The heading of this post should read as follows: “Home alone- leaving your dog at home to sleep all day while you go out and slog your butt off to feed him!” Nothing like being at home all day, because sure as hell your dog craves your company, but if leaving your dog alone at home everyday for some hours is absolutely unavoidable, there are steps you can take to keep him safe and happy.
Build trust: Try to be at home at least the first months when you bring him home, to build a rapport and level of trust with him, apart from feeding and toilet duties. Leave him alone at home for small amounts of time to get him used to your absence.
Avoid separation anxiety: Separation anxiety can cause bad habits such as digging, chewing and howling. Teach your dog a command, such as ‘stay at home’. Use it each time you leave. Used consistently, he will understand that it means you are leaving and will eventually return. Leave him a favorite toy with choking hazards (such as squeaks and buttons) removed. Put his bed in a quiet corner where he can sleep while you are gone. Leaving the radio or television on may help too. When you return, let yourself in with a minimum of ceremony. It will be hard but try not to greet your dog when you get back. Over time, he will learn to accept your return as a matter of course rather than a ‘relief’ that he waits for and goes berserk over. Once you have returned and he remains calm, reward him say with a stomach rub or a treat.
Pooch-proof, pooch-proof and more pooch-proof:When you are gone, you won’t be able to stop your dog from sleeping on the sofa or chewing your shoes but you can try to limit the damage. Give your dog enough space as he will be confined in it all day. It isn’t a good idea to leave him in a room that will have sunlight streaming in all day, or a room with open windows through which he can clamber. Shut bathrooms and any rooms that are not safe, and use baby gates where necessary. If your dog has access to the kitchen, make sure your kitchen range cannot be switched on by curious paws. Switch off floor lamps and other electrical appliances with protruding electric cables. Keep central heating at a pleasant temperature. Make sure that your dog has a large bowl of fresh water. Breeds such as labradors are notoriously greedy and eat the most unlikely things, so clean kitchen counters, put away leftovers, your prize crystal collection, knives, shoes, wooden ladles and the like where he cannot reach them. Cover sofas with a sheet as your dog may be sick on them. Put child-proof locks on the under-sink cupboard.
Home visits: Try to get a neighbour or insured dog walker to come in, refresh the water bowl, and walk your dog so he gets some exercise and a toilet break. There is a possibility your cushions may escape the inevitable boredom chewing. If the walker also feeds him, ensure there is a one-hour gap between walks and mealtime to avoid bloat. Don’t let them let your dog off-lead unless your dog is very reliable with recall. Keep a towel handy for rub downs, and have a log to clock attendance and where they can communicate with you, say if they felt your dog looked out of sorts. If they feed your dog, it is helpful to get commercial dog food as you can keep it measured out.
Build your own bond: Do take your dog for a walk everyday before or after work, and try to feed him yourself as far as possible, because everyone else is just a substitute for you.
If in doubt, read this chap’s books. He really knows his stuff. I should know, because his techniques really worked for me.