5 Tips for Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
While we love enjoying as much time as possible with our furry pals, responsibilities such as going to work or picking up groceries inevitably lead to some time apart…and that's OK! Although you may feel sad or even a little guilty when you and your dog go your separate ways, it actually helps your furry friend acclimate and positively cope with alone time. Whether you're teaching a new pup to spend time on their own or helping an adult dog adjust to a new schedule, follow these tips for leaving your dog home alone.
#1: Create Positive Associations with Alone Time
To begin the process of how to leave your dog home alone, offer your dog fun activities they can enjoy by themselves–even when you are home. This will show them alone time isn't so bad! For example, if you are on the couch watching TV, give your furry friend a dog chew toy to keep them occupied and happy. Without constant attention and affection, your dog will learn how to feel content independently. Make sure to always supervise your dog when they are enjoying a chew toy.
Other ways to teach your pooch to grow comfortable with alone time is either crate training your dog or keeping them in an exercise pen. Try limiting your dog to one of these areas while you are home. To help ensure your dog forms a positive association with their crate or exercise pen, feed them meals or treats while they are in these spaces.
A dedicated spot comes in handy when your dog is home alone, especially because you likely want to limit access throughout the house when you're gone for extended periods. Although you can start with leaving your dog in a crate while you are out, it should only be used as a temporary place for them to stay until you trust them to roam around in a larger, closed-off space.
#2: Gradually Increase the Amount of Time Your Pup is Alone
Going from sticking by your furry friend's side twenty-four seven to leaving your dog home alone for a full workday requires some preparation, so it's best to start gradual and ease your pup into the transition. If possible, practice leaving the house for a short period of time and then slowly increase the duration.
Initially, ask everyone in your family to exit the house (without the dog) for a few seconds before coming back in. Next time, increase to a few minutes. From there, build up to leaving your dog inside for longer periods at a time, such as when you do yardwork or go for a walk in the neighborhood for 15 minutes. Increase the length you are gone by several minutes each time so your dog can slowly adjust to being home for extended periods.
Encourage your dog to settle down when you come back home and take them out to potty so they see this as an ordinary event. If your furry friend gets overly excited upon your return, avoid showing too much attention until they calm down. Once they are settled, reward them with a dog treat.
#3: Establish a Routine for Before and After Leaving Home
Establishing a routine before and after you leave home will teach your dog what to expect and even encourage positive behaviors. For example, taking your dog to potty right before you head out will reduce their urge to "go" when you're away. By the time you return, doing the same will reinforce it's the appropriate time to go potty—and ideally reduce accidents in your home.
Aside from potty schedules, include interactive mental or physical stimulation in your routine before leaving for the day. This will tire your dog out, helping prevent them from making their own fun when you're not home, such as chewing on your shoes. Try taking your pet for a walk, playing fetch with dog play toys, or practicing a new trick.
When you return, repeating these activities again will provide your pup the opportunity to explore their surroundings, exercise, and bond with you after a long day.
#4: Give Your Dog a Play Buddy
How long a dog can be left home alone depends on their age plus their physical and emotional needs. For instance, puppies and senior dogs require more frequent potty breaks, so they typically can't spend as much time alone as other furry friends. Meanwhile, dogs who don't prefer as much social interaction may be comfortable with more time to themselves.
Regardless, if you plan to be out for long periods at a time, enlisting help to care for your dog can be extremely beneficial. Ask a neighbor or friend to let your dog out to potty. You could also find a pet sitter or dog walker who can spend time with your furry pal. Even taking your pup to doggy daycare once a week can have a positive impact because it will provide the chance to interact and play with other dogs.
#5: Prevent Behavioral Problems
Some dogs have a hard time coping with staying home alone, so you'll want to prevent any behavioral problems such as destructive chewing. Be sure to puppy-proof your home before you leave to keep your dog away from off-limits items. Also, teach your furry friend positive chewing habits when you're around by offering chew toys.
Another useful tip when learning how to leave your dog home alone is to turn the TV or radio on while you're out. This soothes your pup because the sound covers up distracting outside noises such as other dogs barking or passing cars. Be mindful of the type of background noise your dog seems to respond to best; if classical music relaxes them while you are home together, it probably will have the same effect when you're not there.
If your dog continues to have trouble being alone, they may be experiencing separation anxiety. Some symptoms of this include urinating, barking, or pacing when left by themselves, according to the ASPCA. Learn ways to manage separation anxiety in dogs; if the behavior persists, reach out to your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer for more help.
An Independent Furry Friend for the Win
Once your dog grows used to being on their own, you both will have a much easier time going about your day. Not only will you feel more comfortable while your dog is home alone, your furry friend may even find the alone time relaxing!