In many cases, it is unrealistic to think that your dog will never be left at home alone. Whether it's for work, seeing friends or popping to the supermarket, it is best to get your dog used to being home alone as early in their lives as possible to prevent separation anxiety from developing.
A good place to start is to slowly increase the time you leave them alone while you’re in the house and build this up to increments of time when you are out of the house.
When you leave the house, especially for a longer period of time, it is good - and reassuring - to know that your dog is comfortable, relaxed and okay by themselves. Here are some great ways to keep your dog happy, healthy and entertained when they are home alone:
Take them for a walk before you leave the house and give them a chance to do lots of sniffing on the way, as this will tire them out both physically and mentally.
Before you go out make sure your dog has access to water and any food they may need
Just before leaving, you could give your dog a long-lasting treat, such as a Kong, snuffle mat, lick mat or treat puzzle to keep them busy and mentally stimulated.
Leave the TV or radio on, making sure the volume is at a relatively quiet level. YouTube has some great 'Dog TV' videos which last for hours and keep your dog entertained with a virtual walk or a bit of bird-watching.
Don’t make a fuss when you leave or return; You don’t want to make you leaving and returning to the house a big deal so make it as uneventful as possible. Start by getting everything ready, so you can leave quickly and calmly. You could also use a word or phrase (such as “see you later” or "back soon") that helps to establish a routine. On your return, try not to fuss over your pooch, instead greeting them after a minute or so has passed.
Put their bed in their favourite spot (if they have one), with their favourite toy and perhaps an item of clothing with your scent. Creating a 'den' in this way gives them an extra feeling of comfort and safety.
Don’t leave them on their own for too long; Dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours, as a general rule. If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety then you should continue to build up to this gradually. If you do have to go out for longer, organise for someone to pop in or for your pooch to go to a trusted and local dog sitter / walker.
Dog-parent guilt is a real thing, no matter how much time you spend with them.
However, even if we want to, we can’t take them everywhere we go. Use the 7 tips above to make sure your dog is happy, healthy and comfortable home alone.