Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
In a perfect world, pets would never need to be home alone. Our furry friends certainly hit us with the puppy eyes when we show signs of leaving the house like putting on our shoes or a jacket and grabbing our keys or purse. They may run around the house, whine or try to follow us out the door as if to say, “Please take me with you!” Whether you’re only going to be gone for a short time or need to leave your dog for hours, it can be traumatic if you don’t prepare your dog to be left alone. Since this is unavoidable for most pet owners, we’re sharing some helpful tips to make the best out of leaving your dog home alone – for them and for you!
It’s extremely important that your dog has been successful and well behaved when supervised before letting them stay home alone. Independence in the house is earned with consistent and reliable behavior. It is not automatically given because the dog seems old enough or good. Set your dog up for success by preparing well in advance.
Prepare in Advance:
» The dog only has access to one room or area while being left alone
» The area is clean and free of tempting items like shoes, paper items on the floor, full trashcans, and food items.
» The dog has easy access to several chew toys.
» The dog does not vocalize in any way when left in the crate.
» The dog will come when you call their name when practiced intermittently with freedom in the house.
» The dog is well behaved when given access to several rooms in the house when you’re home, even if you aren’t in the same room. This includes:
- Staying off the furniture
- No counter surfing
- No investigating items like trashcans
- No stealing or moving objects around other than their toys
Download the Advance Checklist
» Leave the dog alone for only 5-10 minutes the first time.
» Leave the dog in one area or room that is clean and free of tempting items.
» When you leave, do not alert the dog. Simply walk out of the house, take a quick walk around the neighborhood, or run a short errand.
» When you arrive back home, do not alert the dog. Simply walk in the home, say “hi” in a calm manner if they are at the door, and continue about your day.
You can continue adding 5 minutes of time when you leave, but keep leaving the dog in the same room to create consistency and continue their success. After they have been alone for up to two hours you can move to different areas of the home.
Leaving Your Dog Home Alone:
Now it’s time for the real thing. You and your dog are both ready for him to be left at home without you for an appropriate amount of time. You’ve practiced and your dog has shown he is up to the challenge. Remember these important tips before you leave the house. Download this checklist for yourself and family members to reference.
» Give Your Dog a Safe Space. This could mean a crate they're comfortable in or they may rather have an entire room. If your dog is in a crate, make sure it’s in a cool space in summer months and a warm place in the winter.
» Make sure your dog has easy access to his favorite toys.
» Consider leaving some background noise. If your animals are used to hearing house noises, total silence may cause anxiety. Turn the TV on a low volume or consider a calming music playlist. There are even TV stations like DOGTV that may help calm your furry friend while you’re away.
» Give your dog a food toy like a Kong filled with peanut butter and treats. Keep them occupied with a fun, rewarding activity!
Download the Home Alone Checklist
Things NOT to Do When Leaving Dogs Home Alone:
» Make it a production – big attention about you leaving, prolonged hugs and kisses, etc.
» Leave anything tempting within reach – toilet paper, hats, shoes, anything the dog should not chew.
» Forget to exercise your dog before you leave.
» Leave them alone for too many hours. Invest in a pet sitter, dog walker, etc .
We know how difficult it can be to leave your beloved best furry friend home alone, but sometimes it’s inevitable. We hope the best practices we’ve shared will help your family prepare your beloved pets to spend time at home without you when necessary. Remember when you are home to make the most of the time together with your dog by playing, going for walks, and lavishing them with lots of love!
This advice has been adapted from our volunteer puppy raising manual, used to prepare future guide and service dogs to receive formal training during the first 14-16 months of their lives. To learn about becoming a volunteer Weekend or Full-Time Puppy Raiser and help change the life of a veteran, active duty service member, or first responder with disabilities, visit http://www.VetDogs.org/WeekendRaiser .