How to keep a dog happy when home alone?
You cannot take your dog to work, parties or family dinners. These and many other occasions will come when you will have to leave your dog home alone. In order for you to enjoy these activities without a huge dose of guilt you will have to ensure that your dog is equally happy and calm without you in the house. This is not only important for you but it is equally important for the overall physical and mental well-being of your furry friend. Before we explore the various ways to achieve a harmony between your routine and your dog’s happiness we need to first understand what is causing your dog discomfort and if it is more than just unhappiness.
Reasons for your dog’s unhappiness
Dogs might be unhappy when left alone because of the following reasons
- He has not been trained
- He suffers from separation anxiety
- It is a change from his normal routine
In case you are already working and have brought a dog home, you will need to train him from day 1 to spend some time without you. It is as important as other training such as potty training, leash training or training to walk along side you when you are biking for example. Follow the given steps in sequence to help your new dog adjust to your ways of doing things.
Two step training
- Step 1:
This step will involve de-associating your work clothes, car keys, bags from you leaving the house. When dogs watch you getting ready they associate it with several hours of loneliness. Even before you are out they will start whining, barking and start showing various signs of unhappiness. Try to do things differently. Pick up your car keys but don’t go out. Wear work clothes and watch TV or do a routine task such as cooking or reading a newspaper. After some time your dog will forget the previous departure cues and will not become upset when you get ready to actually go out.
- Step 2:
Make him used to your absence little by little. Try to remain in separate rooms for some time. Time the separation and increase it slowly. Make sure you return to him before he gets upset. That would mean starting with just a few seconds of separation. Increase it gradually so that finally your dog can stay without you for more than half an hour. You can use food or toys to keep him occupied during your absence. Yes, you will have to practice it and have a lot of patience.
Tips on how to keep a dog happy when home alone
In case, your routine changes for example, you have now become an office goer instead of working from home, then you will need distractions or some kind of immediate solution to help your dog adjust to your new ways. Now, let’s explore the following ways on how to keep a dog happy when home alone.
Dogs might become disruptive when left alone not just because they are unhappy but because they have so much energy and don’t know what to do with it. Hence, they will use that energy on furniture, doors, walls, shoes and anything that they can have a go at. By exercising your dog before you leave for work will help him release his pent up energy. You can take him for walks or runs or you can play with him in the park for an hour or so. If you can do that, it will be awesome for both you and your dog. The idea is to get him tired so that when he returns home he will find sleeping more preferable than chewing boots. You can then peacefully leave for work. And you will feel better because you got your daily dose of exercise.
There are many toys available in the market, some are chew-able, some are food toys in which you can stuff food and let your dog chew his way to it. You can put these toys near his bed so that when you leave he will have something productive to do. Always test the toys first before leaving him alone with them. They should not harm him or cause injury.
Food is known to cure depression in humans so it should also work its magic on animals. You can scatter your dog’s food on the floor so that he can be easily occupied for a couple of hours and put his sense of smell to good use. You can also use a bowl if you like.
Music has always been associated with healing powers and various studies have proved it. Recently, the famous dog trainer Cesar Millan has done similar kind of research in collaboration with Audible, the audio entertainment company to study the effect of soothing sounds on dog’s behavior. He has recommended using audio books to ease the anxiety of a dog left home alone.
Get dog companions
You can also get another dog to provide companionship to your dog. But remember to weigh all the pros and cons before you set to do this. The second dog should be well-trained as well, calm and should be able to adjust well in your absence. Do not do this if you are unsure because it may rather cause more harm than good.
A dog needs walking four/five times in a day or maybe more depending on the breed and the type of dog you have. If you are out and unable to take your dog for walking that many times then you can employ dog walkers. These professionals are experts in dog handling and provide variety of services like walking and feeding the dog; playing with him and so on. This activity will also provide a much needed break in your dog’s uneventful routine.
Instead of a dog walker you can also enlist the services of a pet sitter. Unlike dog walkers they work with only one dog at a time. They will come to your home and feed your dog, take him out for walks, play with him and can sometimes even give him a bath.
Dog day cares
There are various day care centers where you can leave your dog for the day. But before you go and register your dog, check on a few things first. Is your dog comfortable around other unknown dogs? Will leaving your dog in new surroundings not add to his stress and anxiety? Is your dog old enough to be left in the center? Answering these questions will help you make the right decision.
Family/friend helping out
Using professional services like dog walking or pet sitting can be a bit expensive. Instead, you can take help from friends and family, who will be happy to spend some time with your dog. You can always return their favor by baking them some cookies or inviting them for a dinner.
Dealing with separation anxiety
There are also cases where a dog is not just unhappy but also feels frightened or insecure in his owner’s absence. The cause for this anxiety may be rooted in some previous bad experience. This anxiety is called separation anxiety and it will need to be dealt in a special way. The signs of separation anxiety are: eating less, pacing, clawing at routes of exit to the point of injury, excessive barking or howling and soiling the house. In case your dog is showing any signs of separation anxiety consult your Vet or a professional dog trainer. Additionally, you can try some of the remedies given below.
Remedies for separation anxiety
Dogs who suffer from a severe case of separation anxiety and who cannot be treated by behavior therapies alone are given anti-anxiety and relaxation medicine. Before you start your dog on any kind of medication consult your Vet about it.
Some wonderful snug shirts are available on PETA online stores that provide a comfortable way to deal with stress. These shirts act like a warm hug and help the dog feel secure and safe.
Alternative medicine remedies
You can find various herbal remedies on pet stores which can help to calm your pooch. These products use naturally occurring ingredients that do not have any harmful side effects. But, please do consult certified dog experts before you use any kind of medicine.
Dog appeasing products
You can use products that emit dog appeasing substances which will have a calming effect on the dog. These plugins work over a particular area range and can last for a month before requiring a refill. You can choose any number of methods or tips depending upon your dog’s needs. Dogs, like any mammals are social beings and with a little help from you can keep themselves happily occupied when home alone. Try and avoid the things given below when you are implementing any of the discussed methods.
Things to avoid
Any remedial method will have a better success rate when it is done with love and affection. Punishment leads to more insecurity and heightened anxiety.
Do not leave dogs alone for extended hours like 8-9 hours at a stretch. Especially, puppies will become distressed when left alone for more than a couple of hours. It is also unnatural and harmful for them to hold their natures call for too long. If it is possible for you then try to come home during lunch breaks to take your dogs for a short walk.
Dogs like to greet their owners with a high degree of excitement reserved for long lost friends. Even if you want to, do not participate in this revelry. Be calm and just pat him once and carry on with your other activities. Only when he has calmed down sufficiently, you should go and pat him. It will help him to not to make a big deal of your outings.
Leaving dogs outdoors
Never leave dogs outdoor when you are not at home unless you have special arrangement such as a secured dog house etc. It is not only unsafe for them, but it could lead them to try dangerous ways to escape from there. They can also hurt themselves badly while doing so. Dogs are like children when it comes to getting separated from their parents. Like children feel unhappy on their first day at school or day care, similarly dogs do not want to stay at home without their owners. But like children, if they understand that the separation is not long term or permanent and that their moms and dads will return they will actually start adjusting well in their new routines and enjoy it while doing so. Good luck and I hope you have enjoyed this article and found something that you can use. Take care.