Pets can improve your quality of life and bring a lot of joy, stress relief and valuable companionship into your world. Studies have even shown that dog ownership can help you to live longer, as it’s associated with an increase in cardiovascular health, social connectivity and mental health status. However, dog ownership is a significant responsibility. Dogs depend on their owners for just about all of their needs, and it can be hard to meet them and provide excellent care when you’re away at work all day or busy with other engagements. Fortunately, it’s possible to be an excellent dog owner despite your busy life. Read on for several tips to help you take the best care of your dog regardless of your hectic schedule.
Consider the Breed
Whether you already have a four-legged friend at home or you’re about to head to the shelter to adopt one of your own, you should consider the needs of their breed and whether your lifestyle can keep up with them. Many dog breeds require more exercise or human interaction than others, while some do fairly well when left to their own devices for several hours at a time. Do your own due diligence the next time you’re online looking for dinner recipes or searching “pool builders near me” to research the details of dog breeds and make sure you’re aware of your dog’s temperament and what you need to do to ensure its comfort and success at home.
Prepare Ahead of Time
If you know you’ll be away at work for at least eight hours every day, it’s important that you get your dog set up for a comfortable, fulfilling day as part of your morning routine. Plan to incorporate some social interaction and exercise for your dog in the morning before you head out the door to leave. You may need to wake up a little bit earlier, but it’s important that your dog expends a great deal of their energy through vigorous exercise and play so they can feel more relaxed, less anxious and calmer throughout the day while you’re gone.
If you’re able, plan to stop in to check on your dog throughout the day while you’re at work. You may be able to use your lunch break to go home, let them out for a quick potty break and give them a little bit of attention before it’s time for you to go back to work. It may not seem like much, but even a short amount of time to visit your dog can be enough to help them feel less alone and break up their day with a small dose of interaction with their favorite person.
Go Part-Time Remote
The number of remote workers is at an all-time high, so if it’s possible for you to complete some of your work while at home, you may want to approach your supervisor to arrange for some level of remote work in your position. Even if you’re glued to your desk at home all day, your presence is incredibly comforting for your dog.
Ask for Help
It isn’t always possible for you to take the time during the workday to see your dog, and sometimes you may need to work longer hours, pick up extra shifts or stay at the office for the duration of the workday. Get in touch with a neighbor, friend or family member to arrange midday visits or daily check-ins for your dog when you’re not available to do so. You may also want to look into a dog-sitting service, whether you want someone to come to hang out at your house for a few hours a day, take your dog for daily walks or just stop in to give them attention for a few minutes.
Prioritize Your Pup When You’re Home
When your schedule prohibits you from making accommodations to see your dog while you’re at work, it’s important to make the most of the time you have with them when you’re at home. Plan to take your dog for walks, to a local dog park, outside for a few rounds of fetch or with you on outings as often as possible. Plan to spend as much quality time with your four-legged family member as you can when you are around so it’s easier for both of you to spend hours apart the rest of the time.
Create a Fun and Safe Space
When dogs experience anxiety, whether it’s caused by separation or another factor, they’re more likely to act out in unhealthy or destructive ways due to stress. Set your dog up for success while you’re away by designing an environment that feels comfortable, risk-free and safe for them to be in while they’re alone. Remove any potential hazards, give them a soft bed to sleep on, play soothing sounds or even put them in a single space that might feel safer and more comfortable for them.
Get the Right Gear
In order for your dog to have everything it needs while you’re away, you will need to invest in toys, equipment and gear that provide the correct amounts of food, water and entertainment they need to feel peaceful and at ease throughout the day.
Depending on your dog’s food and water schedule, you may want to get an automated feeding or watering device that can be programmed to dispense dog food, water or treats on a schedule. Many of these devices can even be controlled by an app on your phone so you can stick to your dog’s schedule even while you’re away.
The option of spending time inside or outside of your home can keep your dog occupied during the day. The installation of a dog door in your home can keep your dog safe from inclement weather or unpredictable temperatures if they were kept outside all day and also prevent indoor accidents that could occur if they spent the day inside.
Sometimes your dog really has to go, and when they don’t have access to the outside, whether it’s because you live in an apartment or there’s no one around to let them out, accidents happen. Give your dog a designated place to go potty inside with an indoor potty so they can relieve themself comfortably if necessary.
Dogs grow bored fairly easily and require a certain amount of mental stimulation to remain entertained and busy. Invest in a few puzzle toys or treat dispensers that give your dog a challenge to either sniff a treat out, complete a series of steps to achieve a treat from a dispenser or chew a toy for a certain duration or in a specific way to access a snack from inside.
Dogs are pack animals, which is why it can be difficult for them to be left alone. If your dog is the only pet you have at home, it can be helpful to give them company in the form of another adopted dog so they feel less alone. It does add to your own level of responsibility, but another dog can provide companionship, fun and comfort for both of them in your absence.
Use a Nanny or Pet Cam
Many dog owners have no idea what their furry friend gets up to when they leave the house, but modern technology has changed that. Whether your dog decides to jump up on the furniture the moment you leave or starts to bark for hours on end, a pet or nanny cam can give you insight into their behaviors while you’re gone. There are even two-way cameras that allow you to speak into the device so your dog can hear you, show your face on a screen and push buttons to dispense treats or other interactive components so you can be there for your pet from afar.
Use Doggy Daycare
Sometimes, your home environment is not suitable for your dog to be alone for hours on end, or your dog may need some extra attention and support throughout the day. In these circumstances, you may want to consider short-term boarding or doggy daycare services that allow you to drop your dog off in the morning at a facility where they will be surrounded by other friendly dogs for socialization, have access to exercise for physical stimulation and receive professional care and attention during the day.
By taking steps to ensure your dog has everything they will need to feel happy, healthy and safe without you, you can reduce some of the guilt you experience when it’s time to leave your dog behind while demonstrating thoughtful care for your pup. Dogs benefit from familiarity and routine. The more diligently you stick to a schedule, even when you can’t be there to do it all yourself, the more secure your dog will feel in your absence. Dogs can be left alone, and they are often happy to have some time to themselves–especially when they’re set up for success and know you’re doing the best you can to be the dog owner they need and deserve.
photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/8OS99a1t8Io
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