5 tips for leaving your dog home alone while you're at work

July 31, 2020

If you’re one of many people who adopted a dog during quarantine, you’re likely starting to plan for the day when you will need to leave your dog home alone. Many pet owners are preparing for a physical return to work or school, but how can you ensure your pooch will have a smooth transition to their new normal?

5 tips for leaving your dog home alone while you're at work

Photo Credit: iStock.com/ Sergii

Whether you have a new puppy at home, or an older dog who has enjoyed a lot of extra human time during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely they’ll experience some sort of separation anxiety when you start to spend more time away from home. Dogs may deal with that anxiety in a variety of unpleasant ways: urinating or defecating indoors, excessive barking or whining, chewing or digging and sometimes overeating or under eating.

How long can you leave your dog or puppy at home alone? Puppies need frequent bathroom breaks for comfort but also lots of company and stimulation. Experts recommend a maximum of 2 hours a day of alone time for the youngest dogs while older dogs can usually last 6-8 hours.

Here’s how to teach your dog that being home alone is no big deal:

1. Practice leaving for short periods of time

Pets don’t like sudden changes to their routine, so start preparing your dog well in advance of your return to work. Start by just leaving the room where they are confined for a few minutes to see how they react, and progress to longer outings away from home. Resist the urge to return if they bark or whine. Make your departures and arrivals low-key events to send the message to your dog that your leaving is normal, and you will return.

2. Create space for alone time

Consider crate-training your dog. Having a cozy space with food, water and their favourite toys puts dogs at ease. A safe place to pee, such as a pee pad or grass pad, is also a good idea. Some pet owners puppy-proof an entire room in the house, or purchase a dog pen to keep their pet from getting into trouble around their apartment. A final option is to keep your dog outdoors in a fenced yard when you’re not home. The dog will have plenty of fresh air and space to roam, however, this plan depends on good weather and the confidence your dog won’t escape. The garage may be a viable option for those struggling with the inside vs. outside dilemma.

3. Give them something to do

Create a positive association with your absence by offering your dog a specific treat or toy each time you leave. A Kong stuffed with treats or other type of toy or food puzzle are fun options that will keep him occupied for a while. Put the toy or treat away when you get home, and only give it back the next time you need to leave.

Dogs may also enjoy the distraction of music playing or having the radio or TV as background noise while you’re out. Some pet cams can help entertain your dog in addition to letting you peek in on what he’s up to. Features like two-way voice communication and remote activated treat dispensers let you reassure and entertain a restless dog at a distance.

4. Tire your dog out before heading to work

Take your dog for a good walk and some active playtime before you leave for work. If your dog gets plenty of exercise, he may be content to rest and even sleep through his next pee break.

5. Get some help

Dogs are pack animals, so they still need human contact (and a good walk) to feel calm and happy. If you can’t pop home on your break, have a friend or neighbour stop in to let your dog out and play with him. If these options aren’t available to you, consider hiring a dog walker or sending your dog to doggy daycare. It’s an additional expense, but it’s not forever. Your dog will gradually adjust to spending time without you.

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