Whether it is by choice or for financial reasons, most pet owners have a career that keeps them busy and they can’t always be at home during the day to look after their pets. There are many ways that you can keep your puppy occupied while you’re away. The most important thing is to ensure that your puppy is safe when he is home alone.
1. Safe and secure
Make sure your property is secure and that there is no way your dog can get out. If your dog stays outside, he should be confined to the back of the property – theft and poisoning are very real dangers. Remove any items that could potentially harm your dog (such as pieces of metal), or that he may target for chewing. Your dog should have a sheltered, comfortable sleeping area and plenty of fresh water.
2. Stay calm
Petting your dog before leaving home could assist in calming him during your absence. Take a minute to sit calmly with him before you leave and touch him gently – this is not a time to excite him. Similarly, when arriving home, acknowledge your dog but don’t go overboard with greetings. Save that for when he’s settled down a bit to reinforce calmer behaviour.
3. Relaxing music
Certain types of music have a calming effect on dogs, so leave some playing when you leave the house – a speaker near a window is fine for outside dogs. Light classical music is best, but there are also several relaxing dog music options available online.
4. Keep active
Obesity in dogs is a growing concern, and when left to their own devices, many dogs will spend most of the day lying around. When you are home, walks, tossing toys or tiny treats, agility at home, or simply running around the garden and calling your dog to follow you, are all good ways of encouraging him to keep active.
5. Mind games
Dogs need to use their brains. Fortunately, there are many treat-dispensing toys and puzzles available for dogs – either to buy or make yourself – just do a search on the internet. Training is also great, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Simple games, like giving a treat for eye contact, responding to being called, or a few sits, are hugely beneficial.
6. Relaxing chews
Look for chews that your dog can enjoy safely when you’re not home – stuff-able toys such as Kongs are a good option. Otherwise, provide chews when you’re home to supervise.
A dog’s nose is a magical thing, and it needs to be worked! Sprinkle lavender and chamomile around the garden for a calming effect, or hide some treats for your dog to search for. This is a great activity to leave for your dog as you’re going out.
8. Make every minute count
You don’t have much time with your dog, so make it count. Do something with your dog that he enjoys – whether it’s a massage or brushing, walking around the garden, or just sitting together. Put away your phone, switch off the TV and focus on your dog for five to 10 minutes – it will be good for both of you. If possible, take your lunch breaks at home and allow your dog to sleep in your room at night; these are small ways of integrating your dog into your life and providing for their emotional needs.
9. Don’t get another dog
Thinking that a second dog will keep your dog occupied and prevent loneliness – and therefore prevent certain behavioural issues – is often incorrect. This approach often backfires, resulting in two bored, lonely dogs, instead of one. It may help in some cases, but ultimately your dog needs you, not another dog.
10. Be prepared
Prepare treats or stuff-able toys the night before. Make sure you have all relevant phone numbers saved. If you’re going to be at work longer than usual, ask a friend or neighbour to help in advance. Having a variety of people to call on when you can’t be there, is essential. Family, friends and neighbours can all play vital roles, especially if something goes wrong. They may also be able to visit your dog during the day to provide some interaction. Professional assistance is important too, so ensure that you have a reliable vet and a qualified behaviourist to call on when necessary.
11. Use technology
Set up cameras that you can monitor on your phone. You’ll be able to observe how your dog copes when you’re not home, and which activities and approaches are having a beneficial effect on his behaviour. You’ll also be able to spot any health issues or emergencies as they arise.
12. Day-cares, sitters and walkers
A word of warning – these are unregulated industries. Should you choose to use these services, be extremely careful. A reputable day-care, dog-sitter or dog-walker can be a major boon to your dog’s life, but they can also cause harm if the people involved are unqualified, unknowledgeable or inexperienced.