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Leaving Your Dog Home Alone

Posted on August 3, 2015

It's no secret that we adore our dogs! As much as many of us would love to stay home to play with our best furry friends all day long, for most dog owners, that's not realistic scenario. It's not easy to walk out the door when your doggie friend is forlornly watching you with sad eyes, but for some dogs, staying at home alone can be boring and stressful; some of our best friends even suffer from serious separation anxiety, making it even more heartbreaking for us to leave them behind. Enriching your dog's environment and keeping them busy are the keys to helping your dog cope with your absence; let's look at some tips to help make your pup's alone time more bearable for both of you.

Create a Safe Space

If you're worried that your pup might be destructive while you're gone, restrict them to an area where they feel safe and comfortable, with plants, breakables, cleaning products and garbage cans out of reach. If your dog will have outdoor access (such as through a dog door) while you're away, make sure that they can't access pools, gardens or hot tubs and check your fence for gaps or breaks to prevent escape.

Expend Some Energy

As the old saying goes, "A tired dog is a happy dog". Before leaving, have a fun play session with your pup, go for a walk, or get out the old ball for a fast-paced game of fetch. If your pup has had the chance to blow off some steam and have a bathroom break before you head out the door, they're more likely to sleep than stress in your absence. If you're going to be away for most of the day, think about using a professional dog walker to provide some extra activity time and attention for your pup.

Keep their Brain Busy

It's time to get creative! There are endless ways to enrich your dog's indoor environment to keep them occupied when they're alone. Some great 'busy pup' activities include:

  • Rolling food balls – Use these to feed your dog instead of the food bowl
  • Treat puzzles like The Foobler
  • Stuffed Kongs – Stuff with canned food or peanut butter and then freeze them to make them last longer
  • Kibble 'scavenger hunt' – hide their meal portion under blankets, in a 'snuggle mat', or in empty egg cartons for them to find
  • Dog-friendly digging area – if your pup likes to dig, consider burying treats or toys in a designated area for them to 'find'

Occasionally, our furry best friends may need a little extra assistance to help them stay calm while we're away. Calming collars (pheromone-infused collars that naturally decrease anxiety), white noise or soft music have been known to help some dogs remain calm in their owner's absence. If your dog becomes intensely distressed when you leave, however, barks incessantly, is destructive, eliminates inappropriately in the house or becomes injured trying to escape, it's essential that you bring the behavior to the attention of your veterinarian; at that point, your dog may need anti-anxiety treatment and behavioral therapy to help resolve the issue, or you may need to consider another option for them, such as staying with a neighbor or visiting a dog daycare for the day.