Leaving your beloved canine companion home alone while you head off to work or school can be a challenging experience from both you and your pup. After all, dogs tend to be social animals. Their well-being is closely tied to their human connections.
For this reason, it’s essential to address the concerns of separation anxiety, boredom, and the physical needs of your dog when you’re not around. That is what we are going to cover in this guide.
From setting up a comfortable and dog-friendly environment to providing ample exercise, we’ll cover all the bases to ensure your furry friend is well taken care of in your absence.
Should Dogs Be Left in the House Alone While Their Owners are at Work?
It’s recommended to avoid leaving your dog alone for more than four hours at a time. However, the duration your dog can comfortably manage alone varies based on a number of different factors.
While some dogs may find extended periods of separation challenging, others exhibit little to no distress when you are not there.
Does My Dog Get Sad When I Leave?
It is totally normal for pups to miss their owners when they leave. In most cases, it does not represent a problem.
But separation anxiety is different from simply getting a bit down and under. The response in case of separation anxiety is much more extreme.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
1. Immediate Distress
Your dog becomes distressed as soon as you leave.
The first 15 minutes are the most challenging. During this period, your pup may show signs of fear like:
- Increase in heart and breathing rate
- Heightened activity
- Sudden need to relieve themselves
Your dog may also attempt to follow you as you leave, resorting to behaviors such as scratching at doors, chewing doorframes, or jumping at windowsills. They do this in an attempt to find a way out.
Alternatively, they may vocalize their distress through barking, whining, or howling, trying to persuade you to return.
2. Post-Departure Behavior
Following the first 15 frantic minutes, your dog may settle down on items you have recently touched that are still carrying your scent. They tend to chew these scented objects into smaller pieces and then curl up in the debris.
Canines do this in order to create a protective ‘barrier’ of your scent for security when they have separation anxiety.
3. Return Excitement
Upon your return, your dog may become highly excitable. They may be wet, either due to salivation or excessive drinking brought on by stress.
4. Following Your Everywhere
When you’re home, your dog may continuously follow you wherever you go within the house. You might notice signs of anxiety when they see you preparing to leave, such as panting and pacing.
Should I Feel Bad About Leaving My Dog Home While I Work?
All pup owners are familiar with the guilt that comes with leaving their dogs home alone. It’s natural to have concerns about leaving your animal best friend home alone.
However, whether you should feel bad depends on whether or not you have prepared them to be alone safely.
For instance, before leaving your dog at home, you need to make sure their basic needs, like food and water, are met while you are gone.
In addition to that, pet owners should ensure alternative forms of support like a reputable pet sitting service or the help of a trusted family member or friend.
Pet owners should also take the time to train their dog to adjust to being alone. Teaching commands and providing positive reinforcement can make alone-time less stressful for the animal.
It’s also important to remember that dogs are resilient. They are adaptable creatures and can learn to cope with moderate periods of alone time, especially if they are provided with the right environment and care.
Ultimately, it’s imperative to differentiate between feeling guilty and taking responsibility for your dog’s well-being. While you may experience moments of guilt, your primary concern should be ensuring your dog is safe, healthy, and content.
Tips for Leaving Your Dog Home Alone While at Work
1. Crate Train
Proper crate training can make your dog feel safe, like being in their own room with their favorite things.
To create a calm environment during alone-time, you can:
- Use a dog pheromone diffuser near their confinement area.
- Play calming music or white noise to mask external noises.
As your dog grows or becomes accustomed to their new environment, you can gradually allow them access to more areas of your home.
2. Provide Background Noise
Some dogs can become uneasy in a quiet house. To ease their anxiety, consider leaving on the TV or playing calming music while you’re away.
However, ensure that the content is not disturbing. Loud or sudden sounds can have the opposite effect and distress the poor animal.
3. Keep Your Dog Entertained
- Engaging Toys: Your dog’s mental and physical stimulation is vital for their happiness. Toys like the Kong can be filled with peanut butter or cream cheese, offering hours of entertainment.
- Toy Safety: Avoid giving your dog bones or rope toys. These can pose choking hazards or lead to intestinal blockages, especially when they’re not under supervision. Explore interactive puzzle toys that keep their minds active and engaged.
4. Arrange Mid-Day Breaks
While most dogs can comfortably hold their bladder for about six hours, there may be special circumstances. Puppies, senior dogs, and those with medical conditions may need frequent breaks.
Hiring a reliable dog walker or asking a neighbor for help during the day can provide your dog with the attention and care they need. Alternatively, if you work nearby, pop in to say Hello during lunch hour.
5. Prioritize Exercise
- Physical Activity: Regular exercise is essential for your dog’s overall health. Consider waking up a bit earlier to provide your pup with a longer morning walk. This pre-work exercise session can help your dog use some of their energy, making them more relaxed during your absence.
- Evening Stroll: Even after a tiring day at work, make time for an evening stroll with your dog. This will not only benefit your dog but also provide you with a relaxing end to your day.
- Indoor Play: On days with bad weather, engage your dog in indoor activities. Games like fetch or running around the house can keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated.
6. Create Positive Associations with Being Left Alone
To help your dog see being alone as a positive experience, associate your absence with something enjoyable. This could be food-related or special toys reserved for alone time. This process is called counterconditioning.
Before you leave, offer your dog an interactive toy. Remove the toy when you return. This teaches your dog that good things happen when you’re gone.
How to Have a Guilt Free Work or School Day While Your Pup is at Home
Start with a Morning Workout
Kick off the day with some exercise, which is not only good for you but also vital for your dog.
A brisk morning walk, a jog, or an energetic play session can help boost your health and burn off your dog’s excess energy. This prevents them from becoming restless while you’re at work.
Get Your Pooch Set Up for Success
As your time to leave approaches, take your pup to their designated area or room, which serves as their safe space.
Leave your pup with the appropriate amount of food and water they’ll need for the day, along with some entertainment.
It’s recommended to leave out only a few toys each day and rotate through them regularly. This prevents your dog from growing bored.
If you have a pet cam, activate it. This way, you can check in on your dog throughout the day and see how they’re doing in your absence.
Hire Rover’s Recess
When you’re away, ensuring your pet is in safe hands is a top priority.
Hiring a pet sitter like Rover’s Recess can be a convenient solution. It spares you the hassle of taking your furry friend to a daycare facility or leaving them alone at home.
With a dedicated dog sitter, your pup not only enjoys companionship but also benefits from essential exercise and playtime, ensuring their happiness until your return.
Training Your Dog to Be Left Alone
Before You Begin
Teaching your dog to be comfortable while staying home alone is an essential aspect of their overall training.
Set aside about 10 minutes daily for training. Remember, though, that every dog is unique. Adjust the training pace to match your dog’s comfort level. Never push them to the point of stress.
Gather toys and treats to reward good behavior. Create a cozy spot, such as a comfy bed in an enclosed area with fresh blankets.
Ensuring your dog has a comfortable space to relax makes staying home alone more appealing. Be generous with praise. Dogs respond positively to it.
Now, let’s get started:
Step 1: Encourage Your Dog to Relax in Their Bed
Begin by encouraging your dog to stay in their comfortable bed while you’re in the same room. Reward them with treats and praise for staying quietly on their bed without whining or barking.
Step 2: Gradually Increase Distance
Gradually step away while continuing to encourage your dog to stay in their bed. You can move farther from them, even to another room.
Reward them each time they remain quietly on their bed.
Step 3: Extend the Distance and Time
Continue the pattern of moving further away and gradually increasing the duration.
Keep your dog’s comfort level in mind while doing so. If your dog becomes anxious or moves, simply return to the previous level without any praise or punishment.
Step 4: Leave for Short Intervals
After you have been successful at the above three steps, it’s time to practice leaving your dog alone in the house for short intervals.
Begin by leaving for no more than 5 minutes. When you return, greet your dog with goodies and attention.
This helps them understand that you’ll be back soon and that you’re happy to see them.
Step 5: Gradually Lengthen Alone Time
Gradually increase the time you leave your dog alone (10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc.). Once you return, offer rewards and affection.
Once your dog is comfortable being alone for up to an hour, you should have no trouble extending their alone time further.
The “Cold Shoulder” Approach
During training, it’s essential not to respond to your dog’s whining and whimpering.
This does not mean punishing them. Rather, it means to avoid petting or offering comfort when they show a reaction.
Giving them the “cold shoulder” when you leave teaches them that quiet behavior leads to your return and plenty of treats and cuddles.
Why Punishing Never Helps
It’s a common reaction for dog owners to feel frustrated or disappointed when they return home to a mess or damaged belongings. When dogs sense their owners’ displeasure, they may display what is known as “appeasement behavior.”
This includes flattening their ears, lowering their body, and tucking their tail between their legs. Some dogs may also avert their gaze and narrow their eyes.
This appeasement behavior is often misinterpreted as guilt.
Many owners mistakenly believe their dog knows they did something wrong. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding can lead to punishment as a way to discourage such behavior.
In reality, dogs that appear guilty are simply responding to their owner’s disappointment or anger. It’s their way of diffusing tension in response to a perceived threat. Some dogs may also display this behavior if they anticipate a scolding, especially if it’s happened before.
But punishments don’t address the underlying issue.
Dogs associate punishment with their current actions. They don’t connect the punishment with any behavior that was done before the owner’s return. This is true even if they are brought and shown the scene of ‘crime.’
It’s not a matter of them forgetting what happened. They simply cannot link the punishment to something they did hours ago.
If anything, punishment only serves to exacerbate the problem.
Now, in addition to being anxious about being left alone, a dog will also become anxious about the owner’s return.
Instead of punishing your dog, there are more effective ways to address separation anxiety and help your furry friend adjust to being alone.
The Bottom Line – How to Leave Your Dog Home Alone Safely
Leaving your dog home alone can be a part of modern pet ownership, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. By following the tips and strategies in this guide, you can create a positive environment for your furry friend while you’re away.
In case you find that your pup needs a little extra attention and companionship, consider Rover’s Recess – Valparaiso’s trusted pet sitting service for over 16 years. Whether you’re at work, running errands, or simply need a break, your dog’s well-being will be our priority. Contact us to get started with premium pet care today!