Just like humans, dogs are social creatures; so, when they have to be left “home alone” it can be quite challenging and upsetting for you both. It can be more so upsetting for them, however, as they see you as a pack member. As an owner you may feel guilty or worried when it comes to parting from your beloved four-legged friend, but it is impossible to be with them constantly. Although, for the well-being of your dog, it is important that you don’t leave them on their own for too long. Dogs over the age of eighteen months should be left alone for no longer than four hours at a time and puppies no longer than two hours maximum. Dogs that are left home alone may develop bad habits and behaviours such as; scratching or biting furniture and clothes, urinating and barking but you need to teach them that being alone isn’t scary but in fact a time to relax and embrace the peace and quiet.
When you bring your puppy home you need them to learn that being home alone is not a problem, and that you will be returning. You should start by enforcing the “leave and return” method. Start by leaving them for just a few minutes, and gradually extend the amount of time you leave them. It’s important to remember though that you should only start to extend this time once they are comfortable and you can trust their behaviour whilst you are not there.
If you are with your dog the majority of time, then when you do leave them they may suffer from separation anxiety.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Some dogs suffer from this condition when they are not used to being away from their owner or family, which can cause them to become extremely anxious and distressed. It is classed as a serious behavioural problem and you may need to seek help from your local behaviourist. Alternatively, you could try to resolve the problem yourself first by allowing your dog to have a toy filled with kibble or treats when you are out. This provides them with a distraction, so they will not worry or wonder where you are. Make sure that you remove this toy when you return though, so that they associate that specific toy with being on their own.
Signs of Separation Anxiety:
• Barking, Crying or Howling
• Destructive Behaviours
• Stressed as Soon as You Leave
• Urinating and Defecating
Things to Do to Ensure Your Dog Is Happy on His Own
1. Plenty of exercise before leaving. A tired dog will settle down and go to sleep for the day so ensure a walk of around half an hour to an hour before you leave. If the dog is older, then it may not require as big of a walk as a young dog or puppy would.
2. Make it fun for them. Hide treats in toys to encourage them to search for them. This is also good if your dog is a chewer, as this will stop them from chewing your furniture. Providing them with toys will be a distraction for any boredom they may experience.
3. If you are leaving your pet for a long period of time, then it is best to contact your local dog walker so that they can take them out in middle of the day. This is also a good idea if your dog needs a lot of exercise. You must let them get used to the person with you first before they take your dog out alone.
4. Leave the radio or TV on as this can be calming and help them to relax. Something to bear in mind though is that your dog may become reliant on constant sound, and it could be a potential fire hazard to your home.
Before you buy a dog, it is important to take into consideration the amount of time that you would be leaving them. If you have full time jobs that require you to be out the house all day then maybe you should see if another pet would be more suited to you.