Lockdown had a big impact on all our daily routines. For our dogs, it meant that they got to spend a lot more time with us. With restrictions finally coming to an end, lots of us are heading back to the office, whether it’s for a few days a week or a full time return. This means that after nearly 18 months of constant company, our dogs are having to readjust to spending time by themselves.
Spending time alone can be a challenge for dogs, especially if you’ve welcomed a new puppy into your home during the past year or your dog has previously suffered with separation anxiety.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can help your dog feel comfortable and calm when you’re out of the house. Let’s take a look at the best ways to get your dog used to spending time on their own.
Ease your dog into spending time alone
If you’ve been at home all day for months on end, leaving your dog alone for a whole day will be a big adjustment. To get your dog used to you not being there, gradually introduce some alone time into their daily routine.
Start the process by leaving your dog alone in a separate room or pen for short periods. Don’t actively interact with your dog and set up the environment so that they are encouraged to settle. Give them a bowl of fresh water and somewhere cosy to sleep. Reward your dog when they show good behaviour, such as setting down in their bed or crate, even if you are with them.
Once your dog gets the hang of settling down on their own, you can gradually increase the time that they spend alone. It’s a good idea to start separation training well in advance of when you plan to be away from home, as this will give your dog plenty of time to adjust.
Be careful not to let your dog get distressed, this can only lead to their behaviour getting worse as they become more anxious. If you notice destructive behaviour it can be tempting to tell your dog “no!”. Although this might seem like the right thing to do, giving your dog any kind of attention can be interpreted by them as positive.
Keep your dog entertained
Plenty of us have arrived home to find that our dog has been mischievous whilst we’ve been out. Destructive behaviour is often caused by anxiety rather than boredom. A good way to stop your pooch engaging in destructive behaviour is to make sure that your dog has plenty of mental stimulation.
Toys and treats are a great way to keep them occupied. Try giving them a natural treat to chew on, as this will help to keep them distracted. There are lots of exotic options available, from ostrich bones to reindeer antlers to vegan dog chews.
Puzzles are also a great way to keep your dog occupied whilst you’re out. There are lots of toys, such as Kongs, treat dispensing balls, and hide & slide puzzles that require your dog to flex their mental muscles. Always practice using these toys when you’re present, so your dog does not start to associate the toys with you leaving.
How long can I leave my dog by themselves?
This will depend on a few different factors, such as their age, how long they are used to being on their own and how long they can hold their bladder.
It’s a good idea to take your dog for a walk before you leave the house. This will give them much needed physical exercise which will tire them out, so they'll be more like to sleep during the day. Walks are also a great opportunity to provide your dog with mental stimulation through training games.
If you’re going to be out of the house for a long time, you can ask a friend or neighbour to check in on them during the day or look into hiring a dog walker.
Training your dog to be on their own is just like teaching them a new trick. Take the process step by step, be patient and avoid putting your dog in a situation where they feel uncomfortable. For further advice on leaving your dog at home, please contact us.