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Limit Chaos: Tips for Leaving Your Dog Alone
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Limit Chaos: Tips for Leaving Your Dog Alone

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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Whether you're leaving the house for a quick errand, an appointment, or going to the office for at least six hours, you don't want to return to scenes of chaos. Dogs can struggle with boredom or separation anxiety, so maintaining zen energy and canine boundaries in your home environment requires planning and training.

1

Amend and limit

Young woman and Switzerland shepherd dog walking together in public park. urbazon / Getty Images

If you're returning to the office after a long work-from-home stint, amend your schedule gradually and get your dog used to not having you around for progressively longer periods. Adjust your fur baby's routine so you can squeeze in a solid pre-work walk and stave off restlessness. Accessible spaces should be dog-safe.

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2

Keep an eye out

dog looking up to its owner MonikaBatich / Getty Images

Establish a leaving routine for both you and your dog—it'll be a quick drill once you've got it down pat. You can make your departure a positive experience for your dog by using exit-exclusive treats. Mentally check off clearing counters, locking doors, and putting particular objects out of your dog's reach. If your dog knows where all the good snacks stay, place obstacles in its path. For example, you could assemble a potentially loud collection of low-stakes items such as cans to put your dog off jumping on a pantry-adjacent counter. Many dogs hate startling noises and sounds.

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3

What a treat

dog chewing treat Iryna Khabliuk / EyeEm / Getty Images

Fill a Kong with peanut butter, for example, and freeze for a considerable distraction. Or customize enrichment to your dog to get its destructive energy out by brainstorming and making toys it will enjoy, well, wrecking. Long-chew treats and toys can keep it entertained and fed, and there's a good chance all the playing and effort of getting to the food will result in one sleepy doggy. A napping dog has less time to miss you, and the boredom bugs can't bite a dreaming Fido.

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4

Try crating

Female Golden Retriever Sleeps on Her Stomach in Open Crate on Gray Blanket Christine McCann / Getty Images

Crating or confining your dog in a room or baby-gated area is a common and ethical practice, and most dogs like having their own space for peace and quiet. Reward-based crate training can be especially helpful when you have a puppy or elderly dog. Crates prevent your dog from raiding your trash or messing up your carefully-curated interiors when unsupervised. Leave an object with your scent on it to foster a sense of ease and comfort.

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5

Latch it up

Safety plastic lock for kid protection on a cabinet Garsya / Getty Images

Childproof latches can be lifesavers. Put safety latches on cupboards with dangerous household cleaning supplies or pesticides, and attach them to your fridge and freezer so your pup can't open the door and leave your cornucopia of meats and human treats in disarray. These latches are affordable, so buy a few that work with your various dodgy cabinets and drawers.

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6

Beware your kitty's doo-doo

Cleaning cat litter box ZoranMilisavljevic83 / Getty Images

If you've got a cat in the house, your dog may take a shine to its litterbox. But not just any litterbox will do—it will make a beeline for a dirty, stinky cat toilet. Some dogs love the smell and taste of poop, so be sure to clean your cat's litterbox daily. This will stop any gross explorations and keep your dog safe—ingested cat litter can cause intestinal obstructions. Alternatively, be strategic with litter box placement or concealment.

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7

Hire a sitter

woman walking dog outdoors M_a_y_a / Getty Images

Make toilet sessions a part of your morning dog routine, and you won't come home to surprise landmines. Consider your dog's age and health issues when deciding whether you need to enlist the services of a dog sitter. Puppies and older dogs need more frequent bathroom breaks, so if you are away for longer than two hours, ask an amenable housemate to take your dog out to go potty. Get a sitter to drop by to help your pup relieve itself if you're at work for a while.

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8

Outdoor options

pug in a dog kennel Kichigin / Getty Images

You can keep your dog outside if you have an appropriately fenced backyard and a shelter for bad weather. The last thing you want is your dog roaming the neighborhood making mischief or endangering itself by consuming unknowns or crossing the road. Build or buy a kennel, especially if you've got a chicken coop or don't want your dog digging up your veggie garden. Put up barriers to off-limit areas such as delicate floral sections of your garden.

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9

Teach basic commands

person training dog andreygonchar / Getty Images

Do three training sessions of about fifteen minutes every week so you can develop obedience fundamentals and reinforce them. You can rope in a professional to lay a correct foundation by taking your dog to training sessions or doing lessons via video calls. The following commands are essential aids in your dog owner's toolkit:

  • come
  • stay
  • down
  • stand
  • look
  • don't touch

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10

Show your dog love

Smiling man stroking his dog on the couch at home Westend61 / Getty Images

Dogs need to know that their owners aren't going to leave and never return—yes, man's best friend has abandonment issues. If you make a happy fuss when you come home and establish a predictable, stable routine that meets your dog's basic needs for socialization, exercise, nutrition, grooming, and going to the loo, it will adapt. And its behavior when alone won't reflect insecurity. With time you'll both learn what works best, so be patient. If your dog still shows signs of distress after weeks of training, it could be a medical issue, so book an appointment with your vet.

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