How to Make Your Dog Feel Loved When You Have to Be Away a Lot
Recently I transitioned from telecommuting back to working in an office. As a mother, I had worries about my children's schedule but knew we would make the necessary adjustments considering they are both school-age. To my astonishment, it wasn't my kids that took the change hard. It was my dog!
Coming home after an eight-hour day, I would find things chewed, garbage strewn about and overall abnormally bad behavior stemming from her. This was something I would have expected from a puppy, but Sophie, my 6-year old Lab mix, is an adult. So, feeling some major mom-guilt, I looked into what could help her get used to my being at work during the day and make our transition a bit smoother.
Preparing to leave
While it's important you acknowledge your pet with a salutation and greeting, it's also vital you don't make a big deal out of it. Like humans, your dog needs to receive daily doses of affirmation, but overdoing it when your dog is dealing with separation anxiety can do more harm than good. Pet Education recommends downplaying your departure with a routine, perhaps grabbing your keys and settling down for a minute or giving a quick pat on your dog's head and quickly walking out the door. Similar to a command, your dog will begin to recognize what you are saying and understand what is happening. If you can chill out or slow down the process, this will make the transition a bit easier.
5 Minutes at a time
If you know your schedule is about to change or that there is potential of your dog suffering from separation anxiety, WebMD advises starting small with your dog. If you rarely leave, then start by leaving the house five to 15 minutes at a time, and gradually work up to longer periods away from him or her. As noted in the paragraph above, create your routine with departure clues so that when your new schedule is in full effect, your dog will know what's coming.
An excellent morning routine involves training your dog to go somewhere specific in the home when you leave. Pet Finder encourages this area to be a bed, a room or even a crate (although not suggested if you're gone for long periods of time). Tell your dog to go to his or her spot, and reward them with a treat or toy. The special area may even include a few toys that are meant to keep your dog company while you're away.
Every dog on the planet requires play and activity throughout their day, and dogs that are lacking exercise are more likely to show signs of separation anxiety. If your pet is sitting at home for eight-plus hours while you're off at work, it's likely he spent most of his day snoozing. Jazz him up a bit by playing his favorite game. The ASPCA notes that "exercising your dog's mind and body can greatly enrich his life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal dog behaviors. Additionally, a physically and mentally tired dog doesn't have much excess energy to expend when he's left alone." Throw a ball in the yard, play a bit of tug-of-war or whatever his little heart desires. Again, if you can give him your time, your dog will know you care even though you can't be there at every bark and howl.
Something both you and your pup need regularly is exercise. If the weather permits, it might help to exercise with Fido rather than those awkward strangers at your gym. Cesar Millan suggests taking your furry fellow on a walk, a hike or a run around the block before or after work. Not only will this help keep you in shape, but it will also aid in tiring out the pooch and avoiding possible rambunctious behavior tomorrow.
Leave something of yours behind
If you haven't noticed, your dog loves you more than anything in the world (minus his bone), so much so that the entire reason he's acting out is because he misses you. Since your dog can't stare longingly at your photo (or maybe he can), the Humane Society suggests leaving behind something with your scent that he can cuddle up to all day. A sweatshirt, T-shirt or blanket (that you don't mind getting covered with dog hair) will do just the trick. Lay it on his bed or favorite spot to snooze so that he's sure to have your scent with him all day long.
Give your dog some company
An excellent way to curb your dog's loneliness is to hire a dog walker or have a family member stop by to say hello. Although your pooch may have his own yard, having human contact can be quite beneficial for a pup who's left alone. Most of the time it isn't the fact that you're gone that stresses your dog out (sad, I know) — it's more of a loneliness factor. Giving them some human time may be just the answer your dog is looking for.
Don't forget the essentials
Don't forget the two most important things when you're preparing to leave your pet home alone for a while — food and water. Stressed pets may drink more water than normal, so make sure they have an ample supply. Along with water, make sure they have enough food to last until you get home. Choose a balanced, high-quality dog food like Blue Buffalo Wilderness to ensure your pup is satisfied and doesn't get hungry while you're out and about.
Make sure to celebrate behavioral milestones with your dog. If, after trying any of these tips and tricks, your dog stops misbehaving, then throw him a little party. Invite the local dogs in the 'hood, take him out for a sniff around the block, or make him a special treat. Anything that makes him know you still love him even though you're not glued to him all day is sure to make your pooch feel your deep and devoted affection.
This post was sponsored by Blue Buffalo Wilderness.