By Nancy S. Fitzgerald
You shouldn’t feel guilty if you have a full-time job and want to share your life with a dog. You can leave your dog home alone and he can be happy and well-adjusted if you make the most of your time together and plan ahead for the occasions when you’re not able to be with him.
Before You Go
Incorporate exercise into your pre-work routine to help your dog cope with the hours you’ll be away. For some breeds and senior dogs, a walk around the block might suffice. For others, walking is an “exercise hors d’oeuvre,” so engage in more aerobic activities, like jogging. You can also use this time for behavior training, such as asking your pet to sit before releasing him to fetch his ball. With enough physical activity, your dog will be ready for naptime when you head out the door.
The Next Best Thing to Being There
Doggie day care is a great option if you’re at work every weekday, but if that’s a budget-breaker, even sending your pet twice a week has a positive residual effect that lasts into the next day. Another option is hiring a dog-walking service or finding neighbors who might want to start a reciprocal dog-sitting relationship. Also, your dog might appreciate a playtime companion -- but having two pets doesn’t guarantee you won’t face twice the home-alone problem.
Hide and Seek
Some of the best and most affordable boredom-busters for when you leave your dog home alone are food-hiding toys filled with nutritious canned dog food. Stuff the ends with fresh food and gradually increase the challenge by placing food in the middle or by freezing the toy/food treat.
Your dog can also get a good workout while searching for hard food kibbles that you’ve hidden in wobble toys. Food-hiding toys provide your pet with hours of mental and physical entertainment and are an alternative way of feeding him one of his daily meals.
These are just a few tips to prevent your dog from being bored, lonely or outright destructive while you’re at work. Keeping your dog preoccupied when you’re away makes your homecoming less stressful -- for both of you.
Exceptional Canine expert Nancy S. Fitzgerald is a certified professional dog trainer and the founder of Positive Results Dog Training in Wilmington, Del., which uses gentle training methods based on science and learning theory. She also works at the Delaware Humane Association.