MAY 11, 2021
We’ve all been stuck inside for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As vaccination availability continues to increase and restrictions lift, you’re probably planning to get out of the house a bit more. That may require leaving your dog home alone for a little while or considering pet-sitting or kennel options. Here are six considerations before you leave your dog home alone for an extended period:
Does your dog stay inside during the day, or do they prefer to be outside? A dog who doesn’t chew or destroy things may behave well inside a designated part of the home. Otherwise, an indoor dog crate or outside doghouse with plenty of shade and water may be better choices. A garage is an indoor possibility if your pooch has bladder issues or isn’t quite potty trained.
Once you’ve determined a comfortable spot, make sure your dog feels safe in any space by giving them positive reinforcement. Consider crating at short intervals while you’re home to ease your dog into the process, or use baby gates to prevent them from freely roaming the house. Feed them and play with them in that space so they feel at ease there. To decrease separation anxiety (for you and them), give your dog a reason to look forward to time alone — a special toy or treat.
When you begin the training process, there will likely be whining and barking, but you must hold your ground. As a next step, leave the house for short periods — three to five minutes — and gradually increase times to stop your dog from barking when being left alone. Reward your dog when they successfully behave in their space.
The biggest enemy of a good dog is boredom, so provide some entertainment, such as chew toys, when leaving them home alone. Mentally stimulating puzzles like Kongs, which dispense treats, are a great option to keep your pup busy while you’re gone. Your dog may also feel more comfortable with distracting noise, such as the television or radio, in the background. In fact, a study from Colorado State University shows soothing classical music relaxes dogs. Another option, if your dog plays well with others, is having two pets to offer comradery during your outings.
Playing fetch or going on a walk will fulfill a dog’s social and physical needs while you’re home and encourage rest and relaxation while you’re gone. A dog tuckered out from playtime is less likely to become bored and chew on furniture. Just be sure to incorporate activities at other times when you’re not planning to leave, too. Otherwise, your dog will associate exercise time with your absence, and it may make them nervous.
When determining how long you can leave your dog alone, keep in mind that each animal and situation will be different. Typically, puppies have an alone-time limit of two hours a day, while adult dogs over 18 months are fine for four to six hours. For elderly dogs, two to six hours is a safe amount of time depending on their health and/or bladder issues. Across the board, dogs are more relaxed and calm when they have a routine — a consistent schedule for meals, play, and walks.
If you decide to head out on a day trip or overnight excursion, your pup will likely need care while you’re gone. Once you find a reputable walker, sitter, or family member to help, have them over a few times while you’re still home so your dog will recognize them and feel comfortable. If you plan to leave for an extended period, you may also consider doggie daycare or kenneling your animal if your pup gets along well with others. Bottom line: dogs are social animals, so incorporating human interaction while you’re away will benefit their mental health.
A little planning and work will ensure your pet behaves well while you’re gone. In addition, having a dog in your home while you’re away also helps to deter burglars. Add an extra level of protection to your home with a Brinks Home™ security system.
Allison Clark is a senior writer for Brinks Home. She enjoys educating others on the benefits of smart home security and using technology to simplify everyday life.
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