Have you started a new job? Or do you want to go out with friends or spend a few hours shopping? Whatever the reason, there may always be a time when you need to leave your dog at home alone.
Fortunately, although dogs are social animals that need the love and company of humans and other four-legged friends, they can sometimes successfully be left alone.
The good news is that all it takes is a little training and preparation. Your dog will learn to stay home alone and may even enjoy it. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make your dog comfortable when you’re not home.
HOW TO LEAVE YOUR PUPPY OR ADULT DOG HOME ALONE
If you want to leave your dog home alone, the most important thing is to be well prepared.
Remember that if you leave him alone for more than eight to ten hours, someone should visit him, take him for a walk and check that everything is OK.
If your dog is used to having someone with him all the time, prepare him for his impending absence by leaving him alone for short periods beforehand. Provide an interesting environment and a positive attitude and he will learn to be left alone and enjoy the experience.
HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO STAY HOME ALONE
There are many things you can do to gradually get your dog used to being alone. The sooner you start training him, the better.
Teach your puppy or adult pet to interact from a young age. Get him used to being with other people. Then it will be easier for you to leave him with a guardian or with family or friends if necessary.
From day one, especially with puppies, try to take breaks from petting and interacting together. Occasionally allow your pet to be alone.
Intersperse moments when you give him attention with moments when you don’t. If you have children, explain to them that your puppy needs time alone too.
Don’t start by leaving your puppy or adult dog alone for long periods. It should be a gradual process. Start with very short absences and only try to leave your pet for longer periods when he can remain calm on your shorter outings. If he is then unable to remain calm when you leave, start the process again.
Start at home: if your dog is used to being in the same room as you or always following you, instruct him to stay in the room while you go out for a short time. Reward him if he can remain calm while doing so. If your dog can cope with this challenge, try to leave the house for a while and then come back.
Don’t prolong your goodbye to your dog and avoid excessive affection when you return. The idea is to make him feel that your leaving and returning is a normal thing.
Some trainers recommend leaving the house without letting your dog know. In other words: go out and come back several times a day without bringing these events to your dog’s attention. Prepare to go out (take your coat, keys, etc.) and then stay at home, but on another occasion go out without any preparation. In this way, your pet will not react to these kinds of ordinary situations.
If you are going to leave your dog alone for a longer period, take him for a walk or do some other form of physical activity before you leave. He will be more relaxed in your absence and will probably spend the time taking a nap.
HOW TO PROVIDE YOUR DOG WITH A FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
There are many things you can do to improve your dog’s environment and make him less bored and more comfortable.
Organise a special bag of dog toys that you only take out when you plan to go out. This way, your dog will associate your outing with something fun and positive! There are lots of great dog toys, including ones that can be filled with dry food that your pet will have to pull out on their own, puzzle toys and more.
General tip: leave the TV or radio on quietly to drown out any noise from the street that might disturb your dog.
Regenerative sleep is essential for great playtime. Remember that your dog must have a comfortable bed where he can rest and relax. If he is a puppy, you can give him a favourite object to sleep on.
HOW LONG CAN I LEAVE MY PUPPY OR ADULT DOG ALONE?
Every dog is different and everyone feels loneliness differently, depending on their personality. Your dog may be quite independent and can be left alone for several hours without any problem, while other pets may – at least initially – find this difficult. However, with proper socialisation, any dog should be able to tolerate a few hours of absence. If, despite this, your pet is having trouble being left alone, talk to your vet, an experienced dog trainer or a behaviour specialist. They can help you identify the cause of the problem and find appropriate solutions.
Your dog’s age and lifestyle also determine to some extent how long your pet can be left alone. For example, even very young puppies can be left alone for several hours (preferably with their mother). Your puppy will gradually learn to calm down and take care of itself. As for adult dogs, most of them, with the right training and environment, can learn to stay alone for 8-10 hours when you are at work.
However, sometimes we have to leave our pets for longer. If you are away from home from early morning to evening and don’t have the opportunity to look in on your dog at lunchtime, it would be a good idea for a neighbour, friend or carer to pop in to play with him and check he is ok. They can take him for a walk, let him do his physiological needs and check he has fresh water. Your dog will benefit greatly from this social interaction. If you are planning to leave your dog alone overnight, for two days or longer, it is essential to ensure that he is well cared for, and the best option would be to find in-home sitters or transfer him to a friendly family. When you return, it’s important to take some time to play and interact with your pet to relax together.
Leaving your dog alone can be a positive experience for both you and your dog, as long as you think carefully about how long you intend to leave him, and prepare your pet for the separation beforehand. With proper training and a well-prepared environment, your dog should do well at home during shorter absences. In time, he may even look forward to these moments with his special „alone time” toys! Remember, however, that dogs are and always will be social animals. The best toy in the world will not replace your company or play with another dog. For extended absences, consider available doggie daycare options or adopting another pet (this takes time and adjustment) to make sure your pet is happy and healthy while you are away!