The first time you leave your dog home alone is difficult. I remember when I first left Echo alone. I was nervous, cause I didn’t know how she would respond, would she be sad while I was away or deal with anxiety. The best part was coming back home and seeing her face light up with excitment.
Now that we’re in the post-pandemic era and many people have returned to their offices and to a “normal” life, you’re probably leaving the house a little more often. And if you feel guilty about leaving your pet behind, you’re not alone.
It’s normal to feel sad or guilty about leaving your dog behind. But the fact is—you will need to leave them alone every once in a while, if not every day. You don’t have to live with that guilt. Here’s what to try.
Preparing Your dog For Being Home Alone
Preparing your dog to stay home alone is often recommended. You don’t want to jump from spending every day together to leaving them home alone for 8 hours suddenly.
Dogs may suffer from separation anxiety. In her article Separation Anxiety? What You Can Do dog trainer Linda Michaels gives 7 steps dog parents can take to help prepare their pup for longer stays alone.
So make sure to take it slow and get your dog feeling safe when you’re not around. Knowing your pet will be just fine without you home can help alleviate some of the guilt.
Here Are Some Practical Ways To Help You And your dog When You Can’t Be Together:
1. Provide Mental Stimulation
Pets need mental stimulation because it keeps them busy, learn new skills, explore, build confidence and prevent boredom.By making sure your pet has mental stimulation, you can help keep the guilt in check because you know you are leaving them with something good for them.
You can add mental stimulation in the form of toys or their environment.
Adding toys or changes to the environment (like a catio or rearranging so your pet can see outside) can add a lot to make their alone time high-quality and keep your guilt in check. Some of my favorite types of mental stimulation include:
When it comes to toys, make sure it’s safe to leave your pet unattended with it. Some toys or games need human supervision.
2. Spy on your dog… in a healthy way.
The guilt is sure to fly out the window if you can check up on your pet throughout the day and see that they are okay. Pet cameras (with an app so you can check up on them) can make that happen.
We have a pet camera at home, and even though I don’t have it operating all the time. If I plan to be gone for an extensive length of time I will run it and make sure it focuses on their main area where they sleep. It’s so nice to be able to check up on them, but also talk to them too. Our camera has a two way speaker so that way my dogs can hear me and it makes them feel connected.
There are a lot of cool features you can look for in pet cameras. Besides looking for one with an app, you can research for one that includes: Remote controlling, two-way audio, night vision, motion detection, cloud storage, high resolution, range of view, real-time alerts, mounting vs. table top.
A word of caution on pet spy cams though. Some people can become obsessive about checking in, pet cams can be hacked since they require wi-fi to operate (this is why I turn my cam off when I am home), the two way audio can create stress for your dog. Make sure to use a webcam wisely.
3. Crating can help your dog’s anxiety and your guilt.
Some dogs will do better being crated while you’re out.
If you’re a new dog parent or working on potty training, now’s the perfect time to start crate training. Expert dog training Victoria Stilwell outlines her process for crate training on her website.
But if you’re thinking of putting your dog in the crate while you’re out, you want to start slowly. Here’s some steps to take when using the crate to ease your dog’s anxiousness.
I’m so glad I stuck it out and now both Echo and Lucy are okay in their crate and go in there all the time, even when I am at home.
Believe me, not having the struggle of getting your dog in a crate or hearing their whimpers does wonders to keeping you guilt-free! Take the time to make the crate a safe, enjoyable option for them!
4. Add playtime, a photoshoot or exercise before you leave!
Step this up even more by adding a photoshoot element to your time together.
A tired dog is a “good” dog. Spend the mornings doing an activity you both enjoy and make sure your pet is getting enough exercise.
5. Hire a great pet sitter or walker.
Don’t have time to walk your pet in the morning? Or going to be away too long? Get help!
A professional dog walker can help you meet your pet’s needs and make being home alone less lonely. They’ll have some companionship throughout the day or while you’re away for an extended time.
You’ll feel good because you’re giving your pet the playtime they need!
Life is hard enough. You don’t need to drag around a bag of guilt too! As pet parents, we’re always looking for the best ways to take care of and love our pets. I hope one of my tips helps you shake off some of the guilt and makes your dog’s alone time more peaceful.