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How to Help Your Dog Adjust to Spending More Time Alone

Perhaps no one has been happier with you spending a majority of your time at home than your dog. For more than a year, your best friend has been spoiled in that they have rarely been left home alone. Instead of leaving them to go to the office, to go out to dinner, or for longer periods while on vacation, you’ve been practically inseparable for the past 13 months.

Unfortunately for your dog, all good things must come to an end. As places continue to reopen and reduce restrictions, your time spent at home will most likely decrease in tandem. This means that your furry friend will have to adjust to being away from you and learn how to spend their day independently. This transition back to normal, however, might not be the easiest for your pet. Use these tips to help your pup make this transition as smooth as possible to avoid having a disgruntled dog on your hands.

Start the transition slowly

As you begin to help your dog adjust to being home alone, you’ll want to transition them in increments. The last thing you want to do is immediately leave them alone for an entire 8-hour work day. Instead, you should plan on building up to what your future weekly schedule will look like, allowing them to develop a sense of what to expect when you’re away.

If you’re working from home currently, you can start this process by working in a separate room from your dog for a set amount of time. This will help them learn that you won’t be around during work hours, which will aid in their understanding of your soon-to-be schedule. If you begin this process early enough, you’ll be able to lengthen the time incrementally, helping them adjust accordingly. You can start small by working separately for an hour. Then, as you and your dog get used to this, you can increase the time by an hour. Continue to do this until your dog is used to being alone for a few hours at a time.

When the time comes for you to leave your home for the day, your dog will be more comfortable with not being around you consistently. While tedious, following this process will ideally reduce the risk of separation anxiety for them and will keep them happy even when you’re gone.

Make a ‘dog proof’ area

If you have a puppy or an especially destructive dog, creating a dog-safe space is a must. But what exactly does this mean? For starters, you will want to block off the area that you plan on leaving your pup in while you are gone. Using doggy gates, you can block off a room in the house – such as the kitchen or laundry room – so that they are contained in one area. If possible, this should be a big enough space that they can move around to some degree. In this room, you should remove any hazardous objects, foods, or materials that they could get into while you’re gone. Be sure to double check that there’s nothing a bored puppy can find and chew that they could potentially choke on.

If you are unable to block off an area, you can opt to use a dog crate to ensure your pet doesn’t get into any mischief while you’re gone. If they aren’t used to staying in their crate for extended periods, be sure to slowly acclimate them to it as well.

Lastly, be sure to provide a bowl of water in your dog proof area. They should never be left without fresh water available throughout the day.

Provide them with entertainment

Once your dog proof area or crate has been created and is clear of all dangerous items, you will want to stock it with a few toys that will keep your pup entertained while you’re gone. Again, make sure that none of these could become choking hazards if torn apart. To help ensure their safety, you might want to only give them toys made out of tougher material, such as rubber, that they won’t be able to break apart.

You’ll also want to have a few different toys available for them to choose from, which will keep them occupied for longer. By providing them with a couple of different options to choose from, you’ll help reduce boredom, something you want to avoid as it will only lead to trouble. And don’t worry if as you’re heading out the door, you realize that you no longer have any toys to give your dog. You can use an online pet store and have dog supplies, like toys and treats, delivered to you in minutes, so that you can leave your pet a new toy, even at a moment’s notice.

Consider turning the TV on

If you’ve been working from home, your pet is used to hearing you on Zoom meetings, listening to music, and watching television. For them, a silent house will probably feel abnormal and might make them very nervous. If you think that your pet will benefit from having some noise in the background when you’re out of the house, consider leaving the TV or some music on for them. Like anything else that you introduce to your dog, monitor them at first to see if they enjoy the sound or if it makes them uncomfortable. Once you have a better idea, you can make the decision whether it will be helpful to leave it on for extended periods during your absence.

Pop in mid-day if possible

If your work isn’t very far from your house and you’re able to stop in at lunch time, do it. Spending the extra 30 minutes at home can be a great break for your dog and gives them a chance to go outside for the bathroom and to move around a little. Plus, they’ll love the chance to see you.

If you aren’t able to stop by your home at lunch time, consider finding a dog walking service or a doggy day care that’s within your budget. This can be a great way to provide supervision for your pet and allows them to have some attention during the day. Additionally, if your pet is used to a walk at noon, it would be best for their health and happiness to maintain that schedule when possible. If you aren’t able to check in on your pet or have someone stop by, there should be a way for your pet to go to the bathroom, whether through a doggy door or with artificial grass. This will ensure that they are more comfortable throughout the day and that there won’t be any messy accidents for you to clean up when you get home. 

Give them a lot of love while you’re home

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but giving your dog the attention they need when you’re home is key to being a good pet owner. No matter how comfortable they are with being left alone, they’ll always be thrilled to see you when you get back from work. While you’re going to be tired after a long day, be sure to dedicate some time solely to your dog. You can do this by playing a game of catch, taking them for a walk or a jog, or some other kind of safe exercise, so that you both can stretch your legs and get some much needed fresh air and time together. Showing them a little extra love will certainly make your dog’s day – everyday.

Ask an expert if problems persist

Depending on the dog, this transition can vary on how well they adjust to your new schedule. If you find that your pet is having an especially hard time with you leaving the house more often, you should check in with your veterinarian for advice. Your dog might even need medication to help keep them calm during the day if they have anxiety issues. Your veterinarian will also have more tips and tricks on how to help your dog adapt to this new environment.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Nu_UiANKSa8

Leaving your dog more often will be a challenge for both you and your pet. Hopefully these tips will help you both adjust accordingly, so that your dog can remain happy and healthy. 

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