With many of us working at home these days, it is common to see signs of separation anxiety and other alone time issues in our dogs. Your dog may not have had anxiety when you left them alone before, but after the pandemic, many dogs are still struggling with being home all by themselves. Whether your dog truly has separation anxiety and cannot be left alone for even 1 minute, or if your dog simply struggles to be on the other side of a closed door or baby gate from you, these tips will help you prepare your dog for spending time alone.
We need to show our dogs that time alone is not scary! It can be quite fun. A few times throughout the week try to provide them with time alone with a special toy that occupies their attention. Set a timer for 10, 20, or even 30 minutes. Put your dog in a comfortable room or crate with one of these toys. When the timer is up they can integrate back into the household. Try filling the Twist N Treat with your dog's kibble and some canned pumpkin. You could just put their portion of their meal into the Kong Wobbler or the Kong Genius. Of course, you can also always use the tried and true Licki Mat with peanut butter, cream cheese, or canned pumpkin. I know what you're thinking, "what do we do if our pup starts to bark?" Well here is my favorite answer of all time, "It depends." No one knows your dog better than you do. If you feel like your dog is really upset or even in a state of panic, then by all means go and help them. If you think your dog is just frustrated and will quiet down quickly, then it's best to ignore the barking. However, the barking should subside quickly, and if it does not then interrupt them and try an easier option.
I want you to think about what your regular workday routine is like. Your dog likely gets some exercise in the morning, then alone time for most of the day, and more exercise and fun when you return home or wrap up for the day. Sometimes, dogs get attention and exercise intermittently throughout the day. This type of schedule is not normal for them. We want to work toward their typical routine that follows a dog's normal rhythms. Think about the following,
Does your dog usually spend a lot of time in a crate or a single room in your home? During the day crate them or have them go to their room. Start with just a few minutes and work up to longer periods.
When does your dog usually get exercise? Adopt a few days per week where they get their exercise during the normal work week times.
Use the occupier toys to provide your dog with downtime. We can not pay attention to them all day when we are working. During the day offer them one of these toys to prevent excessive attention-seeking behaviors and promote a state of calmness.
If your dog hasn't spent much time alone then a sudden and long absence may trouble them. Whether you leave your dog in a crate, bedroom, or loose in your home, begin acclimating them to being alone inside. Begin with short trips, then longer, and even longer periods of being away. Here are a few places to start.
Try leaving your dog home when you...
Get the mail
Walk around your yard or block
Go for a short drive
Weed the garden
Have a picnic
Run a few errands
You must start with short outings first and work your way up to longer ones over time. Otherwise, your dog may become worried and panicked. Starting with short trips allows your dog to remember that you leave and return in no time!
If you find that even with a short outing your dog becomes worried, consider a calming aid to help your pup feel more at ease. You can learn all about the ones we recommend in our earlier blog post, How to Calm a Stressed Dog.
Ask For Help
If your schedule changes suddenly and you do not have time to implement these tips your dog may be feeling uneasy. Asking for help can be a game changer for your dog's well being during this transition. Consider hiring a professional dog walker. Have someone come over once or twice during the long days to take your dog out for a walk or just play with them. This can break up their alone time and provide them with a bit of entertainment.
You could also try doggie daycare or day boarding. Dog daycare may not be for every dog but some certainly enjoy it! Dropping your dog off for a full day of fun could be just what they need.
Remember that change is hard for humans and dogs alike. Our dogs will need time and proper guidance to help them truly feel safe and settled when they are home alone. Being able to check in on your dog during your practice outings will provide you with the peace of mind knowing your dog, and your home, are safe. We use the Yi Home Cameras to check in on Manzo and Piper. This helps give us the extra confidence to leave the house. We'd love to hear what works for you and your dog. Tell us in the comments how your dog does at home alone. Do you have a routine that works well for you?