Does your pooch get a bit toothy when home alone? Have you lost a pair of shoes or two in the process? Many dogs go through separation anxiety when they are left at home alone. This will cause them to become anxious, stressed, and depressed when you are out of sight. They believe they have been abandoned, and it can be hard to break them of this habit. But it can be helped.
Even if your pup does not suffer from this ailment, leaving them alone for extended periods can lead to simpler reactions such as boredom. All of the above emotions, however, can cause your pet to chew on anything and everything in their path. Unfortunately, sometimes leaving them alone cannot be helped. This is especially true if you work outside of the house.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that will help give your pet some peace and save your home from destruction. In the article below, we will go over these methods for safeguarding your home and relieving your dog’s stress while you are away.
Create a Safe Place
The first thing you want to do is create a safe space for your pet to spend time alone. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the most important aspect is to make sure it is safe. Also, one thing we do not recommend doing is keeping your pet in a crate for extended periods. For example, if you are going to be at work for eight hours, leaving your pup in a small kennel is not going to relieve their stress.
Instead, try to find an area that can be blocked off such as a small room or the kitchen. If you use a crate, make sure you keep it in the area that is blocked off, so they will have somewhere to nap. Dogs think of their crates as a “safe place” and will get used out of it.
If you are using the kitchen, for example, make sure anything they could chew on is removed or put up high. Keep all power cords out of reach, keep trash in another room, and be aware of other items they can gnaw on. You can use a dog gate to block off the area or even a baby gate if need be. Once they get used to being in this space, it will become routine, and they will start to know you are coming home eventually.
You will also want to provide your pet with other entertainment in their “confined” area. This can be a wide variety of things. In fact, we recommend leaving a few toys and other items behind for them to play with so they do not become bored. Take a look at these possible options that will keep your pup focused on not chewing on the rug.
Whatever you can leave to keep them entertained is a good idea. If you can leave a rope toy and a bone that is filled with treats, they will spend the majority of their time working on the snack, and the rest wrestling with the rope. Like us, diversity helps. Just make sure the toys you are leaving behind are safe.
Besides leaving behind toys, you also want to give them some distraction. This can be in the form of some type of noise in the home. Although leaving the TV on seems like the best option, in this case, it is not always effective at curbing their chewing.
What you want to do is have either light music, white noise, or nature sounds going on in the background. There are even dog-related videos and TV shows you can play that are designed to keep a canine company when they are having some alone time.
What you want to be careful of, however, is having the sound be too loud or in the same room. Leave it as background noise coming from a different part of the home to help keep them serene and calm. If you are able, you can also program some noise machines to come on periodically. Again, this is a distraction that will take their mind off of your absence.
When we say essentials, we are generally talking about water. You do not necessarily have to provide your pet with food or treats while you are gone as long as they eat before and after. On the other hand, they should have unrestricted access to water at all times unless your vet tells you otherwise. A water fountain is the perfect solution for unlimited access to water.
Besides the water, there may be other items your dog likes to have around. Like a small child with a security blanket, some dogs gravitate to a specific stuffed animal or toy that gives them comfort. If so, make sure you are leaving it with them while you are away.
Another tip is to leave a piece of clothing that smells like you in their crate. This is helpful if your pet has separation anxiety as it gives them a sense of being close to you. Be advised, however, that this does not work for all dogs. You should try this method first by leaving them alone for a few minutes with your scent. If it makes their anxiety worse, remove the item right away.
If you have a particularly anxious canine, you can also consider stress-reducing sprays. There are many calming sprays available that you can use in their crate and around the confinement space. Not only will it help keep them mellow, but it can also help reduce their need to chew.
If you are not comfortable with store-bought options, there are many home-remedy calming sprays you can mix from ingredients found in your kitchen. You can even put it in a bowl and leave it in your kitchen sink. The smell will waft through the area keeping your pet calm. They typically smell nice, as well.
Hire a Companion
Another option to consider is hiring a companion for your pet. This can be in the form of a dog sitter or walker. If you find someone you trust, a short visit to your home where the sitter can visit with your pet can make a difference. If your furbaby is less likely to have anxiety and suffers more from boredom, a dog walker is also a good idea.
Taking your pooch out roughly halfway through their time alone can make a big difference. Not to mention, dogs are good at adapting to a consistent schedule. They will start to look forward to their walk time, plus it will cut their solitary confinement in half.
Provide a Lot of Exercise
Another great way to keep the destruction to a minimum is to tire your pet out before you leave them alone. We understand that a mile jog before work every day is not always possible, but even playing fetch for a few minutes will get some of their energy out.
This is also a great option if you don’t leave your pet alone regularly for work. If, for example, you work from home but have the occasional outside meeting where you will be gone for a few hours, take your four-legged friend out and let them run wild. Not only will they be happy and content, but they are more likely to snooze away a lot of your absence.
On the other hand, if you have to leave them daily for work, try to get in the habit of playing with them before you leave. As we mentioned, even bringing them outside for a game of fetch is helpful. If you are energized enough to take them for a quick walk around the block, even better. Pent up energy is one of the more popular reasons why your pet will engage in destructive behaviors.
Reduce Stressful Factors
The main stressor in your pet’s mind is that you have disappeared. The second, as mentioned, is their pent-up energy. Sometimes, there is not a lot you can do about either of those situations. If you have to work after a foot of snow has fallen, a long walk in the morning may not happen.
On the other hand, you can do a lot to keep other stressful matters to a minimum. Make sure your pet has a full belly and has had a chance to digest and use the bathroom before you leave. What’s more, if you have other pets, such as a cat that may or may not tease your dog, try to also keep them in a confined space to relieve that anxiety.
Depending on your dog’s personality, they may be triggered by many other factors. Some dogs are better with the curtains closed while others love to watch people passing by. Some dogs can’t stand the phone ringing, so you may be better off shutting down the ringer before you leave.
Taking care of these small matters can make a big difference to your pet, and reduce the likelihood of your coming home to a mess of gnawed on furniture.
With today’s technology, we can monitor our pets while we are away. If you have a particularly crafty or anxious pup that you have serious reservations about leaving at home for any length of time, it may be in your best interest to set up a monitor. That way, you will be able to keep an eye on your dog from wherever you are.
Another benefit of this is the voice automation that is also available. With some systems, you will be able to speak with your dog. Your voice can be heard through a speaker, and it will make your pet feel as though you are nearby.
Keep in mind, this is something you will need to try gradually. Some dogs will become more anxious and unruly if they can hear you, but you never come into sight. You should leave your pet’s sight, but not the property to see how they react. If it’s positive, you can slowly extend the time.
Dealing with a destructive pooch can be frustrating and difficult. Keeping them safe and in a confined space with something else to do can go a long way to curbing the worst of the behavior, however. On the flip side, dealing with an anxious pup can be heartbreaking. If that is the case, it is best to leave them alone for short periods and work your way up until they feel more comfortable alone.
You always want to keep the goodbyes cheerful and quick, as well. Your pooch takes his emotional cues from you. The difference is they do not understand the intent behind the emotion. If you are sad saying goodbye, they will not understand it is because they are cute and crying, they only feel something bad is happening. A happy “be back soon” will work wonders.
We hope the above information has helped you find a way to protect your home and pet when you are not around. Not every tip will work for every pup, but there are bound to be a few that will save a pair of shoes or two!
Featured Image Credit: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.