Does your dog find it distressing being left home alone?
You are not alone! Lockdown has unfortunately disturbed many dogs' usual routine of being left home for periods of the day. They have been through a period of having a lot of company and people in the home, however, as we can no longer all be with our pets twenty-four hours a day, it’s important to help your dog adjust to being home alone.
We have put together our essential list of tips to follow to help your dog cope with staying home alone. Or if you would like to see a video on managing dog home alone click to see more information and articles.
1. Start Small, Then Increase Alone Time Slowly
To prevent your dog from experiencing a fear of being alone, you should get them used to small periods of time alone. You don’t need to leave the house entirely but you can leave them alone in a room - just for less than 10 minutes initially - and then return when they are calm and quiet. You can slowly increase their alone time until they become more comfortable with their own company.
2. Only Reward Calm Behaviour!
It’s understandable that your dog may cry sometimes when you leave - they like being around you! But, however tempting it might be, it’s important not to reward negative or agitated pet behaviour with fuss and attention. By comforting your pet, you can reinforce their worries! Instead, teach your pet that being home alone isn’t something to be afraid of; when you return, greet your dog - but calmly to avoid overreaction or negative associations. With time, your pet will soon learn that you’re going to return, and there’s nothing to be worried about!
3. Train your dog to recognise when you’re leaving
To help your dog understand that they will be alone for a little while, you can train them using different signals. For example, a wave and a word like ‘bye’ could mean I’ll see you in 4 hours while raising your hand and saying something like ‘won’t be long’ can let them know that you’ll be back shortly. Some dogs may be fine without a ‘bye’ but it's best to avoid any fuss when you’re departing or arriving.
4. Tire your dog out before you leave
The best thing you can do before leaving your pooch home alone is to give them some exercise. When you take your dog for their morning walk or exercise, they’ll likely fall asleep afterwards! This gives you the chance to leave the house without your dog feeling worried.
5. Keep your dog occupied
You should make sure that there are constructive ways for your dog to spend their time when you’re not around. Use a food-dispensing toy rather than their regular food bowl which will occupy and challenge them. Some dog toys offer various difficulties so you can make sure that your dog is active and engaged while you're away. If they get bored they may get destructive, so leave small tasks and fun toys to play with but make sure that none of the toys could be chewed apart or swallowed.
6. Leave them with tasty treats
- Fill (and freeze) a Kong: You can fill a Kong full of something super tasty (e.g. dog safe peanut butter) and give this to your dog just before the call begins. If you can, freeze the Kong with the tasty treat inside as this will keep your dog entertained for longer.
- Load up a Lickimat: Keep things interesting by trying something different spread on the Lickimat, such as squashed banana or chopped vegetables & greek yoghurt, dog friendly peanut butter or squeezy cheese.
- Fill up a snuffle mat: Tempting treats can be hidden in a snuffle mat including chopped apple, bite size treats or even their kibble.
7. Don’t give in to emotional blackmail
Even if it might be tempting, don’t re-enter the room if your pet starts crying, whining, howling or barking. Wait until they’re quiet and then go in and give them praise for being calm with your tone of voice and a gentle stroke. Remember to give them treats only when you leave and not on your return; providing a treat on your return will only make them more eager and anxious for you to come home!
8. How can ADAPTIL help?
The ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser is a simple yet clinically proven solution that can help calm and relax your dog at home by providing constant comfort. It supports your dog in situations like loud noises, staying alone, visitors, and other occasions that may make them nervous. Plug the Diffuser in the room where your dog spends most of their time to help reassure them during their alone time. When you leave you will be leaving them with a ‘’hug from their mum feeling’’ which will provide them with some comforting support.
When You Leave
1. Don’t Make A Fuss When Leaving
When it’s time for you to leave, don’t turn it into a big event! All that’s needed is a simple cue to help your dog understand that you’re going - and that you will come back! You can work with your dog to establish a ‘leaving’ cue during training - it may help to have two different cues; one for shorter amounts of time, and one for longer durations (over 4 hours). If your dog seems stressed, try not to give them lots of attention - rewarding your pet with fuss can reinforce anxious behaviours. Just as in their training, only pay them attention when they’re calm.
2. Try A Dog Camera While You’re Away
Want to see how your pet reacts when you’re away? A dog camera, set up in the room where your pet spends most of their time, can be a good way to see how they get on - and can be a great support tool for training. For example, many cameras allow you to see and hear your dog and to speak to them from a remote location, and even dispense treats. So, you could comfort them - say by asking them to sit - then dispense a rewarding treat.
When You Come Home
Greet Your Pet Calmly
A calm, relaxed demeanor is as important when you return to your pooch as it is when you leave, so while both you and your dog will be excited to see each other, try to keep the greeting relaxed and positive. Always wait for your dog to be calm before you interact with them. If your dog seems distressed, try a simple command, such as a ‘sit’ and reward them. Always reward positive reactions to your absence, and never punish your dog for negative behaviours. Punishments will only confuse your pet, and may cause them to be more stressed or anxious.
Find out if your dog is stressed when left home alone with our quick quiz.