While some dogs are quite happy to be left alone for short periods, others, being left “home alone” can be a challenge. Being left alone for long periods of time can cause dogs to be lonely, distressed and bored, day in, day out. This can lead to problems including destructive behaviours and separation anxiety.
Dogs are highly sociable creatures, and are by nature pack animals they love to be with their owners which is one of the very reasons they make such great companions, therefore it can be quite upsetting if you then regularly leave them alone for long periods. Every dog will be different, depending on how old they are and what they are used to however Golden Paws Pet Services recommend that four hours is the longest that dogs should routinely be left alone.
Dogs can demonstrate their inability to cope in a number of ways. Some may mess or wet when left, some may display destructive behaviours and others may bark or howl.
All behaviour is a symptom of an emotional state, in other words our dogs act how they feel.
Mother nature designed going to the toilet as a relieving act, therefore if your dog messes when left it may well be toileting in order to feel a form of stress relief; this is of course providing that your dog is fully housetrained in the first place, and is perfectly healthy and not on any medication.
Your dog will be more inclined to relax when left alone if they have had sufficient exercise and have been fed before you go out, don’t run them too exhaustion as this will just mean that they’ll drink a lot of water when he gets home and will need the toilet sooner rather than later. He just needs to stretch his legs and go to the toilet.
When it comes to destructive behaviours there are a number of reasons but they still all stem from how the dog is feeling at the time. A dog may chew because it is bored, because it is full of energy and wants to have some fun or because it is stressed. The act of chewing is something very natural to a dog and whatever his emotional state chewing makes him feel satisfied and relaxed.
Try to leave something something that your dog will enjoy, something to occupy themselves while you are away such as a ‘Kong’ stuffed with food (peanut butter or cheese mixed with dogs biscuits are quite popular) alternatively leave a safe toy or bone.
Barking is generally down to a couple of things, he may be doing it to get your attention and come home or he may be hearing things outside and as he’s alone is in defence mode and therefore happy to tell the world that’s he’s home.
As a general rule, howling is a definite sign that your dog is not coping ‘home alone’.
AVOID ALL PUNISHMENT!!
If your dog misbehaves while you are out, it is vital that you do not react badly when you get home.
This is because the punishment will be linked with your return, rather than the destruction, barking or toileting carried out some time previously. Your dog will then become anxious about what you do when you return the next time they are left alone. As a result of this increased anxiety the dog is more likely to chew, or lose toilet control, making the problem even worse.