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Is Your Dog Home Alone?

9 Tips to make your home a haven for Fido and
to ensure your peace of mind

I firmly believe that owning a dog is compatible with having a full-time
job outside the home. You just need to use the right techniques and products to keep Fido occupied while you're gone.

You also need to minimize the possibility of incessant barking that
riles your neighbors and results in police showing up on your doorstep.

Here's what has worked for me:

Create an indoor den

Leaving a dog alone outdoors all day is a terrible idea. It guarantees problems with the neighbors and behavior problems from your dog.
Further, you can't protect your dog from sudden, bad weather.

You also can't protect your dog from predators whether avian, animal or human. Think how easily a small dog could be snapped up by a thief or even a hawk.

Use a crate if you or a dog walker come in during the day to let him
out for a break. The rule of thumb is don't keep a mature dog in a crate longer than 8-hours at a stretch. Depending on his age, a puppy won't be able to hold it longer than an hour or two at most.

If no one comes home, use a gate like The First Years Hands Free Gate
or a large pen like Midwest Gold- Zinc Indoor/Outdoor Exercise Pet Pen to create a den in a room or keep him in the kitchen or laundry room or other dog-safe room.

Arrange a toilet area in the farthest part of the room using newspapers, pads or dog litter tray.

Create a haven

Don't let him have the run of the house if he's a puppy. A bored puppy is a destructive puppy and one that might harm himself by chewing or swallowing dangerous objects.

Once he's reached maturity, you can try giving him more freedom to roam around the house.

If your dog has access to a window, you may find that he enjoys watching the outside world. Be careful if you have a terrier or dog with a strong predatory drive however. Those dogs could try to leap through the window if a bird or squirrel goes by or bark all day which might drive your neighbors to call the police.

Have a favorite blanket, toy and comfortable bed in his crate or the room where you leave him during the day. He needs a comfortable place to nap.

Rotate his toys each Monday so he doesn't get tired of them.

Create mental stimulation

I like to leave a KONG Classic Kong Dog Toy toy filled with peanut butter or other gooey treat. My dog happily spends the afternoon trying to get the treat. [Note: Please read my article on unsafe toys before you use this technique.]

Another good toy is the Premier Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble Dog Toy
which can be filled with dry food. Your dog has to figure out how to
roll it so the dry dog food comes out.

Some dogs like to watch TV and you could leave Animal Planet on or have a DVD of some dog movies. {NASA research revealed monkeys prefer to watch movies of other monkeys. We're extrapolating that this works with dogs as well.}

Create pleasant sounds

Do you like to be a quiet house for hours on end? Leave the radio, or CD player on. Some owners tape their own voices and leave that playing all day.

My dog loves classical music so I play him my own Mozart and Brahms CDs. Just make sure you choose soothing music; no heavy metal bands, please

There are music CDs designed for dogs:

Create sustenance  

I don't like to leave food out because I ration my dogs' food so they don't get too many calories a day.

However, I do think dogs should have drinking water available any time they want it. Try leaving a bowl or two of water for him.

If you can afford it, you might consider at a Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain water dispensing unit (definitely a luxury item though).

Create a soothing environment

One of the newest products available is an electric diffuser that releases DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone Electric Diffuser. These mimic the natural pheromones produced by lactating bitches to reassure puppies.

One study showed a 70% reduction in barking and whining when the DAP was used. Sounds weird but may be a scent-sible solution for whining puppies.

Create an unemotional leaving and return 

Don't make a production when you leave and come home.

Spend time with your dog (playing to tire him out or taking him to the potty) before you leave in the morning. Then just leave.

When you get home at night, try to wait a a minute or two before acknowledging him when you get home. Then pick him up and cover him with kisses!

Consider a second dog

This may be an added cost, but dogs are pack animals. They usually enjoy the company of another dog even if they spend most of the day sleeping.

You'll have to ensure the two dogs are compatible and not competitors. If your dog tolerates cats, that's another option.

Having another warm body in the house is usually preferable to being alone to any dog.

Consider - as a last resort - mood stabilizers

The drug Clomipramine is sometimes prescribed for dogs that exhibit extreme hyperactivity or destructive behaviors when their owners are absent and when other treatments haven't been effective.

Think of it as Prozac for dogs. It's not addictive, but it's a last resort that should only be used under veterinarian control.

Click here for other products to engage your dog while you're gone

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