Dogs are social animals. Their evolution has equipped them to live in a pack and they don’t have the innate resources to cope with being alone. But most dog owners have to leave their dogs some of the time, and with the correct preparation a dog can adjust to this reality quite well. Let’s assume that your dog is fully grown, is comfortable in your house, and regards the territory as his own.
Make Him Sleepy
A well-adjusted adult dog does not need to be active all day long. Most dogs, if there is nothing particular to do, will quite happily go to sleep. So encourage that by getting him tired before you go out.
Fit in a good long walk. If that means you have to go out at 5:00 am, then so be it. You need to know what constitutes a good long walk—it depends on the age, size, and constitution of your dog. If at all possible, make sure that it includes off-leash time, so that he is exploring and sniffing around, to tire his brain as well as his body.
Keep Her Occupied
Your dog will not sleep all day, so you want to find ways to keep her out of mischief while she is awake.
A simple trick is to scatter dried food around her part of the house. She will have a lovely time searching and sniffing around for it, and even when it is all gone the smells will linger so she can keep going back for another look. You need to be confident that she will not damage things in the process.
Provide a puzzle toy that she has to worry at to get a tantalizing treat—something that would drive you insane, but she will patiently work at for hours. Specially designed toys can be filled with a tasty paste which will take all day to get out. Others release an occasional pellet of food as they are knocked and rolled around.
If she loves tugging, you can find on this website of Interactive Dog Toys a range of devices for all sizes of dogs. Make sure that you get one robust enough for your dog, and watch carefully how she deals with it before leaving her alone—any toy can be dangerous if it can come apart.
Deal With Separation Anxiety
If your dog is truly anxious when you are not at home, then you may need expert advice. Sometimes it is a matter of re-establishing who is in charge. If your dog thinks he is responsible for your safety because he is the top dog in your pack, he is going to be very frustrated if he cannot find you. But if he appreciates that the top dog (you) often goes away and comes back, he will regard it as a natural event.
You can help him to accept your absence by providing a treat as you go, so that your departure is linked to an enjoyable experience.
Make sure that his bed is in a nice quiet place, so that if he is disturbed by noises when you are out, he has somewhere secure to retreat to. Some people put calming essential oils onto their dog’s bedding.
If necessary, ask your vet for advice on products which will calm your dog. There are medications which can be used in extreme circumstances or to break a habit. Many dogs also respond well to pheromone diffusers which simulate the smell of lactating bitches.
Get Her Some Company
You may not be in a position to get another dog, but there are various ways you can arrange for her not to be alone all the time you are away.
If you know someone with whom you can swap dog-caring duties, you might be able to take your dog to their house, and return the favor when it suits them. Or perhaps your neighbor loves dogs but doesn’t have one of their own, and would be happy to provide daycare in return for small favors.
A more expensive but more reliable option would be to use the services of a dog-care center or dog-walker.
Being alone is not part of a dog’s natural experience, but dogs have learned to adapt to many things during their long association with humans. With a relationship based on trust and security, and your willingness to go the extra mile, your dog will manage the separation—and, of course, will always be delighted to welcome you home.
Matt Price, M.B.A, is the director of marketing for Tether Tug and was part of the founding team for the product and company. Matt graduated summa cum Laude with Honors from Missouri State University in 2005 and completed his MBA at MSU in 2008. He lives in Nixa, MO with his wife and daughter and 2 Cairn Terriers, Penny & Macgregor