Imagine your dog singing Céline Dion's "All By Myself" or Akon's "Lonely." Not a happy picture, is it? Dogs can give you tons of unconditional love, but they're high-maintenance pets. They require your time and attention and can't be left alone for long stretches. Breed aside, each dog is different, with factors you need to be aware of and prepare for if you plan to leave your pup alone for an extended period.
Some dog breeds such as dachshunds, cocker spaniels, border collies, German shepherds, and Rottweilers are working, sporting, or herding dogs or scenthounds and require more exercise. But even toy dogs and terriers need at least an hour of activity per day for a range of physical health benefits and mental stimulation. Take your dog for a walk before work to start their morning on the right note and burn off some energy. And if you'll be away for longer than six hours, hire a dog walker for dogs prone to restlessness, or your dog may start to wreak havoc at home.
All dogs require enrichment, and puppies especially so. Lonely dogs can become bored, and you can stave off boredom by leaving your dog with toys it enjoys. Popular and stimulating toys include food puzzles, Kongs, chews, and other safe homemade or bought sources of entertainment. When you get back from work or various duties, be prepared to play.
Is your dog very young or old? Puppies and senior dogs will need to relieve themselves more often. Healthy adult dogs can go for six to eight hours without peeing, but unwell dogs or those on either end of the age spectrum may only be able to manage two hours. If you can't leave work every four to six hours, arrange for someone to help take your dog out to attend to its needs. It's optimal for health and prevents potty accidents in the home.
Did you acquire your dog when you were at home a lot, and circumstances have changed? The COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent return to work gave rise to many cases of separation anxiety in so-called pandemic dogs. Your dog will need to get used to the idea of you leaving your house or apartment and returning later in the day. You can employ a training schedule over at least six weeks, and the gradual change will prevent distress and the kind of barking that may disturb your neighbors in your absence.
Dogs that are well and have big bladders can be left alone for up to 10 hours, but this is the absolute maximum length of time you should consider leaving your canine bestie to its own devices. Most dogs can only manage about six hours alone, and too much isolation sets an unhealthy precedent.
Once you've gotten to know your dog, you'll become aware of items around the house that may prove irresistible while you're gone. As far as possible, dog-proof your home for these periods. Cover up electrical wires and hide or secure the trash. And keep potentially harmful detergents, tools, and medications in elevated spots.
Anxious dogs often do well in crates with beds or rooms with baby gates. So don't feel guilty about confinement if your dog is comfortable with it and has access to water. Crating is an option if you're off to the mall or running errands for about four hours. Leave items with your scent in the dog's nook and switch on the TV for an exciting distraction. You can also look at dog pens if you want to provide more space.
From smart cameras to fetch devices, technology makes it easier for dog owners to leave their pets alone. You can monitor your dog's behavior while you're away at work and set up your camera to talk to it via built-in speakers. It's also, believe it or not, possible for your dog to call you. In addition, you can hand out treats remotely and schedule dry chow feeds from dispensers.
If you often leave your dog in a garden or yard, it's worth checking the weather so you can make alternative arrangements if necessary. Build or install a dog shelter if possible and pop in some toys in case of unfavorable conditions. With a bit of preparation, your dog will do just fine.
When you leave the house, your attitude influences your dog's feelings and behavior, so remember to stay calm. Nerves and uncertainty on your part will be unsettling for your buddy. Prepare a treat to give your dog just before you leave so they have positive associations with your departure routine.
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