Home Alone? How to Keep Your Dog Happy

It’s no secret that dogs are sociable creatures who are happiest being with others. Plus, they're like toddlers. If you don’t give them a constructive focus, they’ll find ways to entertain themselves. You know... fun stuff like pulling all of the stuffing out of each cushion on your new couch, or enjoying four or five shoes -- each from a different pair. Not that we’ve had any experience with such things…

If you work from home or have the opportunity to take your dog to work with you, then you’re fortunate. But if your current lifestyle requires leaving your furry friend at home for long stretches of time, you’ll want to have a few tricks up your sleeve for keeping him/her happy and engaged.

 

Here are 6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Happy While Alone

1. Safety

Obviously, safety is the first priority. Your dog won’t be happy if s/he gets hurt. So make sure your pup can’t reach cords, harmful chemicals (like bleach or antifreeze), or anything else that could pose a danger. Depending on your pup’s age and inclinations, you may choose to crate your dog when you’re away or confine him/her in a mudroom or laundry room.

A word on crates: this may make Fido feel even more pent up, so when you let him out, he may run wild -- and really, can you blame him? If this sounds like your dog, then the crate may not be the best option.

2. Physical Exercise

While every dog needs exercise, some need a LOT of exercise. Labrador retrievers, border collies, rhodesian ridgebacks and many others are high energy breeds. It pays to do your research before bringing a new furry friend into your home so you know what to expect! These high energy breeds (including those traditionally bred to work) will need to have a positive outlet for their energy on a daily basis, or they will find their own. This may mean taking them out on an extended walk in the morning before you leave for work and another extended walk when you get home. Of course, those "walks" may need to include some physical exertion beyond walking, too! Enlisting the aid of a midday dog walker can also help maintain your sanity as can regular trips to the dog park.

Dogs need exercise, especially if they need to be home alone during the day

3. Mental Exercise

Interactive puzzle games, peanut butter stuffed Kongs, or other appropriate chew toys will help Fido stay engaged in something positive rather than search for his/her own entertainment. It’s worth experimenting with different toys to see what your dog likes best.

4. Use a Monitor

There are a variety of webcam options for monitoring your dog while you’re away. Options range from specific devices created for this purpose to configuring Skype (or other program) on a home computer to see (and talk to) your dog. This will allow you to see how your dog is doing, and if there’s a problem, you can enlist an emergency contact to help.

5. Install a Dog Door Dog doors are not for pups who can climb out of the yard!

If you have a fenced-in yard, a dog door will give your dog access to the outside when nature calls, as well as the opportunity to chase squirrels in good weather. Just make sure the fence is secure and you don’t have a dog who’s inclined to dig under it or climb over it. (Stranger things have happened….Some dogs are escape artists!)

6. Know the Signs of Frustration or Separation Anxiety

There’s boredom, and then there are bigger issues like separation anxiety. If you’ve tried the techniques above -- including ensuring your dog gets another hour or two a day of exercise -- and he’s still unhappy, then you may need professional assistance to work with you as the problem can run deep.

Signs of separation anxiety include barking or whining for long stretches at a time when left alone. Frequent destruction is another sign of separation anxiety. If you suspect your dog is highly anxious, you can ask your veterinarian for suggestions.

For most dogs, however, it simply takes more exercise and socialization to be happy. A couple quick trips around the block a day and the occasional playdate aren’t enough. Would it be for you? Instead, try adding some of these tactics to your routine and see if you don’t have a happier dog - and don't forget! Things like doggy daycare can be great alternatives, too.

 

If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment to talk about any serious issues, give us a call or fill out our online form.

 

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