How To Leave Your Dog Home Alone And Happy
At some point every dog owner must leave his best friend home alone to run errands, go to work, or travel. Preparing and making arrangements to ensure your dog is well cared for and not overly bored or anxious can be daunting and, for many, guilt-inducing. But knowing your options, together with a little dog training, can help reassure you about leaving your dog alone and keeping him happy while you’re gone. Read on to learn the best plan for your best pal so your partings are relaxing and your reunions sweet.
Understanding Your Dog And His Attachment To You
Dogs are highly social creatures, and your dog’s desire to be near you, the de facto leader of his pack, is completely natural. He simply feels most safe, secure and happy when you are near. But for your sake and his it is crucial he feels content spending time on his own so you can both enjoy this beautiful friendship to its fullest. Ideally, you’ll train your dog to be alone when he is a puppy, before any anxiety and problem behaviors set in. But older dogs, such as rescues who never learned to be alone, can also be retrained to spend time alone. Expect them to be a little slower on the uptake than their puppy counterparts, but with consistency, patience and gradual changes, they too can be at ease alone.
Training Your Dog To Be Alone
- A Dog Crate – Your dog naturally desires his own space, and a snug dog crate replicates the comfort and security of a den. Some dogs even like a blanket draped over the crate for added coziness. Your dog’s crate should be left open as a happy option. Never close your dog within the crate as a form of punishment. If you plan to limit your dog to a section of the house using a door or a dog gate when you are gone, keep his crate there.
- A Dog Bed – A comfy dog bed will often become your dog’s go-to spot for self-soothing when you are out of the house. As with the crate, if you plan to keep your dog contained, make sure his dog bed is located within the confined area.
- Dog Toys – A few choice dog toys reserved for when your dog spends time in his special spot and when you are out of the house will help your dog associate chewing and resting with time alone. Plush dog toys, chew toys, and food puzzle toys where your dog has to work hard to tease out the treats within are great options. The toys should be indestructible so your dog won’t be able to chew off pieces and swallow them.
- A Leash – Train your dog to be content while you tend to household chores by tying him to a heavy, stable object with a six-foot leash. Give him a few of his favorite toys and then move a few feet away. Gradually increase your distance, while remaining within his sightline. (Note: Never leave your dog tied on a leash unattended.) Before you know it, you can remove the leash and he’ll be content to play while you work around the house.
- Fresh Water – Make sure you set out a clean water bowl or two with enough water to get your dog comfortably through your time apart. In hot weather, set out even more water to ensure your dog stays well hydrated.
- Separate Early and Often – Hard though it may be, it’s wise to leave your furry bundle of joy alone from the get-go so he doesn’t become dependent on your company. Make sure he has a soft bed or crate, plenty of water, and a favorite toy. Head to another room with no fanfare while he is content playing. Start with a few minutes and gradually increase the time you’re out of sight. Be sure to hold off opening the door if you hear him whining, crying, or barking. When he is quiet, you can enter the room and give him brief praise in a no-nonsense tone. Slowly incorporate trips outside the house to the routine, following the same steps.
- Treats = Goodbye – Special treats, such as goodies inside food puzzle toys, should be given only when you are leaving and not when you return. Your puppy may even learn to enjoy when you are preparing to leave for work, knowing that a treat is on the way.
- Keep Calm – The ten minutes before and after a separation should be serene and matter-of-fact. It is tough to hold off the exuberant hugs and attention when greeting your loving dog after time apart, but hold off until he is fully settled down and then reward him with plenty of loving attention and playtime.
- Exercise is Essential – Make sure you spend time playing catch and going for long walks with your dog. This is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure your dog doesn’t exhibit problem behaviors, such as chewing on the furniture, while you are out. A dog who is tuckered out from vigorous play and exercise is less likely to grow bored and find trouble.
- Maintain a Routine – Separation from your dog, short or long, will be much easier if you have a schedule you stick with most of the time, even on weekends. Consistent times for meals, play, and walks throughout the day have a calming effect on dogs. Maintaining a schedule also makes it much easier for a friend or dog-sitter to be tasked with the routine.
PRO TIP:Professional dog trainers know that canines take their cues from you. If you are anxious about how your dog will respond to being alone, he’ll likely pick up on this worry and respond with nervousness himself. If you remain calm and consistent throughout this training process, your dog will absorb the message that it is perfectly safe and normal to be alone.
Dog Walkers: Depending on your dog, a full workday may be too long for him to be home alone without the opportunity for exercise and a bathroom break. If you can’t get home on your lunch break, it’s important to schedule a daily walk and companionship for your dog. This can be a neighbor who is happy to go for a walk with your dog or a professional dog walker.
Doggie Day Care: If it’s within your budget, doggie day care is an excellent way to keep your dog from feeling isolated and lonely during the workweek. Here your dog will be supervised while having a chance to play with the pack. Many people find sending their dog even two or three days a week helps mitigate problem behaviors on their days at home.
Business Trips & Vacations: Dog Sitter Or Kennel?
The ideal is having a family member or friend with whom your dog is comfortable stay over during your trip. If that option isn’t available, however, you can hire a reputable dog sitter to care for your dog in your home or in their home. Introduce your dog to the sitter before your trip to assess if they are a good match. If your dog is highly social, a kennel can be an engaging environment for him; many kennels now operate like 24/7 doggie daycares.
When researching dog sitters, kennels, and doggie daycare, be sure to ask about:
- Professional association memberships
- Insurance policies
- Medical emergency protocols
With planning, training, and patience, your dog can be content at home alone. It’s important to keep in mind that establishing calm alone-time for your dog is the best thing for your best friend and for you. Confident that he’ll be able to handle regular departures or unexpected separations with ease, you’ll be able to relax and fully enjoy time together with your best pal all the more.