Is Your Dog Home Alone?
Does your dog have a sad face when you leave home in the morning?
I firmly believe that owning a dog is compatible with having a full-time job outside the home. You just need to use the right techniques and products to keep Fido occupied while you're gone.
You also need to minimize the possibility of incessant barking that riles your neighbors and results in police showing up on your doorstep.
Here's what has worked for me:
Create an indoor den
Leaving a dog alone outdoors all day is a terrible idea. It guarantees problems with the neighbors and behavior problems from your dog. Further, you can't protect your dog from sudden, bad weather.
Use a crate if you or a surrogate come in during the day to let him out for a break. The rule of thumb is don't keep a dog in a crate longer than 4-hours at a stretch.
If no one is home, use a gate, that he can see out of, to create a den in a room such as the kitchen or laundry room.
Arrange a toilet area in the farthest part of the room using a doggy door to the outside or newspapers, pads or dog litter tray.
Create a haven
Don't let him have the run of the house especially if he's a puppy. A bored dog is a destructive dog and one that can harm himself by chewing or swallowing dangerous objects.
Have a favorite blanket, toy and comfortable bed in his crate or the room where you leave him during the day. He needs a comfortable place to nap during the day.
Create mental stimulation
I like to leave a Kong toy filled with peanut butter or other gooey treat. My dog happily spends the afternoon trying to get the treat. Another good toy is the Buster Cubes which can be filled with dry food.
Create pleasant sounds
Do you like to be a quiet house for hours on end? Leave the radio, TV or CD player on. Some owners tape their own voices and leave that playing all day. My dog loves classical music. Just make sure it's soothing music, no heavy metal bands, please.
I don't like to leave food out. Bored dogs can overeat just as bored humans do. However, I do think dogs should have drinking water available any time they want it. Try leaving a bowl or two of water for him. If you can afford it, use a water dispensing product.
Create a soothing environment
One of the newest products available is an electric diffuser that releases Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP). These mimic the natural pheromones produced by lactating bitches to reassure puppies. One study showed a 70% reduction in barking and whining when the DAP was used. Sounds weird may be a scent-sible solution for whining puppies.
Create unemotional leaving and return
Don't make a production when you leave and come home. Spend time with your dog (playing to tire him out and taking him to the potty) before you leave in the morning. When you get home at night, try to wait 5 or 10 minutes before acknowledging him when you get home.
Consider - as a last resort - mood stabilizers
The drug clomipramine is sometimes prescribed for dogs that exhibit extreme hyperactivity or destructive behaviors when their owners are absent and when other treatments haven't been effective. Think of it as Prozac for dogs. It's not addictive, but it's a last resort that should only be used under veterinarian control.
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