Today’s guest writer is Robbi Hess, Story Editor at Positively Woof. Robbi is writing about how to help your dog be happier, calmer and more relaxed at home.
If you’re like many dog owners, you leave the house daily to go to work or run errands. When you leave the house and hear your dog barking frantically or clawing at the door to get to you, your pet parent guilt is on high alert.
You dash through your errands. You fret while you’re at work that your dog is not only destroying the house, but is a nervous wreck because you’re gone. You know once you get home – no matter how long you’ve been gone – your dog will be hyperactive, jumping around, barking and just frenetic with relief at your return. It’s stressful and heartbreaking for both of you.
What can you do to help your dog cope and be happier and calmer and alleviate your pet parent guilt?
Exercise. If you have to, get up earlier to take your dog for a long walk before you leave. A tired dog is a happier dog. He may look so forward to the walk that when you leave he is calmer because the walk was a treat. If the weather isn’t cooperating for a long walk, play indoor games with your dog. Fetch, tug of war, anything that he loves that is a treat and that will help him burn off some energy.
Treats. Give your dog a delicious bone she can gnaw on when you’re away or a toy that is her favorite she only gets when she’s home alone. If these aren’t regular treats she may just happily play with that toy or bone and be satisfied until you return.
Crate training. Some pet parents swear by crate training. They introduce their puppy to the crate when the puppy is young and he learns to love it. The pet parent can put a treat in the crate and the puppy or dog will go right in and it’s a signal that you will be away and they will spend their day quietly napping until you return. The crate becomes the puppy or dog’s safe space.
Routines. If your dog gets frantic when he knows you’re leaving because he knows the signs: You make your coffee, get your shoes on, grab your car keys, hug him and kiss him and make a huge fuss over him, you could be playing into his anxiety. Don’t make a fuss about leaving. Don’t make a huge fuss over your dog when you come home after work. When you do either of these you are reinforcing your dog’s thoughts that your leaving, and coming home, are experiences to be stressed or frenetic about. Give your dog a quick hug, then walk out.
When you get home, you don’t want to ignore him, but if you make a huge deal you are reinforcing his anxiety. If leaving and coming home are not exciting, your dog won’t have reason to fret. Another thing to try is to carry car keys with you when you’re in the house, when you’re cooking dinner or sitting on the couch; condition your dog to not associate the jangling of keys with your imminent departure.
Sounds and sights. Know how, when you’re home alone and it is so silent that any noise makes you jump? Imagine what it’s like for your dog. His hearing is more acute than ours. He can hear a car door slam three houses away or a dog barking down the block. These sounds can make him even more anxiety-ridden. Turn on the radio so he has noise.
Better yet, turn on DOGTV for him. Watch DOGTV with her before you turn it on and go to work. Sit on the couch with one another so he will equate the DOGTV programming with warm memories of being with you. The programming on DOGTV are aimed at relaxation and to help alleviate your dog’s separation anxiety. Try it for free – you will both be happier for it. Remember, dogs don’t “watch” television the way we do, meaning they don’t have to be fixated on what’s going on on the screen; they benefit from the sounds of the DOGTV programming. You may find, however, that they do pay a lot of attention to what’s going on on the screen and that will help alleviate their anxiety and make them calmer and happier when they’re home alone.
Scent. Your dog loves you. He loves everything about you, including your scent. Leave him with a t-shirt you’ve slept in or some other item of clothing that is fresh with your scent. He can snuggle in with it, or carry it around the house or put it in his crate and he will feel your presence through your scent.
What have you tried that has worked to make your dog happier and calmer when he’s home alone?