Dog Home Alone

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could spend all day, every day, with your dog, playing ball together, going for long walks and napping in the noonday sun? Unfortunately, few of us are lucky enough to live such a life of leisure. After all, somebody’s got to go out and earn enough to put food in the bowl, blankets in the basket, and chew toys under the Christmas tree.

Dogs are very social creatures and they crave companionship and stimulation. While you’re at work, your dog will be stuck at home, trying to find ways to while away the hours until your return. Each dog handles this separation differently, says Larry Lachman, an animal behaviorist in Laguna Hills, California.
Some dogs cope quite easily, while others have trouble dealing with the fact that they are often left alone. The good news is that there is much you can do to help your dog deal with the temporary separation.

Keeping her Entertained:
Being alone from time to time is something most people look forward to – it gives us a chance to catch up on some of the things we want to do. We can amuse ourselves with a good book, a favorite TV show, or even indulge in a hobby such as painting, model building or sewing.

Obviously, dogs don’t have hobbies. And they don’t like being alone, either. “Dogs are pack animals, and when they are isolated, they feel lonely, bored, stressed, anxious and frustrated,” says Robin Kovary, a professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant New York City, and president of the American Dog Trainers network. That’s just the nature of dogs, she explains. It’s this deep attachment to her family that makes your dog such a wonderful pet.

Unfortunately, this same attachment can be hard on your dog when her family is not around. So how can you help her to feel okay when she has to be left on her own?

Care when you’re there. Pay lots of attention to her when you are home, says Lachman. A few hours a week of occasional interaction just isn’t enough for a dog that stays home by herself. “When dogs spend a lot of time alone, they also need to spend a lot of time with their owners, getting both exercise and attention,” he says.

Get her moving. Liz Palika, a dog trainer in Oceanside, California, and author of All Dogs Need Some Training, recommends a regular exercise schedule for dogs left alone during the day. “I suggest to my training students that their dogs by given two good aerobic workouts each and every day, one in the morning and one in the evening,” she says.

Keep her busy. Another way to help your dog cope is to give her something to do. Kovary suggest providing her with toys that can be filled with kibble, cheese or other foods. She will be occupied for hours working on one of these toys as she tries to get the food out.

Consider the Breed:
Every dog has her own unique temperament and personality, but your dog’s breed plays a large part in the way she looks at the world. Some breeds are generally more capable of being alone all day because of the temperament they have inherited as part of their breed characteristics, says Lachman. Dogs that were bred to work alone, for example, terriers and hounds, cope better with isolation because they are more independent and less reliant on their owners’ attentions. Breeds such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers were meant to work closely with humans, and are not good candidates for keeping themselves company. You’ll need to consider your dog’s personality before you decide how well she can handle being left alone.