Did you adopt a dog during the pandemic to keep you company? Is your dog having trouble adapting as your life begins its return to normal? Then these tips are for you!
Here are some ways to help your dog adjust to his new normal as you return to the work world and leave him to spend more time on his own at home. For the purpose’s of this article, let’s call your dog Max, the number one dog name in America!
Tip #1–Buy a crate and use it!
Crates can avert a host of behavioral problems. First off, you need to get Max used to his new crate before you leave him on his own in it. And don’t think keeping a dog in a crate is mean. Dogs are by nature animals that live in dens. If you introduce him to the crate properly, he will look at it like it is his bedroom and a comforting and safe place to be. Several of my dogs will go into their crates by choice and hang out with the door open. The crate may only need to be used during this transition period, it depends on the dog. You can find many articles on the web about how to get your dog used to his crate.
Tip #2-Get your dog used to spending time on his own.
Whether or not you are using a crate, Max needs to know that he can be alone and be ok. Leaving him to his own devices when he has had you there all the time is stressful. Get him used to it in steps. Leave him alone while you go talk to the neighbors for a few minutes. Drive down the road and come back. Go to the store for a few purchases and come home. Visit a friend for a couple hours. Don’t spring being alone for an entire work day on Max all at once. Give him time to adjust.
Tip #3-Give your dog something to do while you are gone.
Again, this holds true whether Max will be in a crate or not. If you suddenly found yourself alone in a room in the house, would you just sit there in the same place until someone returned? Neither will your dog. My favorite distractions for anxious dogs are Kongs. I have a bone shaped one with two hollow ends that I put peanut butter and baby carrots in. I also have the original sort of funnel shaped Kongs that I put dog biscuits and peanut butter in. I use pieces that are big enough so the dog has to really work to get them out. (Be sure your peanut butter does not contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. I use natural.) You can also leave your dog with an assortment of toys, but be sure it is not something he will tear apart and ingest while you are away. Using a Kong Toy to Reduce Stress
Tip #4-Don’t make a big deal of your coming or going.
It should be a part of life, not a major event. If you make your leaving and return into a production, Max will see it as something worthy of having a big reaction to. You may not like his choice of reaction. So, treat your going away and coming back home again as a part of life. A pat on the head when you return home is ok, just don’t turn it into a party!
Tip #5-Make sure your dog is well exercised.
Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. 7 Ways to a Tired Dog Max is more likely to relax and take a nap while you are away if he is tired. Exercising him before you leave for the day is ideal, but exercise after you come home is still beneficial. See the link above for ways to tire Max out. The benefits of exercise before you leave are obvious. Exercising Max when you come home will let him relieve pent up energy from the day and give you both something to look forward to. And a dog exercised the evening before, is still more relaxed than a dog not exercised at all.
Tip #6-Have someone take your dog out while you are gone.
Everyone may not be able to do this. Your dog may not be trustworthy with others or you may not have anyone you trust that can help. But, if you can find someone to take Max out mid-day, it will provide a potty break and a chance to stretch his legs while you are gone. Do you have a responsible neighbor kid or senior citizen who would like to have some company and make a few dollars a week? This would be a win-win for everybody. Eight hours is a long day for a dog to spend alone, but it can be done if that is your only option. Be sure to get home right after work to let your dog out and give you both companionship, after all that’s why you adopted him.
I wrote this article to help keep dogs in their homes, and lessen their influx back into shelters and rescues as people return to their normal lives and the effects of the pandemic wane. Remember, Max provided you with loyalty and companionship during some dark days. Return his loyalty now and see him as he sees you, a member of the family.
There may be challenges as our lives change again, but you and Max can survive these together. I provided tips here that I think will help the most people. If you need more ideas and help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line-Need Dog Advice. We have fostered more than 50 dogs over the years and I may have a few other tricks up my sleeve that I can share with you if you give me some specifics. No guarantees, just friendly advice.
Sometimes, we need to vent to work through stressful times, like dealing with Max as your lives both change. If you just need someone to lend an ear and hear what you are going through with your dog, I can do that too. There are times when knowing you are not alone, and others have been there and survived what you are going through, is enough.
The goal is to increase the number of dogs that get to stay in their homes!