Back To Work
Bye – I’m off to work
Many of us are going to find our home-working lifestyles coming to an end. And although may feel unusual for us, just imagine how it’s going to feel for canine companions!
So, we’ve put together some tips to help you prepare your dog for being left alone again.
Get started as soon as you can
Although your dog’s sense of time isn’t as accurate as yours, they still crave a rhythm. If you’ve spent time working from home, it’s likely that your dog is used to being with you and will need help adjusting to your new routine
Fortunately, dogs are fairly adaptable and as long as you start slowly and build up, most will adjust quite quickly to a new routine.
Start slowly and build it up
Don’t go from taking your dog on lunchtime walks to being gone all day without any warning! Start slowly and build up to longer periods:
- Get your dog used to being left in a different room on his or her own whilst you are working.
For example, you could spend time each day working upstairs where you are out of sight and out of reach.
- If your dog is not happy being left on their own, even within your house, you can slowly build up to this.
Ask your dog to go to their bed and stay there, reward them for doing so.
Slowly build up the time that they are asked to stay in their bed and gradually increase your distance from them.
With time you should be able to ask them to stay on their bed while you leave the room and go out of sight.
You can progress to closing the door with them still in the other room.
- Vary the time that you leave them alone, and once they are ok with this you can try leaving the house altogether for short periods using the same routine.
- Gradually increase the length of time that you leave your dog; don’t suddenly leave them alone for long periods.
How long is long?
Everyone has their own beliefs as to how long to leave their dog unattended for, however, the RSPCA recommends no longer than 4 hours.
They should then have an opportunity to use the toilet, stretch their legs and have some human interaction.
If your dog was a new addition during lockdown, you may need to do a wee bit more to help them adjust, such as:
- Coming home for lunch
- Asking someone to visit your dog and spend some time with them during the day
- Using a dog-walking or ‘doggy day care’ service
- Or perhaps even taking your dog to work with you!
Make being alone a nice thing for your dog
Use these tips to create a positive experience for your dog when you leave.
- Give your dog a nice long walk before leaving them alone, so that they are tired and likely to sleep after your departure
- Or fill a ‘Kong’ with something tasty to distract them as you leave, this will help to provide them with a positive experience each time they are left alone.
- Or create a toy box which they only get when you go out. Fill the box with a selection of toys (which are safe for them to play with in your absence). Give it to them when you leave and remove it as soon as you get home. So it’s a special treat that they only get when you leave the house.
Every dog I different
If your dog is anxious when you leave, you need to understand what triggers their anxiety to be able to help them:
- If your dog is disturbed by seeing people walk past your house, closing the curtains may help to reduce this anxiety.
- If your house has been quite noisy, try leaving on the radio or tv when you go out
- Leave them somewhere familiar where they are used to spending time in their own bed. Don’t suddenly decide to shut them in one room where they have spent little time before now.
- Desensitise them to your leaving movements (locking the back door, putting on your coat, picking up your keys) by repeating these actions on a regular basis without actually leaving the house.
Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for showing anxious behaviour, or doing something whilst you are away – remember they are probably worried about you leaving them.
Getting angry or punishing your dog will only make them worry about what you may do when you next return, and this could make their behaviour worse!
Remember that every dog is different and you’ll have to adapt your training – if your normally well behaved dog does something out of character, just accept it as part if the adjustment phase.
And when you get home?
We’ve all done it. The exuberant return!
But it can be a mistake. Next time you leave, all that your dog is thinking about is you coming home, so this can exacerbate separation anxiety issues.
Instead, give them some attention, but then continue on with your routine, so that your return isn’t a major milestone.
This helps both of you understand that being apart is OK!