be glad that you put in the time to help them develop this relationship with a person who will take care of your dog’s needs.
Let Them Know You’ll Always Come Back
Although our human lives occasionally pull us away from our furry friends for hours at a time, we hope that these tips help to ease that tension for your beloved dog. Who knows, they may even learn to enjoy the “me time” with good music, a nice snack, and a chill nap.